Good Signs (of Progress) That Seem Bad

One thing being a Progress Coach has taught me: Most people mistake good signs of progress as evidence of their failing. That something is wrong. That they're off-track. That it's never going to turn out.

Usually, it's the opposite. Allow me to give you some #progresscoaching around the most common very good signs that you're making progress and actively growing for the better. I'm guessing that you're missing out on a lot of victories, simply because you (yet) don't know they're good signs!

Read on for the video, audio and transcription of the session, my Dear!

Photo by my dear friend Vanessa; follow her on Instagram

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My Dears, if we are meeting for the first time, my name is Amy Jones. I am a Progress Coach and strategist. I basically help people figure out which goals are worth their time and energy and then how to actually reach them—not just thinking about them, talking about them, hoping about them—but getting into action in a way that is more enjoyable, that is more sustainable. 

I wanted to chat today about some...

Signs that are actually really good indicators that you are starting to grow and that you're making progress

We often think that they're bad. We think that it's a sign that there's something wrong or that we don't have what it takes. Unfortunately, it just throws so many of us off just when we're starting to get somewhere, just when we're on the precipice of doing something differently and having a different result. Then we start to freak out.

Usually we freak out because of something I call our Clever Brain, and that is essentially the way I describe the negative messaging that we have in our own head, the onslaught of discouraging thoughts and ideas that part of our brain generates to keep us from moving forward, to keep us from growing, and to keep us from going outside what is known and comfortable, because that part of our brain, what I call Clever Brain, thinks it's doing a good job. It thinks it's doing you a favor. It thinks it's like looking out and keeping you from being injured in some way, some threat to your survival or status or connection, and it's unfortunately most of what gets in the way of us getting what it is that we actually want.

I want to dive into some of those signs today. I've got five of them for you: 

(I want) to help you see where this is happening in your life, and just to take comfort in the fact that it may actually not be a sign that there's something wrong, that you aren't good enough, that you aren't the kind of person that can go after big, scary goals and do hard things. Really, you're a human person, which is good, and once you start to understand how these things show up, then you can realize that it's just fear, it's just Clever Brain wanting to get in the way, and you're able to then move forward.

Hi everybody. Let me know if you're here, if you can say something. I can't actually see who you are. I can just tell you're there, so glad to have you here. 

Let us start off the list with the first sign that is really good that may seem like it's bad:

1 // Feeling afraid or intimidated in some way when you think about the goal, whatever it is that you're going after.

One of my favorite authors, Geneen Roth, describes it as realizing in a moment when you are faced with a new challenge or a new goal or obstacle and the immediate response is, "Oh shit. Oh God. Am I going to be able to deal with this?" Oh hey Marieanne. "Watching in the airport." Wonderful Dear, so good to have you.

It's this moment where it seems like whatever it is that we want to go after is daunting. It may even feel a little bit overwhelming, but you start to kind of get into this internal conversation with yourself where your Clever Brain will start to point out all of the reasons why it's scary, why it's never going to work, why you don't have what it takes, and you can even get into this dance with yourself where you start to talk yourself out of the importance of this goal or to get into these debates internally. Like, "Well, do I really want it? I mean, where I'm at is not that bad and maybe I should just be grateful because changing my whole life to go after this big, scary goal is such a big deal, and what if this happens, and what if that happens, and I don't know how it's going to happen."

We just get into this whole distracting, discouraging spiral of debate, and it's actually a really good sign, because when this happens, when you're feeling afraid, intimidated, "Oh shit. I don't know how I'm going to do this, and I don't know if it's going to turn out, and uh," like all the things, it's a sign that you are moving outside of your comfort zone. It's like you are right there at the edge of your comfort zone with your toes over. I was a swimmer for a lot of years, so I know what it's like to be perched on the edge with your toes over the pool and being like, "Uh, I don't want to jump in." The hardest part is making the jump.

The hardest part is going outside of that zone of what is known and safe and familiar, because what is outside of that zone are really good things. That's what you really want, what you haven't gotten to yet, what you haven't yet experienced. That is out there, and it takes courage to sit there at the edge, feeling the fear, feeling intimidated, and jumping, like going forth. That doesn't mean that you have to cannon ball into the deep end of uncertainty, but it means that you got to keep going. If you weren't at that edge, if you weren't getting ready to grow, getting ready to do something brave and big that you haven't done before, you wouldn't feel afraid, you wouldn't feel intimidated, and you wouldn't be saying, "Oh shit. I don't know how I'm going to do this." Okay?

When you feel that way, when you feel kind of confronted, know that that's a really good sign and you can feel good about yourself, feel proud about yourself that you're even considering it, that you're looking at taking steps into a place that you have not been before, and what that means, when you go where you haven't been before, then you get to experience what you haven't yet experienced the things that you really, really want. Okay? 

The second one is self-doubt:

2 // When you start doubting yourself, especially when you've kind of started creating a little bit of a momentum.

You're starting to feel a little bit stronger, feeling like, "Yeah," like, "I've been having some victories. I'm feeling good."

Then the self-doubt can come in real quick. It starts to feel like, "Oh God, maybe I'm not as confident as I thought. Maybe I don't have a handle on it. Maybe I can't do it. Maybe it's not the right time now," and you go into this whole clever-brain-sponsored series of thoughts and conversations. Marieanne's giving me a thumbs up. Yes, know a little something about that, right? It's like we have that shift, and it can feel terrible, really, where you just start to doubt everything, and even the areas where you've previously been confident. You might downplay your past wins or recent victories, like, "Oh but it wasn't that big a deal, and anybody could have done it, and I'm not really that special," and just is discouraging and can feel really defeating when you start to doubt yourself.

The doubt, coming from your Clever Brain, is designed to keep you safe. Again, this is like your Clever Brain sensing, "Oh God, she's starting to get more confident. She's starting to feel brave. She's got her feet over the edge. She's jumping into the unknown. We can't have that, so cue the self-doubt." Then it just comes raining down in torrents of all of these thoughts that have you changing your mind, second-guessing. "Well I don't know. Is the time right?" and we can get stuck there for a long time, like years can be spent in that self-doubt, and each time that we feel like we're kind of getting our feet underneath us, each time we feel the momentum starting to build that it's like boom, self-doubt, and then well, we got to back away, can't have any of that. Got to be confident.

In the First 5 Steps to their BIG, Scary Goal, which is a fairly new course for us, I was so struck about how many of you said, "I wish I felt confident. I wish that I felt 100% certain that I could do this." That's what Clever Brain wants. Clever Brain wants you to be certain. Clever Brain only feels safe in what is known, and so when that isn't apparent, when we don't feel that certainty, then it feels like something bad could happen when in fact, something really good could happen. We have to be willing to tolerate the self-doubt and to not make it mean that we're off track and not make it mean that we're not going to be able to pull it off, that it's simply an indicator that you are growing.

You're again, going outside of that comfort zone, and that's where the growth is. You're taking action. You're creating movements, so when you start doubting yourself, I just want you to take a breath, and I want you to notice, "Am I doubting myself because I am being brave, because I am doing something different, because I am growing, because I am striving in a way that I haven't before?" I would be willing to bet that that is what's going on. Clever Brain uses self-doubt as one of its most effective tools to shut you down and to have you pull back and not think such thoughts. Okay?

All right, similarly:

3 // Feeling anxious, feeling worried, wondering when something bad is going to happen. 

When is the next shoe going to drop? I've been doing pretty well, been creating some new habits. We're taking some actions. Things are going well, but when is something going to happen? When is this sort of sprint of progress going to be cut off somehow? Clever Brain loves to kind of ramp things up because if self-doubt is not working, then we got to bring worry. We got to bring in anxiety and distract you will all of those types of anxious thoughts to keep you from moving forward, to keep you from being at your best, moving full power toward whatever it is that you really want.

Worry and anxiety are excellent ways for your Clever Brain to cut you off and disempower you. Worry and anxiety can be so effective because it seems important, and it seems real, and it seems like you've got to know something before you actually know it, that you have to have it figured out, that you have to know how it's going to turn out, and the thing is, we can't predict the future. Things are changing and shifting all the time, right? I will talk to you guys about channeling your Inner Captain and navigating your vessel. As you're going through your life day-to-day, you're making choices. You're deciding moment by moment what's right for you, if you're headed in a right direction, if you need to course correct.

I mean, you're already doing this, even if by that description that seems like, "Oh my God. That's a lot of work." But you're doing it anyhow. It's just that when you are listening to the worries and the anxiety and treating them as being important, relevant information that can be trusted, then it starts to feel like it's storming all the time. It's rough seas all the time. Really, it's not often, but in the confines of our own head, as we're walking through life, it can feel terrible, and it can feel like things are falling apart, or that you are out of your depth or that you don't know what's going on and that the bad thing is absolutely going to happen because it's happened in the past, right?

We get afraid of what has already happened. The worry and the anxiety will keep you spinning, but what's great to notice is that when you start feeling worried, when you start feeling anxious, especially about things that you do not have control over, things that are outside of, not in your vessel. You are not the captain of those things. You can not affect change. Those are other people's ships. Those are other things, right? When you are just preoccupied with the worry and the anxiety, it just cuts you off from your creativity. It cuts you off from your best ideas, and worry and anxiety are especially useful for Clever Brain to shut you down when you are making progress, when you are actually having some victories, when you're starting to create that momentum, when it seems like, "Oh my God. I think I actually might be ... I might have something here. You know, I might be able to pull this off," cue the worry and anxiety.

I was just noticing myself this morning. I woke up. I was feeling fine. I was going about my day, had some sessions, doing some things, and then I started to notice the feeling, the anxiety, the dread, the "Oh God. What am I doing?" The questioning, right? Then we kind of go back into self-doubt. I was just noticing, "Oh sweetheart, that's interesting. I'm feeling worried. I'm feeling anxious. Maybe it's because I'm growing. Maybe it's because I'm launching a new course. Maybe it's because there's all these cool new things happening." When Clever Brain is afraid that you are moving into new spaces, worry and anxiety are very effective tools. Okay? I don't want you to believe your worried and anxious thoughts at face value. I want you to be curious about them, very curious and very kind as you are being curious about them as to what's really going on.

Because maybe they don't really need you to deeply investigate them. Maybe just a little bit curious, and just kind of noticing, "Hm. Is that really what's going on? Is that really true?" Maybe you can just let that go, because another way for you to be kept distracted and not making progress and not in action is to be anxious and worried. It is a sign that you are moving and that you are starting to create some momentum. All right, then let's talk about the fourth one:

4// Discomfort, which I really describe as wanting to throw up. 

It's like feeling a little bit nauseous like, "Uhhheggg." In your body, you can feel flush in your system sometimes. It feels like your heart might be racing.

Tanya calls it the butterflies or the angry bees even. It's just this feeling inside your stomach maybe. Maybe it feels like the blood is flushing through your body. We do have a physical response to the thoughts that we think that trigger the emotions and the stress response, and the body is doing what it can to support you, so when you start feeling the discomfort and the, "Oh God. I don't know," where you just want to retreat to safety, where you just want to go sit down and watch some Hulu, that that is a good sign that again, you're right at that edge, or you're moving into that discomfort. You're moving into the new space, into new waters. You have not been there before, and that is okay.

It's really, really important for you to have an awareness about that and not see it as a bad sign, not see it as a sign that there's something wrong, that there's danger ahead, that you need to turn back. Instead, see it as a bread crumb. See it as a sign that you are moving in a brave direction. For you to be able to make really meaningful progress, you've got to be able to tolerate that. You've got to be able to just breathe and be with yourself in those moments, so that you can take the next right step. Marieanne says, "You've just made me realize that the anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach that was there for such a long time has been missing since I started working with you, since I started taking Progress On My Goals." Yay, oh yay! So good, so good, so good. Yes. So happy to hear that, Dear. Yes.

Once we start, once we start choosing ... I heart right back at you. Once we take command of our vessel and we realize what is going on with Clever Brain and all that chatter and that it doesn't really matter, that it's us that gets to choose, that we get to be the ones that commit to ourselves, where we don't have to be wishing, wishing that we were confident, wishing that we knew 100% that it's going to turn out, but we have just taken command of ourselves and have decided that we are moving forward and that we are going to see things in a different way. These signs, the feeling afraid, the self-doubt, the anxiety, the worry, the discomfort, the physical "Uh," all of that, it's not bad. It's actually good, and it means that you are moving in the right direction.

It's like you can't get around this stuff and it's not meant to be something that you avoid. It's something that you move through, that you just get to notice and then choose to move forward anyhow and just take action from love. I'm not one who advocates for you hating any part of yourself, including your Clever Brain. I do not advocate for you wishing your Clever Brain was different or thinking that it is somehow wrong or whatever. Like it may be confused and operating off some very limited and incorrect information, but still it's part of you, and having spent decades warring with myself, fighting with myself, hating myself, I cannot recommend it.

It does not work. It is not sustainable. It does not feel good. Rather than getting into it with your Clever Brain, rather than getting into all of these signs and feeling like there's something that needs to be handled before you can move forward, just having a new perspective and a new way of seeing it, as Marieanne is sharing, it can just start to kind of let go. It'll start to recede. It'll start to fade as you are taking your next right steps. Then, it's going to come back in, and it's going to come back up. Like for me, it did this morning.

But I don't need to make it mean something about myself, and you don't need to make it mean something about you, that there's something wrong when in fact, there's something brave happening. There's something that you are moving toward. The fifth one is another super, super common one where we get confused about it, and it's:

5 // Failure or what we describe as failure. 

I mean, failure is such a subjective word. I define it as when things don't go the way we want them to go. We have an idea. We create an idea in our heads of what we want to have happen and how we think it should look and when it should happen, and if it doesn't go that way, if we have not been able to accurately foresee the future and control the world, then it's bad.

That is your Clever Brain logic. When you say it out loud, it starts to sound ridiculous, right? We just can't control these things and we are not fortune tellers. Noticing how you define failure, what you make it mean about yourself, you have this Clever Brain narrative that successful people don't fail, that somebody who knows what they're doing isn't going to fail. This reminds me, and God bless me for thinking this, but I remember, it was such a revelation one day when I was sitting at the beach and I was watching the surfers. I don't know why I had this belief that once you got really good at surfing you wouldn't wipe out, which is like just hilarious because anybody that's a surfer or knows anything about surfing knows that that is just part of it, and it happens all the time. It happens every day.

Your way that you relate to failure, thinking that somehow you shouldn't be failing, you shouldn't be having the experience of reality not matching with the idea that you have in your head, I mean, can you start to see how problematic this gets? Where you really get stuck and start to talk yourself out of it, and your Clever Brain uses these failures as evidence that you're not doing it right, that you're not doing enough, that it's not going to turn out, that you're never going to figure it out because you failed.

You know what failure means? All it means is that you took action. That's a really good sign, that you did something, because if you do nothing, you cannot fail. If you just sit there and stay where Clever Brain wants you, in the comfort of this bubble, then you cannot fail, and your Clever Brain will convince you that that's a really good idea. But if you cannot fail, then you cannot grow. You cannot win. You cannot feel victorious. You cannot feel proud and accomplished and like a grown-ass, bad-ass captain person who is doing what you want to do, where you feel alive.

When you don't give yourself the opportunity to fail, you do not give yourself the opportunity to feel fully alive, so when you notice that you have failed at something, when you have deemed it a failure, that is the perfect opportunity to just delight that you have taken action, that you have tried something. You have experimented, and it didn't go the way that you wanted it to go. That's all. That's all. We get to learn from it.

We get to notice, "Oh okay. Curious about why that happened, or what was going on, or what would I tweak, what would I do differently." Glad I got that failure. Glad I took that action. Glad I learned something because I was brave. I went outside of my comfort zone, even if I doubted myself, even if I felt anxious or worried, uncomfortable, and like, "Oh shit, what am I doing?" You did something, and it failed. Fantastic. I'm so proud of you as your Progress Coach. I'm so proud of you for that.

You need your failures. It's not an optional thing, and it is not something that is avoided by those who are more successful. If anything, the opposite is true, and that the more willing you are to fail, and fail faster, the more likely you are to win and to grow and to grow exponentially. Okay? Five things that seem like they're bad but are actually really, really good signs for you making progress is feeling afraid or intimidated, like that "Oh shit" factor, "What am I doing?" No. Then there's self-doubt where you're questioning, "Do I have what it takes? What if I don't know?" And you start to go down that whole thing. Anxiety and worry, where you're just waiting for something to happen, waiting for it to go wrong. Then there's discomfort or what I describe as the "Uh," like feeling nauseous and uncomfortable and like you just want to crawl in bed. Then the experience of failure. So good. It's so important.

Here's the thing too. When we talk about inspiring people or inspiring ourselves and things like that, no inspiring story happens without these things. When you think about that and you think about people telling you the before and they're standing in their after and it's like it just feels so good and so encouraging, inspiring, and amazing because you know what that feels like in the before. You know what it feels like to feel intimidated and anxious and worried and uncomfortable and all of those things, and they do too. That's why it resonates. That's why it's inspiring, because they didn't stop and they didn't use those experiences as evidence that they were off track, that they wouldn't be able to reach it, that they weren't good enough to get to their big, scary goal.

They kept going, and they kept taking action, and that is what I get so fired up about teaching and I am super excited because I started to get into all of this stuff in the First 5 Steps to their BIG, Scary Goal, and that is a course now that you can take. You can jump right in at any time. It was something that I taught live over a period of five days, but if you really wanted to get after it, you could do it in five hours. I think it will really change the way that you see your goals and your fear around them. If you liked these five that I just went though, if that was valuable to you, you will love that course.

You will also love the advanced course that I am launching next week. It is called: 

Make Progress No Matter What

I really mean that in a very literal sense, that no matter what the situation, no matter how things go, all that you can't control, what you're feeling, your health, the economy, money, like any of those circumstances cannot touch you once you know how to make progress no matter what, once you can recognize the fear, see it for what it is, take action from love. I'm going to teach you how to do that, and it's going to be a small group setting. I only have a few spots left, but I'm really excited about the group that has already committed. They're amazing people, and I'm so excited to be able to teach this in a group environment, do some coaching.

We've got six weeks of kind of breaking things down one-by-one, the things that really get in the way of you making progress no matter what is happening. I took those six things, the course is built around the actual experiences of the people that took the First 5 Steps to their BIG, Scary Goal, so I am crafting this just for you guys, and it's coming out of your words, your experiences, and I know that I can help, and I know that we can start to shift these things and have you get further than you've gone before. Okay?

This is a great option for you if you are ready to take the next step, and even if you're feeling not ready, again, this is a good sign, your toes over the edge, just waiting to go in. You don't have to do it alone, and I would highly recommend not doing it alone. Leverage my experience. Leverage all the years where I was trying to do it alone and stumbling through and trying all these different things and taking courses and investing in myself and just enduring it. All that I've learned I am excited to share with you.

>>> Register for: Make Progress No Matter What

That's what I've got for you this week. Next week I'll be back on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we do these Progress Coaching sessions, so if this helpful for you, you can join me live here on Facebook at noon Pacific on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So great to be with you. Thank you for taking the time to invest in yourself. This is not Clever Brain's idea of a good time, and it will come up with all kinds of reasons for you not to be here and not to listen, but if you are listening to this now, I appreciate you for not listening to your Clever Brain and choosing instead to invest in yourself. All right, Dears? I will see you soon. 

Until then, go be brave and go take your next right step. It is one that you absolutely can do. 

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