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a blog by Chris Barrow

Defeating the monkey brain – dealing with imposter syndrome

Yesterday I reflected on the incidence of imposter syndrome appearing in the daily feedback I am getting from clients in the Get Your Year in Gear programme.

We reviewed the Three Excuses that we give ourselves for wanting to quit.

  1. This stuff looks hard

  2. I don’t want to look stupid

  3. I’m too ______to do this

Let’s now consider what to do when imposter syndrome strikes and The Monkey Brain whispers doubt into our inner ear.

These are the Three Agreements we must make.

  1. Be willing to do the hard work

  2. Be willing to look stupid

  3. Agree that you can do this.

In early September of 2019, we launched our annual marketing campaign for 2020 coaching clients.

I set myself two targets for sales:

  1. a Minimum Value Proposition (MVP) – the very least I would be happy with – it would pay the bills, pay me, but leave little in reserves or for reinvestment;

  2. an Ideal Target – the dream ticket that would create a year of success and significant funds for reinvestment and savings.

On 2nd September 2019 I had a video call with my business coach Rachel Turner and I explained that I was suffering from a significant dose of imposter syndrome.

She had me, there and then, compose a list:

“The top 12 reasons that the monkey brain is wrong”

  1. 2019 was my best ever year in coaching;

  2. I have a superb support team;

  3. My brand is at its strongest;

  4. Our IP and collateral are stupendous;

  5. The Academy is off to a flying start and is innovative;

  6. We have excellent Strategic Alliance partners;

  7. All of our marketing systems were designed earlier in the year and are in place;

  8. We have a happy and substantial existing and former client bank;

  9. I have 22 years experience in the dental sector;

  10. I’m in my 50th year in business;

  11. I have never failed as a freelancer;

  12. I coach people who have imposter syndrome!

On reflection, by simply making me write this list, Rachel cured me on the spot – after all, how could this guy ever suffer from anxiety?

If only it were that simple – the monkey brain has devious ways.

Certainly by the end of that 60-minute call, I was out of my “funk” and back in the game.

The the hard work began.

I mentioned yesterday The Wing Chun concepts web site.

Here’s an excerpt from excellent advice on dealing with the monkey brain:

In The 4-Hour Chef, bestselling author Timothy Ferriss (4-Hour Work Week, 4-Hour Body) has distilled his ideas about skill acquisition into a simple recipe with the acronym DSSS. The elements of this formula are: DECONSTRUCTION What are the minimal learnable units, the Lego blocks, I should start with? Break your targets and tasks down into small blocks of progress. SELECTION Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the skill I want? This concept of smart selection is based on the Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule) which states that, for many situations, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. SEQUENCING In what order should I approach these blocks? STAKES How do I set up stakes, create real consequences, and guarantee I stick to the training? No matter how much you want to progress right now, humans are innately horrible at self-discipline. A goal without real consequences is just wishful thinking. The consequences for quitting should have a heavy cost. These can be social or financial.

For example, tell your team, coach, family or friends that you are setting goals and ask them to inquire about your progress each month. The fear of failure in front of your peers can be strong motivation.

My family, friends and team members will confirm that the terms MVP and Ideal target were never out of the conversation for 4 months – that I referred to a Master Spreadsheet every day.

My “Stakes” were proving to my coach and my peers that I could do it.

We worked hard from September to Christmas – so how did it go?

By 1st January I was standing at 118.50% of my Minimum Value Proposition (MVP) and at 82.8% of my Ideal Target – with a whole year to make up the shortfall. I’m already guaranteed a good year and now can work on making a great one.

Even now, the monkey whispers that I should have been at 100% of Ideal by January but then my coach and my team point out that our incidental sales during the year will cover some of that and I can plan to make up the rest at leisure. There is no pressure.

I began on 2nd September 2019 with my monkey brain whispering doubts into my ear.

  1. By working with my coach

  2. By listing why the monkey was wrong

  3. By establishing the building blocks

  4. By focusing on the most important blocks, in the right order

  5. By regularly reporting to my peers

We were able to beat the monkey and win at business.

When you hear the Three Excuses – think about the Three Agreements.

Keep a constant visible updated list of the reasons why the monkey is wrong.

Follow the DSSS formula when constructing your plans.

You can do this.

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