I’m sure we’ve all heard and experienced how important self-discipline is for freelancers, particularly those working from home. Some of us may naturally gravitate towards working all of the time and others of us might have trouble motivating ourselves to do any work at all. Without the routine of going to the office every day for a fixed number of hours and being answerable to somebody higher up and without a set start and finish time, freelancing really does bring with it as many challenges as it does luxuries. But that isn’t quite the topic of my blog post today. What I want us to look at in this post is emotional self-discipline and how I believe that this is a key ingredient for success as a freelancer – and one that people are much less aware of.
I’m going to start by letting you into a little secret: I hear voices in my head. In fact, I can hear one right now “you’re not seriously going to write that are you?”. Perhaps you hear them too. If not, try listening a little more closely because we all have them. It’s just mind chatter and it’s completely normal (or at least I hope it is). This mind chatter is simply the mind’s way of making sense of what we are doing and protecting us on the basis of past experience. The mind’s main objective is to keep us safely in our comfort zones and to keep everything as it is. Now there are certainly advantages to this. I mean, if your mind remembers that you once did something and something terrible happened, then you’re unlikely to want to go and do it again. However, what about all of those opinions those voices have and judgements those voices are constantly making on things you haven’t tried out yet, like raising your rates, contacting new clients, choosing a new area of specialisation and so forth. If we listen to them all of the time and haven’t learnt how to distinguish between useful objective information and fear, then the voices will soon start to take over your business. Are they already running yours?
The only way to grow, both personally and as a freelancer, is to take steps out of your comfort zone and to be prepared to try something new – even where the outcome is uncertain.
The illusion of control being necessary
Not being in control isn’t something that the human mind can handle very well. For that reason, it does all it can to try to stay in control of every situation. This is one of the reasons that voice telling you not to take new action is so loud. The only way to stay in control is to take the same action you’ve always taken. Then there’s no (or little) risk. But remember that saying “no risk, no gain”? It’s 100% true. If you want change, if you want to get out of the vicious circle you feel you are stuck in, then you need to take new considered action and then let go and be open to what happens next.
When you start carefully listening to the voices in your head you may find that there are several, that some want to support you and some want to hold you back, some are encouraging you to move forwards and others are doing everything they can to stand in your way. Which of those voices is the loudest? If it’s not the one encouraging you, then it might be useful to ask why you are listening to the ones that are trying to hold you back. Is it just because they are louder? Is it simply a habit? Is it easier for you that way?
I hear from so many translators who feel like they are stuck in a vicious circle. They read books about marketing, they try to take new action but they rarely get very far. Even if they have the best of intentions and some of them are the most conscientious translators I know who are excellent at their craft, and yet lack of emotional self-discipline leaves them unable to break out of this vicious circle.
A process, not instant results
Like anything, learning to practise emotional self-discipline is a process. If you expect immediate results then you are going to be in for a disappointment. Just like any new client or personal relationship, learning to get to know your mind and to listen to and to differentiate between the different voices and to weigh up which ones you are going to choose to listen to takes time. But once you start to do this, you will feel more empowered because even if you still find yourself listening to the obstructive voices for a while, you will, from the time when you finish reading this post onwards, at least be aware of what you are doing and awareness, as I tell my mentees again and again, is the first step on the path to change and the first step on the ladder to success.
- Pay attention to those inner voices. What are they saying? Is there more than one? Listen carefully to what the quiet ones are saying.
- Write down everything those voices are telling you on a piece of paper. This is important as it allows you to detach. When they are all in your head shouting for attention, it’s easy to lose track or to only hear the loudest ones or the ones you are most used to listening to.
- Now that you have everything down on paper, try to disidentify with the situation. Perhaps try imagining that you are advising a good friend rather than yourself.
- Go through the statements provided by your inner voices one by one and look for objective useful information and write it down.
- Identify the statements which are purely fear-based. Identify what the fear is in each case.
- Determine whether the fear is valid or whether your mind has simply been making up stories about one of the potential outcomes and is perhaps focussing on what it considers to be the worst case scenario. Ask whether the negative outcome you are expecting is a certainty or whether there are other possibilities.
- Take the new action. Coach yourself through it if necessary. Talk back to those voices and explain why you are doing what you are doing and that you have carefully considered the situation and that this is the best objective course of Action.
- Let go, trust and embrace any changes. Remember that until you take new action, you can’t know exactly how things will change. Life is never as black and white as our minds want us to believe it is.
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