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Are you an extremist?

I recently had a Zoom session with a client who I would describe as a classic extremist.

I don’t mean politically, but in respect to how he viewed situations; things were either terrific or terrible, a great success or a failure. There was no middle ground, no “gray area” to work from.

I asked him my textbook question that snaps people to attention: Are you for real??

In other words, he was using a mindset that simply doesn’t match up well with how life is. Things are rarely ever black or white. There’s always a gray area that we need to deal with whenever we find ourselves disappointed in not reaching a goal. It’s the point in between where we are now and the ideal of where we want to end up. Our dream. Our someday goal.

I explained to him to examine whether the roadblock he came up against could be gotten around in another way. Perhaps there is more than one solution to a problem, even? Truthfully there is ALWAYS some other way we can approach a challenge. While the challenge won’t change, WE certainly can.

I spoke once about Progress not Perfection. This is often what happens for clients like this. They build up an ideal in their mind and want it -- NOW. Of course, the perfect idea doesn’t magically appear, so they abandon the whole idea. Perfection is a nice concept and a worthy pursuit, but it’s not realistic. It is an extreme.

Instead, I invited him to explore his options, and to do so in a calm, thoughtful, careful manner. Leaving emotions and disappointment aside, you need to focus on the objective facts in front of you, and start building your ladder.

So, extremists see the top of the roof and they want it fixed tomorrow. They walk up to the house and are frustrated that they can’t reach it, and give up, perhaps to look at another project. My suggestion is to see the roof, then sit down and look at the tools you will need to fix it.

The first thing you’ll need is the ladder. The shingles. The nails. You will have to determine how you will get those items on the roof to fix it. How much can you carry? How will you do so safely? How much time will you need to complete it?

It’s no different when you’re looking at a goal. You not only need to have a ladder to reach it, you will also need to put into place each rung that will take you from here to there, one step at a time. When you’ve suffered a setback, and lately everyone has, ask yourself what resources you do have, what relationships do you have that you can rely on or build on that can help you stay successful during a difficult time?

It may be a surprise to know this, but every client I have I ask about their income and budgets. Of course salespeople are numbers-driven, but even those business clients who aren’t in sales need to create a financial plan of some kind to map out what their challenges are, and what they will need to do to overcome them, either through cutting back on expenses, increasing their income, or ideally both. I’ve found that people rarely consider what success costs; if they want to make $100,000 sure that’s income, but what do they need to get there?

Working harder and smarter is a clever answer, but needs more detail. Much more. It’s hard work to go through planning like this. It’s an extra hour of researching for prospects to earn extra business. It’s going the extra mile for a client you already have. But when the plan is mapped out, when each rung of the ladder is in place, you will find the step-by-step process gives you more confidence as you go along.

The keys to getting away from the “extremist” mentality is to be flexible, be intentional and thoughtful, and to enjoy the journey. Progress, not perfection, is what keeps you motivated, day by day, week by week and from one achieved goal to the next.