The Myth of Positive Thinking
Many location independent entrepreneurs are motivated to create a location independent business, or to take their existing business on the road in hopes that this change will help them to find happiness.
However, in my work with clients around the globe what I’ve found is that many people start traveling, or move abroad, and find that the problems they were hoping to leave at home find a way into their suitcase. This is often because, regardless of where we are in the world, even if it’s the most “instagrammable” place on the planet, we can’t entirely escape painful thoughts and feelings. Constant happiness is just not possible as a human being.
Many of my clients end up feeling disappointed or frustrated with themselves when they experience sadness, loneliness or anxiety as a location independent entrepreneur because instead of seeing these feelings as a normal part of the human experience, they see them as a sign that they’re failing at being an entrepreneur (or at least, a location independent one).
There’s a natural reason we want to get rid of discomfort or pain in these sorts of situations. We’re built to survive, and avoiding physical pain actually keeps us alive. If I step off the curb and realize there’s an oncoming car, it’s great that my brain can tell me to get out of the way so that I jump back on the curb. However, our brain tends to respond the same way to emotional pain and this leads to numerous problems and maintains psychological distress. After all–
That which we resist, persists.
A New Definition of Happiness
Instead of aiming for happiness, or the absence of painful thoughts and feelings, what we need to aim for instead is happiness that’s defined as “living a fulfilling and meaningful life.”
When we go after things that are fulfilling and meaningful, we are bound to come up against fear, stress, anxiety, self-doubt, and many other uncomfortable things.
Acceptance and Commitment Coaching (based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is the type of approach I’ve found works best in my eight years of providing therapy and coaching to clients around the globe.
Acceptance and Commitment Coaching (ACC) has two main pillars:
Let me explain more below what each of those means.
Acceptance of Difficult Thoughts and Feelings
ACC is a mindfulness-based framework that emphasizes the importance of making space for painful thoughts and feelings so that they don’t hold us back from doing things that are important to us.
For instance, ACC would help you to accept painful thought patterns such as imposter syndrome, “shoulds,” or “what ifs” that might stop you from taking action in a direction that could lead to fulfilment in the long term, but might require you to step outside of your comfort zone. Acceptance does not mean resigning yourself to these thought patterns, or enjoying them. It means learning how to observe the thought patterns in a way that detaches you from them so that they aren’t the thing determining what actions you take.
ACC can also keep you from getting overwhelmed by painful feelings like loneliness, anxiety, or rejection (all common for location independent entrepreneurs!). This is how this could look when you’re experiencing fear about doing something outside of your comfort zone:
Instead of saying:
“There’s something wrong with me for feeling this way, it’s not such a big deal, I should just do it and get it over with”
You could say:
“Fear is such a normal human emotion to have when you’re trying something new. It’s normal to feel scared – this is my brain’s way of trying to keep me safe.”
When we are able to observe, accept, and self-soothe our painful feelings, they actually tend to pass much faster which is great news when you’re a location independent entrepreneur because it can be such an emotional rollercoaster at times!
Commitment to a Meaningful and Fulfilling Life as a Location Independent Entrepreneur
As I mentioned above, ACC is designed to help us accept painful thoughts and feelings, but this isn’t just because it sounds like a nice thing to do, it’s because you need to do that in order to live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling (which is probably why you became a location independent entrepreneur in the first place).
One of the key parts of ACC is to help you identify what they want their life to be about, or in the words of ACT, to identify your values.
Once we’ve identified our values and checked in with ourselves about how much our current lives align with our values, we usually start to notice some discrepancies. This gap between how we’d like to live our lives, and how we’re actually living them, can give us a glimpse at some of the difficult thoughts and feelings that may be holding us back.
For instance, maybe you want to attend an entrepreneur networking event, but you’re hooked by worry thoughts (“what if I’m the only new person?” “what if everyone judges me?”) and anxiety which are pulling you in the opposite direction and telling you to STAY HOME.
This moment is sometimes referred to as the choice point in ACT. It’s like being at a fork in the road where one direction is aligned with your values and the other is a result of being “hooked” by the stuff (thoughts, feelings, memories) going on inside of you.
There might be a temptation here to figure out how to get rid of the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings with distraction or positive mantras. After all, these coping strategies may make the discomfort disappear in the short term. However, in the long term, it’s likely to return. So, Instead of waiting until these thoughts and feelings disappear, we need to find strategies to UNHOOK from them. A simple, but powerful one that I often share with clients is “changing BUT for AND.”
CHANGING BUT FOR AND:
Instead of saying:
I would go to the networking event, BUT I feel anxious
Say to yourself:
I feel anxious AND I am going to go to the networking event
Want to Learn More?
I’ve successfully used the ACC framework with clients living around the globe, including location independent entrepreneurs. If this sounds like an approach that you’d like to learn more about, schedule a free 45 minute call with me so we can explore how my coaching using ACC could help you.