The Law of Avoidance

If you're like most people you've got a handful of confrontations you're avoiding with yourself, others, next steps, calls, etc. Reminders come at odd hours of the night as you lay awake chewing on the options.

Let's look at what I call the Law of Avoidance. I won’t be writing a book or trying to make a movie on it…

The Law of Avoidance states that our avoidances actively prevent connections for growth. Exploring this myself and with clients has shown me that avoidance is more accurately a void in awareness, a gap in attention and therefore a gap in our ability to act on the very thing that can connect us with real progress in our business, relationships and life.

In my first few years of business coaching I focused on Managerial and Leadership Development and avoided deepening my understanding of financial reporting. It cost me from helping several clients I had great rapport and success in other areas. It wasn’t until I faced it head on that I began helping clients more acutely with some dramatic shifts in their financial blind spots, and subsequently my own relationship with my financial reports, planning and metrics became an asset. 

To be clear, I'm not talking about choices that we make to not confront a person in a heated or tense situation, or other conscious choices to not engage for emotionally intelligent reasons.

Knock knock. Knock knock. Knock knock... Knock it off already, I’ve got more important things to do!

 

Any way you slice it, our avoidances are persistent, a faint knock at our door as we go about our day, sometimes passing like a fleeting whisper when we hear someone’s voice or glance at a name on an invoice. But despite the discovery possible in meeting our avoidances head on to find out what they have to show us, we’ve learned to block them out. We turn away and go toward what's comfortable or familiar, or find a 'tangible' problem we can solve to temporarily ease the pinch.

I’ve learned that a big part of the issue lies in how the word confrontation itself can be triggering. For many of us the word has a negative association from our past that triggers an emotional response, and then a swift sweeping under the proverbial rug.   

When we can slow down enough on a regular basis to look closer at what opportunity or potential is on the other side of the avoidance, we start to see a bigger pattern at work. A pattern that's holding us back from getting what we think or declare we want. The thing is, you've got to breech the walls of your own discomfort to get the goodies.    

Persistently waiting behind every avoidance of what you perceive as conflict, is an opportunity to connect more honestly with yourself.

 

In other words, the opposite of avoidance - is connection.

As an equation, it might look something like this:

Avoidance ÷ Curiosity = Discovery & Connection
 

Think about it for a moment. Take an avoidance and get intimate with it by dividing its intensity with some questions. I promise you’ll find some new angles and potential benefit and connection staring back at you.

See if any of these scenarios prompt your own reframing of avoidance.

  • Avoiding confronting your partner about an uncomfortable conversation regarding some spending that is questionable. What’s uncomfortable? Will you choose prolonged discomfort over a chance to find out if it’s as bad as you think, and likely get one step closer to a resolution? This translates into an opportunity to make a connection with your bookkeeper, director, or partner about finance and a chance to get real about what systems you need to monitor spending, and what reports you need to be able to read.
  • Making that call to the vendor who owes you, but keeps telling you it's coming. This translates into the opportunity to connect with another business owner who is also avoiding a conversation but now has a chance to re-up a new commitment, or pay up because you caught them at a good moment. It could also help build a better relationship, or even expedite the ending of one that no longer serves you.
  • Confronting your compulsion to be the chief problem solver and not micro-manage that new director or manager. This translates into an opportunity for taking an important step of empowering them to lead and grow through direct experience. It's also an opportunity for you to evoke their own problem solving with better questions, not to mention freeing up crucial strategic time and head space for you to work on more important things. 
We prolong our regret, in not taking the opportunity to connect.

 

Now I'm not saying that you start manically hunting for all that you're avoiding, neither you or I would likely do that anyway. If you did, it can kick up your inner critic who's then going to lambast you for not having done this already or figured it out on your own without having to 'be told', or some other great story...

I suggest taking a moment and writing down one thing you're avoiding. Then apply the thinking that each avoidance is an opportunity to connect with someone, something, or some way you haven't considered yet.

You'll get the hang of it. Start with something small, and test it out. Share what you discover, we need all the support we can get!

If this message speaks to you, I invite you to book a time today to set up an exploratory conversation to explore your professional development through tailor made Coaching.

This link will open in a new window where you can choose a time that suits your schedule for us to speak about your business and develop a plan.

A little bit of freedom

Some owners equate unscheduled time with freedom. You know, a break from all those things that they just have to do and constantly take care of.

Others see it as undo control over their time, because of course they're doing everything they can to 'make it happen'.

What if freedom is something that meaningful structure allows you to earn, not free time in your calendar to wander aimlessly?

You're the scientist. Be willing to take the risk and collect more data before running away or scoffing at structure. You might just end up with more time. 

 

Cynicism: A prison guard of change.

Lock down.

A guaranteed closed loop. The movie Groundhog Day, everyday. 

At it's essence, cynicism is a distrust of other people's motives, and with wit masks anger and frustration in a cloak of humor. Top it all off with a powerlessness to do anything about it.

For some it's subtle, others a constant main course. Let's explore.

 

Cynicism doesn't ask questions.

Where does your cynicism come from? Where are the roots? Distrust in others is usually colored by rough experiences in the past, sometimes true or reasonable. But assuming the same for the future is a barrier against having a different experience. You end up expecting mediocrity and disappointment, and then getting it.

Do you know, feel, and trust your own motives? If you do, how do they inform how you show up with people? Have you clearly communicated, documented expectations for your employees and vendors? Do you support your employees to grow with training and management that cares? 

It's rare that a cynic will ask and be curious about how other people experience them. 

Trust is building a relationship over time, a two way street. It's making mistakes and learning from them along with successes. It's striving and operating from clear values that you've taken the time to define. If you've done this with yourself, then it can be done with others.

By being in touch with what it took to get there yourself, you're set up naturally to create room for other people to surprise you, delight you, exceed expectations, and develop real trust.

 

Death, Taxes, and Change...

...The only constants. Cynicism is a dam we build to resist change. After all change is often uncomfortable, and unreasonable in the face of our expectations. It leads us into new places in ourselves, and new ways of relating to people and situations.

It's a stretch to flip a switch and just stop being cynical, but you can choose to look at why, how, and all the places you are. Chances are it was reasonable for you to become that way in the past. Starting to explore that, along with why you responded to life that way is the key.

Your self-awareness and care will start the process of dissolving cynicism.

 

 

Predictability vs Reality

Ever find yourself craving predictability?

I'd love it if I could predict when my next great fitting client would show up, that this blog would be followed by 20,000 people in 6 months, or that 15 local business owners will sign up for my next seminar.

Instead I've committed to continuously defining my ideal client and documenting what makes a great relationship, to put in 30 minutes each day to write, and to have 5 conversations with local business owners this month.

Predictions are exhausting, I'd rather work to exhaust my commitments.

 

A Million Buck Its

What you want- on paper, in the ether, that you tell your friends, in your head, hiding on the back side of your heart

What you ask for- in your circles, social media, sales meetings, reasonable, unreasonable

What you've got...in front of you right now

Where it comes from- inherited it, from scratch, they said it's on it's way...

Are you waiting

For it to come to you?

Because it told me

It's what you do about it

It's just not that big of a deal...

With so many vendors and service providers we use every day, is it possible you're accepting lousy, cynical service to avoid the hassle of finding someone who actually cares about what they're doing and how it affects you?

We recently switched our water service company due to the horrendous lack of communication from our previous provider. The last company without fail miscommunicated between the office and the driver every month. Promised delivery dates became finger pointing phone calls with the driver who was cynical about his dispatch. He actually put up a fight expecting us to just accept this as the way it was, and that he was "looking out" for us.

"Are you kidding me!? I have to work to make sure I get what you promised...every month. I pay you for a service, not to be a middle manager to get what I paid for. No thanks."

After 5 months of having to work to have our paid service happen, (which was too long in hindsight) we closed the account. Next, a phone call with the office who told us that they would refund our deposit, but only by check, in 6-8 weeks. So we marked that on our calendar.

No check 8 weeks later:  We called and spoke to another representative who said, "Yes, I see a credit here to your account. Would you like me to put it back on your card?"...

These types of transactions are tragically standard for many of us. We often accept what's given, because of the 'hassle' to find a better experience. Where are you accepting this kind of service? How many of your vendors, while good people, engage this way with your business? What's the toll it takes on not only your bottom line, but your employees that deal with them?

While you may not have consciously shaken hands with a cynical business owner or vendor, you might be welcoming the real effects into your culture.

Cynicism breeds more cynicism, details become frivolous, and expectations drop. Don't accept less than what you know is great service. Making the time and effort to be clear about your expectations, and finding service providers that deliver on their promise will not only make logistics smoother, but support the employees that interact with them to also deliver to higher standards.

 

When there's change, there's loss

How do you know if you've changed?

Let's go in a different door than what's typically focused on, that change = gain.

When I became a sole proprietor after being an employee for a few years, some of my old ways of relating to work started to show up as obstacles to what I wanted for my practice. Time became more expansive, and more expensive. The relationship of 'owning' every action and relationship became starker. At the end of the day, I was left with how my current choices were directly reinforcing all of my outcomes. 

A part of change that's difficult to anticipate is that you lose a part of who you are-who you were, that's no longer serving your life in the best possible way, but nonetheless, has been part of your overall character makeup.  Why though, is because you make a choice to be different, and to have a different relationship with your work and ultimately your life, and bear all the consequences.

Somewhere inside each of us there may be a grievance for that lost part of ourselves, even if it was not in our 'best' interest. This self discovery is part of being square with reality, and shows us each uniquely how and where we've changed.

 

I'm not distracted, I just don't have time to focus.

Your time belongs to you and no one else.

“Distracted is when I can't get anything finished.” 

“When I don't have time to focus, I get a lot of little things done that make the business sustain, but forget how it all ties together.” 

Both are connected. Being out of touch with your context, vision, or bigger picture is the assurance that nothing will change. It’s true for a solopreneur, an executive, and even a field technician.

You do have time, it’s yours because you made the choice to do what you’re doing, in starting your business, or inhabiting your role as an employee. It comes down to making a different choice and sticking with it, today, tomorrow, etc.

Simple, not easy.

Overusing your big brain in your business?

As business owners, we generally can hold massive amounts of information in our heads. From meetings to marketing strategies, to entire strategic plans, or simply how things are done right. I've found that this is often an over-reliance on a precious resource of mental bandwidth, and can be crippling in driving overwhelm. 

Of course it's reasonable. It's part of what got you to where you are today. Most business owners I know hover close to a mental critical mass, but don't even 'know' it.

If you're not getting your standards and ideas out of your head and captured with some tool, chances are you're over-relying on yourself to hold it all together.  This will ensure that you don't move yourself 'up' the operational ladder to engage in more strategic work.

Even an email to an employee to engage their thinking around an issue or problem is this in action. 

Next time you have a moment to look around, look inside the filing cabinet in your head for items that can be captured, stored, or shared and delegated. 

 Just because you've got it, doesn't mean you should always be running it at full capacity. 


 

Define Trying

Trying to grow, to innovate? 

Trying to manage, to change? 

There’s something so elusive about trying.  

It’s a lot like having good intentions, you mean well, but something is in the way.

The old adage says: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

Let’s face it, trying is an excuse for what’s not actually happening, and what we’re not really committed to.  Chances are that deep down there just isn’t a connection to what’s truly meaningful, or we’re trying to be or do something that just isn’t square with who we really are.

Growth happens best when there are conditions for health, in a person or a business.

Innovation is a natural extension of care and passion for something meaningful.

Managing is a relationship of thousands of choices you first make and take responsibility for with yourself.  Change is the result, not something to strive for.

What if it’s not trying that moves us forward, but a commitment to be the realest and most committed versions of ourselves?