If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know that I used to be a fitness coach. This week on the podcast, I welcomed someone who I know from way back when I used to work in the fitness world. Josh Hillis is an expert on eating behaviour, and the author of two books on the same topic. He’s the curriculum designer and head coach for GMB Fitness’ Eating Skills program, and he’s also a super awesome, nice guy. Josh joined me to talk about perfectionism, being hard on yourself, and how to be true to your values.
Perfectionism is just fear, right?
I recently launched my new signature program the Business Freedom Elevator™, which I’m so excited about. One thing that’s pretty interesting is that when talking to people who were considering taking part, the biggest reason they don’t join is because “I need everything to be more perfect before I’m ready.” That’s also the reason why so many people hold off on launching their latest product or service: because they don’t feel ready. 80% of people are holding back their life and borrowing from tomorrow because of perfectionism.
“Perfectionism is all about fear,” says Josh. “I don’t want to do it wrong, or fail, or look bad.” If you’re holding yourself back because of perfectionism, Josh has a tip for you. “I’m into the pursuit of excellence, which is all about practising and making mistakes and then getting coaching, or studying, and making some mistakes, and practising some more. It’s a cycle,” he says. It’s not just about not trying to be perfect: it’s about embracing the mistakes you make, and using them to learn going forwards.
“Failure isn’t something to be avoided,” explains Josh. “It’s a necessary part of the process.”
You don’t believe him? Listen to this awesome example he shares – which is actually also how I got through university whilst working full-time:
“There’s a very uncomfortable but super effective way of teaching material: give people a test before they’ve learnt any of the information, and then teach them 20% of the info, and test them again. You keep going until you’ve covered everything. The first time you take the test, you get an F. The next time, a D, and then a C, and a B, and then an A. After a while you’ve taken the test 10 to 20 times, and you own it. You learn more and better if you’re willing to fail, and keep failing until you get better.”
Another way of dealing with perfectionism is by being compassionate to yourself. If you’re not exactly sure what self-compassion is, this is how Josh explains it: “it’s being okay with your own emotions, imperfections and humanity, and still doing things that take care of you and move you towards your values.
“When we’re young, we’re taught to compare and measure ourselves to the biggest and best people in the world,” explains Josh. “Which is kind of crazy – it’s like only comparing your body to those that you see on TV.” Let’s take a business example. Say you published your book recently, and you had some issues with the launch. Maybe you screwed up your marketing, or you launched in the first week of lockdown, and that didn’t really go according to plan.
“From a self-compassion perspective,” says Josh, “I can realise that it’s normal to have thoughts comparing myself to authors on the New York Times bestseller list, and people who have 500,000 reviews on Amazon, compared to my 200. I can have all those thoughts without getting spun out by them. And if I do, I can focus on doing what matters to me, and what matters to me is making a difference for people.”
Maybe you're also interested in this: How to Crush Your Imposter Syndrome and Limiting Beliefs
Learning to ride the waves
If you’re experiencing difficult feelings – whether that’s to do with comparisonitis, negative self-talk, or even something like overeating – try acknowledging the thought without going into it. The famous analogy uses surfing: learn to ride the wave. An example of me experiencing the benefits myself is when I notice thoughts coming up, and then realise that it’s because I’m very tired. I know that if I go to sleep and get some rest, the next day those thoughts won’t be so intense. “It’s about acknowledging your internal state,” says Josh.
Josh has experienced these feelings of comparison himself, in relation to his studies. He’s currently getting a Master’s degree in contextual behavioural science and emotional eating, and others with a Master’s degree say “oh yeah, but I don’t have a PhD.” And then people with a PhD say “oh yeah, but I don’t have a fellowship”. It never ends! “There’s no amount of getting stuff that’s enough to fix the existential crisis we all have. I think that’s another one of those things that doesn’t even need to be changed, it just needs to be acknowledged. It’s like a state of being human,” Josh points out.
Success is getting it wrong and adjusting
Do you know what your values are, in business and in life? Josh defines values as “the kind of person you want to be, the areas of life that matter to you, and the character strengths you want to embody in those areas.”
I asked Josh to help me pick out my values, and this is also something I did a while ago with Jessica de Block for my other business, Alfavrouwen. I wasn’t feeling like I’d found my place, which is partly what’s wrong with social media and highlight reels: it doesn’t mean I’m weak or a bad business coach because I was in the wrong role. It just means you constantly look at how you’re feeling, and if something is wrong, keep trying to do things differently and adapt a little bit. That’s the journey.
Josh shares this golden nugget to sum up that thought: “success is getting it wrong and adjusting.”
Here’s a personal example: at the beginning of July, I opened the early-bird doors for the Business Freedom Elevator™, and the shop wasn’t working. I launched, and nothing happened. I sat with my team for an hour and fifteen minutes, not knowing how to fix it – when I usually always know how to fix it!
We ended up finding a workaround, but we lost so much traction. It would have been easy for me to be like “you know what, this was the universe telling me I shouldn’t be doing this.” A lot of people say that, when actually what they’re feeling is a fear of failure. I decided to get back on the horse, get back into abundance, and we ended up closing this launch at 1 million dollars, which I’m very proud of.
“That’s how it goes in real life,” says Josh. “Things go wrong, and you keep going. Two thirds of my businesses and products have failed, but the one third that hit made it all worth it. You don’t have to hit every time.”
It’s the same principle when you’re trying to sell something. A lot of the time, people will come to me and say, “Amy, I’m not selling!” but they’re not actually trying to sell. Everyone is afraid of sales, and you just have to try and talk to people, get on more calls, get people through the door and try to sell.
Accept that it’s uncomfortable, and take action
Sometimes, you just have to accept that it’s uncomfortable. Maybe it’s sales calls. Maybe it’s talking on camera. A lot of people find that very scary, even if they’re outgoing and sociable in real life. I’ve had clients who are nervous about speaking on camera, but they put themselves out there, and now they’re killing it. You don’t have to love it – you just have to get used to it. You might be scared of getting on camera because it won’t be ‘perfect’, but actually, we tend to prefer people who aren’t perfect.
Everything for me is about action. I believe in 3 things that can guide your decision making – abundance, authenticity and authority for your business. If you have these then you can do so much, and that is how you take action. You take action and you make decisions from an abundant place, and show up in an authentic way – and you also have to position yourself as an authority.
Taking action is always the thing that my entire coaching is focused on. Perfectionism is a huge topic because 80% of the people procrastinate: they’re like ‘oh, let me just push it forward’. So from the moment people get into my coaching, I have them take action.
Be true to your values
I usually work out with a trainer three times per week. I’m good with commitments, and very rarely cancel. The morning after the launch of my Business Freedom Elevator™ closed, I was super tired, and texted my trainer asking if instead of a heavy session, we could just do some stretching and chat. It felt so good to connect to my authenticity and ask for what I needed in that moment: I wasn’t a warrior, I was a soft penguin. I recognised my need for softness in that moment, and stated my wants and needs – and it felt good! One of my core values is authenticity, so I need to be true to that.
There are two ways you can go about something like getting on video. Jessica always suggests recording your video a bunch of times, and sometimes recording without even posting. That might be what feels good for you. For me, I ask myself if the video shows who I really am, and if it does, I post it.
Once you know your values, “you can make decisions in context”, says Josh. “You can actually say to yourself, do I go left or right?”. It’s almost like a framework ready for you to use, to ensure you always make aligned decisions.
My personality is best described using animal descriptions. My cousin is a psychologist and always talks about having the lion and penguin sides to my personality, but there’s a pendulum that swings between the two. She asked me what was in the middle, and I decided it would be a teddy bear. Strong when it needs to be, but also soft and cuddly.
Josh’s own values are professionalism, effectiveness and kindness. “The professionalism is about hitting my deadlines, doing the things I said I would do, but also going back to school because I needed more training on that,” he explains. “Effectiveness is both how good am I at asking questions and listening to people, and also what is the most effective and cutting edge psychology. Kindness is about how I can not make people feel bad, and bringing some softness to what I do. But the balance is there, so I’m not compromising effectiveness. If I see something wrong, I’ll tell that person, because my job is to help them.”
Learn how to dance in the rain
During the Coronavirus pandemic when many of us have been stuck at home, you might have found yourself developing workaholic tendencies. This is something that Josh has also experienced. “There have been points in the pandemic when I’ve realised I’m working through meals and losing sleep. It’s just my go-to avoidance mechanism,” he says. “I’m like ‘I’m helping people’, but it’s a little inauthentic, because I’m not taking my own advice right now.”
If you feel like you’re overworked, you might be a little less joyful than usual. 2020 was supposed to be my year to play more, but then lockdown happened and I totally forgot about it. Josh went through something similar. “There’s a part of me that’s like ‘I should feel great because I’ve got all these cool things happening, and I help people, and things are rough in the world but my business is going well,” he explains. “But then there’s also me waking up in the morning going ‘what did I used to do that made the day fun or enjoyable?”
To fix this, Josh is working on switching up his routine. “It’s going to look like some more workouts, some different workouts, some more downtime in the middle of the day, and time to stop and think,” he says.
It can be pretty hard to find balance and to force ourselves to take time out and do something fun, even when that thing is right in front of us. Everyone is in different places, and Josh thinks that when advice falls flat, “it’s because they’re speaking to people on one end of the spectrum or the other. For a long time, I had to work on keeping my word, hitting my goals, hitting my deadlines, all those things… Now, I need to work on some balance.” It’s like learning how to dance in the rain.
It might feel like something you have to do at the time, but working non-stop and avoiding taking breaks is actually counterproductive. “I’m learning that I can take that hour to go for a bike ride, and come back and still get all my stuff done,” says Josh. “If I track my productivity, when I work 10 or 12 hours straight through, productivity is actually very low at the end.”
Sometimes, if you’ve gone through tough experiences in your life, you get used to the world being on fire, and you almost don’t notice when it’s not on fire. I am used to being on fire, and it’s become my set point, which is something I realised a little while ago. My core wound is not feeling safe, so now I need to remind myself that I am safe. People are more used to life being chaotic than they are to it being simple.
One of my favourite questions to ask my clients right now is: what if life could be easy? What if your business could be easy? What if making money could be easy?
People are always a bit shocked when I ask them that, because it’s not their set point. It’s not where they’re at.
Take action in line with your values
If you feel like you don’t love the way you’re working, Josh has a simple tip to help you onto the right tracks. Ask yourself what it looks like to take action in line with your values.
“We can get in the weeds, getting too ‘thinky’ about it,” explains Josh. “But what are the actions that are in line with your values, and what are the actions where I know I’m going the wrong way?” Keep an eye on your own red flags. Do you know you need to make changes when you find yourself working in the evenings, or working through lunch? Rather than doing that, try to take a break and eat lunch while watching TV, or while sitting outside.
When you’re used to the world being on fire, you might be telling yourself things that aren’t true, like “I don’t have time to eat lunch”, or “I can’t go shopping with a friend because I need to work”. If you’re experiencing those thoughts, Josh suggests realising that those thoughts aren’t the truth, and that you can have those thoughts and still do the thing that you wanted to do.
I notice something similar with mindfulness. People can’t even stand and wait in the line at the supermarket without putting out their phone. As an online business coach, I see that sometimes people are so connected that they are disconnected, and worst of all, they are disconnected from themselves. We need to connect with ourselves again.
Imposter syndrome affects us all
I’m a goal oriented person, and I sometimes feel that after passing that goal, I’ve been so focused on hitting it that I get disoriented. It’s like a ballerina who’s twirling: she looks at one spot so she can keep spinning. And when she loses sight of that spot, she gets dizzy and falls.
I recently found that after the launch of my Business Freedom Elevator™, some imposter syndrome came up for me. I had 375 people sign up, and now I need to prove myself and make it happen. I’m already making it happen, and the feedback has been amazing so far, but sometimes my own content almost scares me, and it isn’t until I’m deep into it that I know what I’m doing and that I’m going to give amazing results. I feel a huge sense of responsibility almost to the point that I start procrastinating.
“It’s a good thing to be in different emotional states at different times,” says Josh. “It’s cool and fine to be drained after something big. I totally relate to the nervousness of doing something, and then feeling good once you get started. Before every workshop I’ve ever given, I’m super nervous, and once I get into it I’m fine. I’m nervous because I care.”
I used to be so nervous before I had a sales conversation with people, up until the point that I would almost have to go to the bathroom and vomit. I was like “oh my god, when am I ever going to get over this?”. My dad would say to me, “well that’s good though, right? Otherwise it would mean you don’t care”. Mind. Blown.
That brings me back to the fear of failure: people mistake the feeling they get. Fear of failure doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something – it would almost be more unusual not to feel that way.
Josh summarises it perfectly: “You wouldn’t care that much if it didn’t matter to you.”
Do you want to listen to this podcast episode? Head to Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, and search for episode 43 of The FastForwardAmy Show. To find out more about Josh and to discover his awesome new book, visit fastforwardamy.com/joshhillis.
The free download that accompanies this episode is my Action Value Framework, which will help you figure out what your values are, and how to take action based on those values. Let me know what you think by tagging me in your Instagram stories with @fastforwardamy
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