Last week was spring break for my family and I took it seriously. I’ve taken too many pseudo breaks. No scheduled appointments or meetings but eventually, I find myself in front of my laptop trying to get things done.
What has led to these half-hearted attempts at downtime? Guilt. Fear. Anxiety that if I didn’t keep working, I would get irrecoverably behind. While I don’t have any evidence supporting my belief, pseudo breaks have been my MO for years.
I decided to do this break a little differently. I really wanted to unplug and be present with my family. So, I signed off of all social media for a week, closed my laptop and placed those nagging thoughts about work on the back burner.
Getting to this point took some work. My biggest roadblock? Dealing with some pretty big emotions and the limiting beliefs behind them.
What are limiting beliefs?
Let’s talk about limiting beliefs for a minute. These are the thoughts that prevent you from making forward progress. They are usually formed from childhood experiences and arise automatically in challenging circumstances that are attached to uncomfortable or difficult emotions. The good news is, if they don’t serve you, you don’t have to accept them. Guilt and fear were the 2 emotions that I needed to confront to have a truly relaxing spring break.
For a long time, as a business owner, I believed that if I’m not working on my business, then my business isn’t working. The rigid and concrete belief that one action (or inaction) could completely halt my business is a limiting belief. I felt guilty about letting things fall behind. Grinding 24/7 was my mantra and anything less felt like I wasn’t giving my business the time and attention it needed to be successful.
I had to face guilt head on. First of all, feeling guilty doesn't help you accomplish anything. More often, when you expereince guilt you are more likely to be reactive rather making decisions based on facts and honest reflection. Guilt feeds self-doubt and negativity. Neither of these emotions lead to open, creative and productive thinking.
Like I said before, I didn’t have any real evidence that taking a break would lead to a complete business stand still. It also didn’t mean that I wasn’t committed to a successful business. Even when I’m not actively working on business related tasks, my blogs, articles and social media posts are providing valuable information. My clients are busy working on all of the things they have developed during our coaching sessions.
I’m not the only thing that gives my business life.
There is very little about fear that helps me unless I’m staring down a bear on a hiking trail or an out-of-control semi-truck as I’m crossing the street. Fear can be lifesaving but can suck the energy out of the room in daily life.
Like guilt, working from a fear-based perspective leads to rigid, closed thinking and doesn’t create space for a learning brain needed to really help you progress and grow. Fear narrows your thinking and like guilt, leads you to be reactive rather than reflective and responsive.
If you can see fear as a signal rather than a state of being, then you can use it together information. You can decide whether or not it is giving you an accurate indicator the situation that you’re in.
My biggest busines related fear is that taking a certain action, or failing to take action, will trigger my businesses implosion. However, when I use fear as a signal to explore the facts, I realize that there is little to support the limiting belief behind this fear.
The data points to the opposite. When I have taken breaks before, my business was waiting for my return just as I had left it. Sure, I had l little more work to do to catch up, but I’ve always been able to manage that. A little prep work before my vacation has helped put me into a better position when I returned.
When you see fear as a signal, you can use it as an invitation to explore your beliefs behind it. Then test out your beliefs to discovery what’s really true. Actions based on truth are infinitely more useful than actions based on unexamined fears.
With both my guilt based and fear-based beliefs, I was able to come up with an empowering belief that was more aligned with the data. Taking a true break from my work allows me to reduce my stress and increase my energy to feed into growing and even better business when I return.
What big emotions are you holding onto? What limiting beliefs are keeping them in place? Take a look behind the curtain and see if you can uproot some of these rigid ways of thinking and allow for more open creative thinking and productive actions.
Give this a try.
Think of a belief that you have that is holding you back.
Identify the emotion attached to this belief.
Think of all of the thoughts that need to be true to hold this belief in place.
Reframe these limiting thoughts into empowering thoughts.