They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. I’ve noticed that we self-employed professionals indulge in this practice fairly often.

For example, you have some potential business to discuss with Maria Cortez. So, you put “Call Maria” on your to-do list for Monday morning. Only it never happens. You move the to-do item to Tuesday, and it still doesn’t occur. So, you transfer it to Wednesday, then Thursday. When Friday afternoon rolls around, somehow you still haven’t made the call.

Woman rowing boat

Does expecting a different result from repeating the same behavior mean you’re crazy? No. You’ve likely been told that you should try, try again, only harder. Hearing “try harder,” said by multiple people in diverse ways over a lifetime can make you believe that putting your shoulder to a difficult task is the best way to get it done.

But some things just won’t budge when they’re pushed. They can even grow stronger. Fear of self-promotion is often like this. So is resistance to marketing and sales. When you’re blocked by fear or resistance and you simply try harder to do what you fear or resist, you can find yourself deep in the weeds, no closer to your goal.

Instead of paddling furiously in the same direction, it can be much more productive to stop and ask yourself: Why is your boat not moving? Do you need to clear some reeds that have tangled your rudder? Find a deeper channel where your boat can pass more easily? Hack off some branches that are blocking your course?

Identifying what’s in your way can make it possible for you to clear it, circumvent it, or reduce its power. Is it fear that’s stopping you from placing that phone call? What is it that you fear? The embarrassment of perhaps stumbling over your words? Then write out your talking points and practice what you will say. This will increase your comfort level and reduce your embarrassment.

That’s only one example of what you might do. Your own fear, resistance, or other obstacles may be quite different than this illustration, and therefore your personal solutions will not be the same.

The point is that you should stop trying to push back the river, and focus instead on what’s in the way of your own boat. Once you pause to investigate what’s slowing you down, you’ll be better able to see the right options for moving your boat forward.

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