Have you ever noticed that you gravitate towards articles, stories or shows that promise to teach you how to do something. You may not know this, but when creating a title for a blog, podcast or anything else that you want to capture people’s attention, using “How” in the title is highly recommended.
The reason is because we all have the desire for more, especially more knowledge when it comes to being an accountant. We value expertise, how to service our clients and businesses at the highest level possible and how to achieve professional success.
As working moms we also have the desire for more for ourselves and our families, and we want clear cut instructions on getting the results we want. Seeing a picture on Pinterest of a beautiful water feature in someone’s yard is interesting, but add the title “How to create this in a day” and we are hooked.
The “How To” movement has grown so big that we now have websites, like Wikihow, dedicated to teaching you how to do almost everything, and entire networks. like the DIY Network, to make any home project seem doable. Women especially love “How To” information because it makes us feel capable and creative.
The idea of building a rock garden with your kids is one thing, but you also probably have things that you want to accomplish in your accounting career, in your business or in your life as well. Maybe you have a dream of being a mompreneur that allows you to create your own schedule and flexibility, or you want to start your own firm and hire other accountant moms.
It all sounds exciting and compelling, but then comes the question of “But how?”. That one question can seem like a big letdown, taking the wind out of your sails; it can make it seem too big and complicated, so you end up saying “Why bother”.
The tricky thing about wanting to know how, is that your brain will automatically resist any idea it’s unfamiliar with and will transfer responsibility for the “How” to someone or something outside of you. Even with clear cut steps on how to do something, it’s important to understand what will actually get you the results you really want.
This week I’m going to discuss why we have such a strong need to know how and the 4 step process to help you when you want to know how.
Why we have such a strong need to know how
It’s totally understandable that when you have a goal, you also want to know the steps you need to take in order to insure your success, especially if you’ve never done anything like it before. For example, most people wouldn’t order a new piece of furniture from Ikea and tell the salesperson to not put any instructions in the box.
But it’s also important to understand that your brain does not like uncertainty at all, therefore, it’s highly motivated to find someone or something that has the answer; as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, when faced with ambiguity and a lack of clear-cut answers, your brain sees no other option than to give up.
In our modern time especially, we have become accustomed to being told how to do almost everything. I laugh now, but there is a picture of me giving my first child a bath with the book “What To Expect The First Year” propped up on the changing table so I could follow each step on how to give her a bath.
I was so afraid of doing it wrong, not trusting my own judgement, that I literally read each step in the book, did the task, moved to the next step, and on, and on. I had never bathed a baby before, and there was no way I wanted to mess up bathing my own child.
Can you relate? Is there something you didn’t trust yourself to do right with your children, so you asked for very specific instructions in order to insure that you did it right? I’m sure most moms can relate to needing to know how, especially when you had your first child.
There’s nothing wrong with needing to know how when you’ve never done something before, but the issue is when needing to know how stops you from moving forward at all with a goal, or giving up when it gets difficult. If you’ve ever found yourself saying “I would, but I don’t know how”, then I am speaking to you.
On the one hand, it makes sense that your brain would gravitate towards predictability because it appears to take less effort. But, on the other hand, there is so much that you abdicate and miss out on because you either don’t try due to not knowing how, or you face some obstacles and quit because it’s challenging.
Let’s face it, we would all love a guaranteed formula for success that we can follow because it doesn’t require us to fail, to handle obstacles or to deal with confusion and doubt. But just be clear that your brain is highly motivated to expend as little energy as possible and it either wants to be told how, or it doesn’t even want to try.
The sneaky thing about knowing how to do something, is that it isn’t enough. For example, you can be told how to drive a stick shift car, but until you try, fail, and keep practicing, you’re never going to succeed with just the knowledge of how it’s done.
The same thing goes for any goal or dream you have; how someone else achieved something you want isn’t the definitive way that you need to, or should, follow. I encourage you to take a look at your life and see where you want to be told how to do something, or else you’re not going to do it.
If you have a tendency to do this, you need to override your brain’s resistance to uncertainty and failure; that voice that tells you “I need to know exactly how to do this or else” and “If this doesn’t work the way I was told, I’m done”. There might be people who have gone before you and done what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean their way is your way.
You have to be open to sometimes having a general idea, or sometimes having no idea at all, but being willing to take enough wrong action until you get it right. The secret to knowing how, is in the willingness to take action.
When you want to know how, the HOW is really in the DOING. You have to be willing to move past confusion, doubt and resistance, and figure it out by learning, trying, practicing and doing.
The 4 step process to help you figure out how
The challenging thing about wanting to know how, is that you’re always trying to find someone or something that has your answer. Like having a GPS for your car, you’re always looking outside yourself to take you from point A to point B.
Having a GPS when you’re taking a trip is great, but what happens when it doesn’t work or when it doesn’t actually know that there is a detour that was just put up by a road crew an hour ago? The convenience of not having to think while you’re driving, and just being able to mindlessly follow the directions given, is what most of us have become accustomed to.
Unfortunately, we can blindly follow and trust the technology of the GPS, without realizing it doesn’t have all the answers. It has a general knowledge, but until you are driving and experiencing the road in real time, you cannot rely on the GPS to anticipate every subtle nuance of roadway activity.
You also wouldn’t completely end your trip, turn around and go home just because the GPS can’t anticipate every obstacle. You would never get anywhere if every time you encountered a pothole, an accident or a detour, you just gave up and came back to where you started.
I was once taking a 5 hour drive upstate, mindlessly driving while the GPS told me every turn to take. All of a sudden the voice said “Danger! You are no longer on the roadway. Exit immediately.” I was totally confused and almost got into an accident because I had slowed down so much to make sense of what the GPS was saying, that the car behind me had to swerve to avoid hitting me.
When I looked at the GPS screen, it was showing me driving through a field, not on a highway. There had been construction done on the road in the last 6 months that had rerouted the highway, and the GPS wasn’t aware of this change to the roadway.
Having a general direction is important when you need to know how to get from point A to point B, but nothing can replace your own decisions about how to make that guidance your own and have it work for your unique situation. To have a mentor or a coach to offer you some direction is great, but you have to take responsibility for what you do after receiving the general direction.
One of the important lessons that I have learned in my work with The Life Coach School is that the difference between being told something versus discovering something for yourself, is everything. You can be told how to get started on something, but you’re the one that has to come up with your unique way to get there.
The 4 step process I was taught to discover the how, starts with first imagining sitting down and asking an expert everything you wanted them to tell you about how to do something. What questions would you want answers to? What would you want to know?
Once you’ve done that, the 4 steps are:
Step 1 – With those “expert answers”, now you need to approach the things you want to know how to do, as someone who knows the answers which starts by taking a guess at what might work. What could you do today to figure out what might work for you? Practice the thought “Maybe I could…” or “I guess I could try…”
Step 2 – Whatever you decide, try it multiple times. The biggest hurdle we have to achieving anything is giving into our brain’s natural tendency to give up when we don’t succeed right away or when we are uncomfortable in the space of not knowing. We want other people to tell us what to do because we don’t want to wait and because we are so afraid of failure.
Step 3 – Pay attention to the actions you’re taking and the results you’re getting. You can treat it like a science experiment, where you are making observations and gathering data. Notice what is and isn’t working and make adjustments as needed, without letting your brain give you all the reasons why you shouldn’t even bother.
Step 4 – If you don’t get the result you wanted, make a decision to try something else, go back to Step 1 and repeat as long as necessary.
A GPS is great, but you’ve got to get on the road and drive in order to get where you want to go. You have to take action, notice whether it’s getting the result you want, make corrections, take some more action, and figure out your unique journey.
If you are only taught to repeat back what you’re told to do, you will never create the confidence to move beyond what you’ve been taught. You’ll always be looking over someone else’s shoulder to figure out how, making you dependent on their wisdom, direction and holding them accountable for your success.
You are a smart, capable woman who may need a little guidance, but in the end you can figure out how to do more things than you probably give yourself credit for. If you want to know how, your belief in yourself is really what you need more than anything else.
The skill of learning how to know how, is something that will help you both personally and professionally. When you know how to figure out how, there’s nothing and no one stopping you from achieving your goals because the how is discoverable by you, in the doing.
- The “How To” movement has grown so big that we now have websites, like Wikihow, dedicated to teaching you how to do almost everything. and entire networks, like the DIY Network, to make any home project seem doable.
- There’s nothing wrong with needing to know how when you’ve never done something before, but the issue is when needing to know how stops you from moving forward at all with a goal, or giving up when it gets difficult.
- There might be people who have gone before you and done what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean their way is your way.
- When you want to know how, the HOW is really in the DOING