Overcoming psychological barriers to success

This week, two blog posts on the psychology of freelancing caught my eye: this one from Get Rich Slowly, entitled “Knocking out the beliefs that hold you back” and this one from I Will Teach You To Be Rich, entitled “Success and the shrug effect” (and by the way, it’s not that I love blogs about how to get rich, but these two are interesting!).

In the Get Rich Slowly post, GRS staff writer April Dykman points out how “limiting beliefs” hold us back from success. In April’s case, a college professor once told her that it was impossible to make a living as a freelance writer, which led April to a miserable stint in real estate while her freelance career went nowhere. Far from advocating a “make a wish and it will come true” approach, April gives a detailed, step-by-step guide to destroying your limiting beliefs and getting through to success by setting defined goals, finding mentors, ignoring other people’s limiting beliefs and taking small, concrete steps toward your goals. Likewise, Ramit Sethi argues in his post that we often sabotage our own success by focusing on why other people have “made it” but we can’t. For example we focus the external factors that separate us from the successful businesspeople we admire and convince ourselves that it’s those unchangeable factors that are holding us back… that person went to a name-brand school, that person has connections, that person is so much smarter than we are, etc. Ramit points out that focusing on those types of beliefs is  “an excuse to stay in your current state and do nothing.”

While I don’t agree with everything in these posts, I think that this self-defeating phenomenon is really prevalent among freelance translators, and I don’t exclude myself here. The real question is how to overcome these psychological barriers to success. Here are a few techniques I’ve used, and I would be interested to hear from readers a) what are your psychological barriers to success and b) what are you doing about them?

  • Keep tangible reminders of your success. April says that she keeps a Word document with positive things that people have said about her. I keep two files (one in my e-mail and one on paper) called “Inspiration” where I store e-mails and notes that say something nice about me. I know, it’s a little cheesy…but when I’m feeling discouraged about a goal that I’ve been struggling to reach (such as finishing the second edition of my book), I crack these files open and remember that someone once said “no one is as thorough as you” or “your book changed my life.”
  • Force yourself to accept compliments. Many translators are naturally self-effacing people who naturally discount anything positive that someone says about them. Try this: when someone says something positive about you, just say “Thank you, that’s so nice of you to say” or something like that, rather than “My work isn’t really that good” “I’m not really that smart” or whatever else you were thinking of saying in order to negate the compliment!
  • Rewind. One of my struggles this year has been figuring out how to add more direct clients to my portfolio. It has really helped to take myself back 7+ years to the start of my freelance career, when the idea of being successfully self-employed seemed like such a dream. When I think back to how hard I worked during my first two years of freelancing, I think that if I could start out with *no* clients and get to where I am now, I can certainly continue making the jump to *better* clients.
  • Do something about your deficits. Once upon a time, I spoke French really well. I lived and went to school in France for a year, then went back pretty much every summer for six or seven years after that, during which time I also had a job where I spoke French for a large part of the work day. Over the years since then, I just haven’t had as much of an occasion to speak French even though I read it all day for work. I realized that in terms of marketing to direct clients in France, one of my limiting beliefs was that “I can’t do it because my spoken French is not strong enough” and I was probably right! So, I decided to start taking French conversation lessons with a native French speaker for an hour every week. This has made a *huge* difference in my confidence level; although my spoken French is not where it was when I got off the plane from living in France, it’s actually enjoyable for me to speak French in social situations with native speakers again.
  • Quit waiting for that big block of time. If I had to single out just one psychological path to success, this would be it. Whether it’s writing a book, marketing to direct clients or keeping your office more organized, any goal is more achievable when you do a little bit every day. If you wait until you have nothing on the calendar in order to do some marketing, three months could easily go by until you find the time. But if you send out just one résumé per work day day during those three months, you will have contacted 60 potential clients.
9 Responses to “Overcoming psychological barriers to success”
  1. jillsommer November 6, 2009
  2. Patricia November 6, 2009
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  7. Hyacinthe Kemp November 9, 2009
  8. ebodeux November 13, 2009
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