My birthday is coming up in a few days and this impending milestone has stirred up a mix of emotions. I went on a great run this past weekend, but my mind raced the entire time, reviewing the accomplishments and challenges in my business and family life and the legacy I’m creating in both. I liked what I saw in some areas, while others need improvement. I felt overwhelmed when I reviewed all the goals I had planned to achieve prior to this significant milestone.

To add to my anxiety, my wife signed us up to run a mini-marathon. I haven’t trained in over a year, and I have two months to prepare for it. As I ran, I realized these feelings run parallel to what many sales reps and sales leaders face at this time of year.

Everything is on the line, and if the swing isn’t working there’s the tendency to grip the club tighter. Those of you who play golf know how much of a mental game it is. It’s extremely hard to visualize a successful tee shot when all you’ve done for the past several holes is shank or slice. Your mind becomes focused on the fear of the bad shot rather than the success of a great shot.

Most of the sales reps and business leaders I work with are trying hard to stay productive and positive at this time of year, but underneath they’re experiencing fear, doubt, anxiety and exhaustion. Without a true belief in what you’re trying to accomplish, you’re simply going through the motions.

This self-awareness exercise focuses your thoughts and goals.

  1. List the three most important goals you had for last year (go all the way back to January).
  2. Take one of the goals and tell yourself that you’re going to complete it. For example, you might say to yourself, “I’m going to sell (or earn) X by the end of this year.”

If you hesitated before stating the goals, it’s because you feel the goal might not be attainable. You’ve tried all year and it didn’t work. It almost feels like you’re lying to yourself. Here’s what the little gremlin inside you says:

  • “There’s no way you’re going to accomplish that.”
  • “Come on, you’ve tried it before and it didn’t work.”
  • “Don’t lie to yourself. It’s not going to happen in this economy.”
  • “You’ve worked hard all year. Just do what you can now and start fresh in January.”

This is your believe – or lack thereof – at work. Before you even start, you’re protecting yourself from future disappointment. If you don’t reach the goal, the gremlin will proudly pound his chest and say, “I told you so!” This rhetoric protects you from future failure and disappointment.

This technique will help you conquer self-doubt.

Instead of saying, “I’m going to sell X by the end of the year,” shift your inner dialogue to, “I’m in the process of learning, changing, and trying new approaches to sell X by the end of the year and prepare for a great next year.” It’s a simple and honest way to take pressure off yourself. This process can help you regain your belief that you can perform and achieve in this economy.

As you lay out your plan for the next four months, focus on what you’re “in the process of” doing each week. Each action item you check off your weekly list will create momentum and a sense of accomplishment. Remember, this isn’t just an exercise in action, but one of creating a belief. You’ll start to break through some comfort zones, which will help you create a rhythm with new actions. These new actions will create new experiences and more confidence in generating a stronger start next year. Work on the inner conversation to tame anxiety and doubt.

This doesn’t mean spending days preparing a list of accounts you want to target or fiddling with an email introduction for a full week. It means allowing yourself to be “in the process of.” Take each week as an opportunity to move forward.