Explaining water to a fish

If business success has eluded you, it may be because unconscious beliefs or behaviors are getting in your way...

An important part of succeeding in business is the elimination of mistakes—especially repetitious and unconscious mistakes.  We all inherit certain beliefs and patterns of behavior that we saw modeled by parents and caregivers.  Mostly, we don’t even see these patterns in ourselves because they are so much a part of us, we just accept them as “givens.”  They are part of our perceived world. 

In fact, these unconscious patterns may even become counter-productive in the running of your business.  The noticing and changing of personal patterns of behavior is one of the most difficult challenges facing a business owner.  In fact, if business success has eluded you, it may be because unconscious beliefs or behaviors are getting in your way. 

For instance, an owner who wants to please customers too much may price products or services too low—unconsciously trying to please—due to a pattern laid down early in life.  But the effect of not getting paid a fair price may be sabotaging your entire business strategy.  Or maybe you learned that “price equals quality” and set your prices too high.

Bringing these unconscious habits and patterns to light is an important part in the development of a successful small business person.  The first step is to become conscious of what you are doing by rote and habit.  Later we will talk about the hard work of changing some of these patterns—because they no longer serve you.

But until you can “see” the pattern, talking about it is akin to “explaining water to a fish.”

A fish only knows about water when it is removed from the water.  If you’ve ever watched a fish momentarily try and live out of water, it is a painful sight.  It is not able to breathe air directly, but draws oxygen from the water.  In the same way, you may be in pain because you are like a fish out of water.  Your beliefs and habits may unconsciously sabotage your success, not just in business but also in your life.

So, the first task is to discover the beliefs and habits that keep you unsuccessful is to recognize your pain.  You may even believe that “pain” is a way of life because you’ve been in pain for so long.  The quickest way that I’ve seen to notice these limiting beliefs is to notice where you are in pain—the place where no matter what you do, nothing changes—you are stuck.

In my own experience, there are three areas where limiting beliefs show up as pain: pain in my money life, pain in my body, and pain in my relationships.  If you experience persistent discomfort in any of these areas, a good question is to stop and ask is, “What would I have to change for this pain to go away?”  I’d like quick answers, but my experience is that pain is only a symptom, not a cure. 

A temptation is to beg someone, “just get rid of the pain, now” but that is almost always unproductive.  After all, you can’t get rid of your body, your money situation or your partner.  All are the product of beliefs and habits, and short of death, bankruptcy, or divorce you can’t simply rid yourself of your “problem,” without making life worse.   

Rather, the only thing available to “change’ is yourself—your beliefs and your thinking.  Looking to change others is a fool’s project, since you don’t have control of anyone but yourself.  You may decide in some cases to remove yourself from the immediate situation, but ultimately, coming to terms with your pain is usually a matter of deep reflection and taking ownership of your own life. It starts by examine the beliefs that you thought was true.  It’s hard—like “explaining water to a fish,” –but not impossible.    

In Chapter 2 of Living by Your Wits, I start to unravel the mystery of this riddle, and strangely, it is the last place you’d think to look—inside your own memories! 


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