If you are subscribed to newsletters or read online articles or blogs, you’ve most likely gotten used to seeing things about setting goals as each new year begins. You may even be sick of the TV advertisements for gym memberships or new diet plans, promising to have you living your best life in just a few short months if you just set a New Year’s goal.
If you’ve become turned off by the bombardment of this type of message, I completely get it, which is why I’m not going to do the typical goal setting episode. The reason I’m not going to do that in this week’s episode, as we start this brand new shiny year, is because I believe it’s more important to first deal with a more important issue – your lack of belief in what’s possible.
Most intelligent female accountants have the following in common – we’ll look for an area to grow in, whether the area is professionally or personally, we’ll typically take our company’s yearly review to heart and look at those areas marked “needs improvement”, and we’ll try to be the good little girls we were raised to be by following the rules laid out for us. We’ll accept our 2-3% raise, say thank you for the much deserved extra week’s vacation, and promise to increase our billable hours.
But what most often stops so many of the accountant moms that I speak to and coach in their tracks when it comes to setting and achieving goals, are the challenges they face believing in what’s possible for them – as far as money, flexibility, time, growth, advancement, etc. They’re reluctant to even consider certain possibilities.
They generally dismiss the ideas of what’s possible for them due to factors like doubt, fear, overwhelm, and the biggest factor – confusion about how. They might like the idea of possibly doubling their income, being able to be home when their kids get home from school, or being in control of their career advancement, but as soon as there’s a flicker of hope in the possibility, that light quickly gets extinguished with either the “But how?” question that stops so many of us in our tracks, or the thought that life is just too overwhelming as it is.
The reason I want to approach this episode of the new year differently is because I believe that before you jump into setting any goal for the upcoming year, you first need to spend a little time creating possibilities, even when you don’t currently believe something is possible. The issue that I see time and time again for a lot of women is that we short change ourselves when we go after goals because of one very important fact – what we believe is and isn’t possible is often a lie our brain is telling us.
The reason that I know it’s a lie is because most of the time our lower, primitive brain is running the show and it looks to the past for proof of what’s possible right now and in the future. The truth is that everyone has this issue, especially logic-based accountants, but it’s not the fault of our lower brain because it’s literally not capable of future-focused thinking or planning – just like you can stretch a rubber band to a certain point, eventually it’s going to snap back into place.
Thankfully we also have a higher part of our brain that can override the lower, past-focused part, allowing us to not only open up to possibilities, but also take steps towards making those possibilities into realities. As you continue to listen to this episode, I really want you to hear this – you are not meant to be here, as both an accountant and a mom, and just settling for your overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed life.,
You are here to challenge yourself, to push past what’s been possible in the past, and to create possibilities for your future. You are also meant to be an example of what’s possible for your children, when you stop believing the lie your brain is telling you about what’s possible.
This week I’m going to discuss why the idea of possibilities is an issue for a lot of us and how you can create possibilities for yourself, your career, and your life.
Why the idea of possibilities is an issue for a lot of us
Is there something that you’d love to have in your life, but every time you even think about it for a second or two, you quickly dismiss it? Is it more money, more time, better relationships, better health? What is it for you? What are the things that you’d like, but just won’t allow yourself to think too much about or hope for?
Are there things that you want that you’re too scared to say out loud? Would you like to leave your marriage, go out on your own and start your own firm, finally lose those 30 pounds for the last time, or take a trip without the kids?
No matter when you are listening to this episode, whether it’s the beginning of the year or not, I want you to pause for a second and allow yourself to go there. I want you to open up to the ideas and dreams that you’ve stuffed up in the attic of your mind – the ones that you haven’t dusted off or looked at in quite awhile because you didn’t believe it was the right time, you didn’t think you were ready, or you were confused about how to make it happen.
Now pay attention to what happens in your mind, as soon as you consider dusting off that idea. If you’re anything like me or the other accountant moms that I work with, your brain probably goes right to the past to look for evidence for whether something is possible or not. If it doesn’t happen right away, give it a little time – it will.
Like I said before, your lower brain is wired to not only look to the past for evidence of what’s possible in the future, but it is highly motivated to keep things exactly the way they are. This makes sense because possibilities inherently bring change, and as I’ve shared on this podcast before, change takes effort and your lower brain likes to expend as little energy as possible.
Even if someone else has done the thing you’d like to do, if they’ve shown that it’s possible, there’s still a lot of resistance that your brain will come up with in order for things to stay status quo for you. The sneakiest and most common thought that robs most women of the ability to create possibilities is the thought, “But I’ve never done that before”.
Have you ever had that thought? It feels so true right? I’ve had that thought many, many times in the course of my life and my career, and I imagine that you’ve had it as well – “But I’ve never done that before”.
Here’s the problem with that thought – we then believe it and we agree with it. We don’t question it. We don’t realize that it’s our lower brain trying to keep us from opening up to, and creating, possibilities. Often we’ll consider it a “sign” that we should just keep things the way they are.
But what if you’re wrong about that? What if, just because you’ve never done that thing before – never made that much money before, never left your soul-sucking job to go out on your own before, never took a vacation without the kids before – what if none of that matters because you’re not supposed to know how to do something you’ve never done before.
Really think about that – what if you just allowed it to be okay that you’ve never done something before AND you’re still going to go after it anyway? What if you’re looking in the wrong direction in order to figure out how to make something possible?
The truth is that the material you need to build your future possibility is NOT in your past, it’s in the future. It’s in your ability to not extinguish the light of possibility, and to just let yourself dream and imagine a little more often, for more than a few seconds.
I know this can be challenging for practical accountants to wrap their minds around, but here’s something practical that might help you to see this better – the computer and smartphone that you use on a daily basis wasn’t possible until human brains decided to imagine something they’ve never done before. The funny thing is, if we only ever did what we’ve done before, we wouldn’t have even gotten past the crawling stage when we were infants.
Just as you’ve witnessed your own children growing and doing things they’ve never done before, humans have an intrinsic need to grow, expand, and explore what’s possible. By not allowing the past to dictate our future, we’re able to override that lower brain’s tendency to stay as is.
Think about it – other than nature, every modern convenience we have in our world today is actually a created possibility. It’s all an example of what’s possible. Over the millenia, human minds have been making possibilities into realities with many, many failed attempts along the way, with not having done something before, but with one thing in common – commitment.
For me, the “But I’ve never done that before” excuse, and looking to the past for proof of whether I can do something has shown up in many ways, but most recently in the possibility of writing a book. Here’s the thing – I had an 11th grade English teacher who told me I wasn’t good at writing so that’s immediately where my brain went to when I thought of writing a book – I’ve never done it before and in the past I was told I wasn’t good at writing.
The more I considered writing a book, the more my lower brain worked overtime to convince me it was a bad idea – you’ve got enough on your plate, you have no idea how to write and publish a book, you can’t afford to take this on, and you’re probably going to fail. Nice right? Thanks brain!
Thankfully, I know enough about how our accountant brains work that I was able to override my lower brain’s focus on the past to keep me from the possibility of writing a book. As we speak, I am in the process of writing a book for accountants, and to be honest, I continually need to manage my lower brain’s tendency to extinguish the light of possibility.
Hopefully from what I’ve said so far, you’re now open to thinking of some possibilities that you may have dismissed or let your lower brain convince you it wasn’t possible. Honestly, that’s all you really need at the moment – to be open. Now let’s talk about how to create those possibilities.
How to create possibilities
So if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got some messages or stories in your head from your past about what’s possible for you, whether it’s positive or negative. Like I just shared, for me it was that 11th grade English teacher telling me I wasn’t very good at writing, but on the positive side, it was also my 10th grade bookkeeping teacher who told me I was really good at accounting.
You see, we’ve all gotten a mixed bag of messages and stories in our heads based on the past – things people have said, things we’ve done or not done, and things we’ve succeeded or failed at. If you think about it, when we’re children we’re willing to try so many different things without a care in the world, but unfortunately as we get older we tend to use the past against ourselves as proof of what’s possible now.
The key to creating possibilities is using that higher, executive functioning part of your brain more often in order to imagine the result you want to create. Just for now, forget about the fact that you’ve never created it or that you don’t know how to create it yet, and just use your higher brain’s ability to imagine you having the result.
I know this can sound a little silly for accountants but if you think about it, you’re already good at imagining the future. You do it in your accounting work when you’re forecasting or doing projections, but you’re also doing it in your personal life when you’re saving for retirement, planning a vacation, or even planning what you’re having for dinner tonight.
The truth is that you’re simply imagining a future moment in time, and what you want or believe will happen. Just because you don’t know for sure that your forecast or projection is 100% accurate doesn’t stop you from discussing it with a client, just because you don’t really know how long you’ll live doesn’t stop you from planning your retirement, and just because you don’t know for sure that there won’t be a change in plans for dinner doesn’t stop you from planning on having spaghetti and meatballs tonight.
The interesting thing is that you wouldn’t stop yourself from offering a client a year end projection just because the numbers might change and you might be off, just like you wouldn’t stop yourself from meeting with an investment advisor about your retirement account even though you could die tomorrow. You’re already allowing yourself to be open to creating possibilities.
So when it comes to bigger possibilities for you, your career, or your life, you have to use an imagined future in order to actually take steps to create that future. You have to give yourself permission to believe something is possible before you have proof that it is, and then you need to take some action anyway.
One of the ways I learned to do this is to imagine a future moment in time where I had created a possibility and asked my future self “So how did you do it?” This is actually an incredible exercise to do because it taps into your higher brain in a way that we typically don’t utilize – imagining the end result and the actions that takes us from point A to point B, and then point B to C, and so on.
For me writing my book, I imagined the hardcover version of the book being delivered to my home and showing it to my husband and children. Once I had that picture clear in my mind, I literally asked myself, “So how did you do it?” and imagined signing up for a writer’s workshop, writing for 30 minutes everyday, finding an editor online, hiring my husband’s nephew to do the artwork for the book cover, self-publishing the book, being asked to speak at accounting conferences, as well as be a guest on other podcasts, and teaching the book’s material at colleges.
Whether any of that actually happens the way I imagined it, doesn’t matter. Every day I keep imagining the hardcover of the book being delivered the house (I actually put a daily reminder on my phone to do this each morning), I keep checking in with the future version of me that has the result I want to ask her how she did it, and I keep being open to taking some form of action.
So the way that you can create possibilities and be an example of what’s possible is to give yourself permission to imagine what you want, choose to believe that it is possible in order to create the feeling of commitment, allow your feeling of commitment to fuel your actions, and keep taking action while recommitting to the belief that it is possible. But it’s also important to understand that even if you don’t create the possibility that you want, the fact that you imagined it and took the steps to make it happen WILL move you beyond where you are now, instead of settling for less or believing there’s nothing you can really do.
As the definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, the same thing goes with not creating possibilities. You will unfortunately keep creating the same thing over and over if you let your lower brain tell you that you’ve never done something before, so why bother.
I really want you to consider that there are millions of people who won’t allow themselves to create possibilities, who wake up every year, 5 years, or 10 years and wonder why things haven’t really changed for the better – why they’re unhappy at their job, why they’re settling in their relationships, and why they’re envious of those that have what they want. They aren’t willing to be an example of what’s possible.
The best news I can give you is that you get to believe whatever you want about yourself, even if there’s no proof that it’s true. It’s also important to understand that the executive functioning part of your brain is your best friend – it allows you to believe that you can double your income, go out on your own and be successful, leave your marriage and be okay, or take that trip without the kids and have a guilt-free time.
Just remember, you’re not supposed to know how to do something you’ve never done before, but please don’t let that stop you! Let yourself be an example of what’s possible for your sake and your children’s. When you show them what’s possible, you open up their world to possibilities as well.
- The issue that I see time and time again for a lot of women is that you short change yourself when you go after goals because of one very important fact – what you believe is and isn’t possible is often a lie your brain is telling you.
- The sneakiest and most common thought that robs most women of the ability to create possibilities is the thought, “But I’ve never done that before”.
- You will unfortunately keep creating the same thing over and over if you let your lower brain tell you that you’ve never done something before so why bother.