Imagine you’re in a kayak paddling down a river. It’s a beautiful day and you’re feeling great.
But then, up ahead, you see a fork in the river. To the right, the river is flowing smoothly; to the left, you see rapids and rocks.
So, which way do you steer your kayak?
If you weren’t seeking the excitement and danger of the rapids, you’d take the right fork and continue on your pleasant journey, wouldn’t you?
But imagine that your mind is like a river.
You are moving forward in your life and everything is going well. Your thoughts and actions are aligned with your intentions and you’re making good forward progress in whatever you’re doing.
But then something happens. Some difficulty hampers your progress. And then a thought arises, much like the treacherous rapids in a river.
It might be, “this is hard to do,” or “it won’t work,” or “I can’t manage this,” or something similar.
And then you start to put more of your attention on those thoughts… and they start to multiply.
And before you know it, your mind is lost on the fork of the river with the tumultuous rapids.
And as this happens, feelings of dread, fear, and frustration, toss you around, making you feel out of control.
Now, sooner or later, you get past the rapids and hit smooth water again, but the perilous detour has shaken your confidence.
A project that once seemed both fun and easy, now feels very difficult and arduous. So you steer your kayak to the shore of the river and sit on the bank, feeling like a failure.
Isn’t it like this sometimes when you work on a marketing project?
You have an idea for getting out there in your business and it goes well for a while, but then something doesn’t go as planned and you suddenly find yourself immersed in emotional rapids that sabotage your progress.
And it can either take you a long time to get back into the flow of things or you give up the plan completely.
Look, in my marketing programs, I see this happen all the time.
Someone is excited and moving forward and then suddenly they go off the radar. They don’t attend sessions, don’t return emails, and sometimes drop out of the program.
They drowned in the rapids.
So, how do you navigate these turbulent waters?
Let’s go back to your journey down the river.
One thing to remember is that it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter rapids sooner or later. Nothing flows smoothly forever.
But as you’re cruising down the river and suddenly see the rapids, you have a choice in the moment.
You can put your attention on the rapids and become obsessed with them. But if you do that, before you know it, they’ll engulf you.
Or you can do something else: Put your focus back on the smooth fork of the river and keep following it. And before you know, you’re paddling along evenly again, the rapids only a distant memory.
It’s not inevitable that the rapids will suck you into their chaotic maelstrom.
It only happens if you put your attention on them.
So what does this look like with that marketing project where something doesn’t go the way you expected?
Here are some very common ones:
Someone doesn’t return your call.
You send an email and get no response.
Nobody is visiting your website.
You can’t get booked for a speaking engagement.
That deal you counted on doesn’t close.
That’s what happens when you try to market yourself. Not everything you try will work all of the time. Far from it, in fact.
So, you can’t help that. You’ll try a lot of things and many of them won’t work or get you the results you want.
What’s the problem with that? All you do is adjust your plans and actions and keep moving forward.
But that’s not what happens is it? No, you hit the rapids: negative, fearful thoughts and emotions often flood over you:
They don’t like me.
My service is useless.
They hate my website.
Nobody wants to hear what I have to say.
They don’t trust my expertise.
Look, it took me a very long time to learn how to deal with the rapids.
And I think it’s because the solution was too simple:
“Ignore the frikin’ rapids and put your attention on the smooth river ahead.”
No, I was absorbed in trying to change the rapids – process the rapids, fight the rapids, reason with the rapids, or even justify the rapids. “I should be upset, damn it!”
Everything but just noticing the rapids for what they are, an automatic reaction to not getting what I want (much like a baby having a tantrum).
With that simple awareness I’m then able to instantly put my attention back on what I’m working on, what’s really important to me.
I still encounter rapids because, like everyone else, I don’t always get what I want the way I want it.
But that’s not a big deal anymore. When I don’t get what I want it doesn’t mean anything about me. When I fall short, it doesn’t define me. It’s just something that I need to work at getting better at.
I know this sounds too simple. Most profound things are.
But the next time you see yourself approaching the rapids (emotional turmoil about not succeeding at something), simply notice, and then redirect your attention from the rapids and towards the smooth fork in the river.
And just keep paddling.