I’ve recently been thinking about why it is that some freelance language business owners implement away, and get great results, while others seem to find it harder to actually get stuck in and taking action.

This is not to try and make anyone feel bad, by the way, because I think the number one reason why people don’t get around to implementing changes in their business is almost certainly because they literally do not have time.

And this is because they are already working super hard just to keep afloat. This is a particularly horrible kind of catch 22.

You’re not charging enough, so you have to work a lot of hours, which means that you don’t have time to work out how you could re-configure what you’re doing so that you could charge more, and therefore work less and set off a more virtuous circle, rather than a vicious one.

If that’s you, I sympathise, and it can be of course exacerbated by family pressures as well.

However, I think there’s another big reason why people don’t implement and it’s because they are not getting the level of challenge or difficulty right.

Why you don’t necessarily benefit from ‘stepping out of your comfort zone.’

People talk about stepping out of your comfort zone as a positive thing, but what is often not well understood is that your comfort zone is something which your brain has put in place to protect you. And if you go trying to leap right out of it, what usually happens is that you boomerang right back, and feel like a failure to boot.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, gives a good example of what he calls ‘the Goldilocks Law’. He says

”Imagine you are playing tennis. If you try to play a serious match against a four-year-old, you will quickly become bored. The match is too easy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you try to play a serious match against a professional tennis player like Roger Federer or Serena Williams, you will find yourself demotivated for a different reason. The match is too difficult.

Compare these experiences to playing tennis against someone who is your equal. As the game progresses, you win a few points and you lose a few points. You have a chance of winning the match, but only if you really try. Your focus narrows, distractions fade away, and you find yourself fully invested in the task at hand. The challenge you are facing is “just manageable.” Victory is not guaranteed, but it is possible.”

So, while some people are bored because they’re doing the business equivalent of playing tennis with a four year old, probably a lot more people are trying to play with Roger Federer, and then beating themselves up for not winning.

Why the ‘Inner Troll’ quite likes it when you go too far.

It can even be a kind of game that our Inner Troll plays (that inner voice that tells us we can’t do things, that everyone else is better etc). It almost sets us up in order to ‘prove’ that we can’t do things and we should give up and go back in our nice safe cave.

We feel overwhelmed at the very idea of all the things that we know need doing.

But, there is a LOT of space between playing tennis with a 4 year old and with Venus Williams.

So, if/when you’re feeling overwhelmed, this doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for running a business, or that no-one wants your service anyway, or all the other things your Troll tries to tell you it means.

It’s just telling you that you’ve just tried to go a bit too far or too fast out of your comfort zone, and are feeling super uncomfortable and vulnerable as a result. And the the answer isn’t to crawl back into your cave and curl up in a ball, but to decide what’s one thing you could do that would make you feel a bit challenged, but not over challenged, and which would move you forward.

Maybe it’s posting for the first time in months on Linkedin, or following up with an old lead, or finally deciding it’s the right time to join Designed to Flourish. It will be different for everyone, depending on where you currently are on your business journey, and how much challenge is that Goldilocks just right level of challenge.

We need to stretch our comfort zone so that we’re always just on the border of what feel comfortable, and that’s when you’ll find yourself motivated and in flow- and starting to get results.