Being polite and cultivating good manners is not a bad thing. Our society values people who are well behaved, friendly, cooperative, and willing to compromise. We are conditioned to behave this way from our school age days and are often rewarded for these behaviors.

If you are a heart-centered entrepreneur, your desire to lead with generosity, kindness, and do good things. The thing is, you are running a business. That’s right. Businesses need to make sales. Here comes the dilemma: Do these heart-centered values have to hold you back from rocking your bottom line?

Heck no!

So how does one go about meshing these two goals? You want to be generous and compassionate and kind, but what do you do when the client starts asking for a discount because she can’t afford your product? How do you have that awkward conversation with the designer you hired to craft your site, and you hate it, but you don’t want to seem rude? What do you do when you’ve been asked to contribute to something you just don’t feel like doing, but you’re worried that if you decline people will think you’re selfish.

These conversations can be cringe-worthy and make you want to run for the hills.

The answer you’re so desperately seeking boils down to one simple thing: be you. Be authentic. Let your inner truth guide you, and you will have no problem.

Sounds simple, right? No?

Here are my five steps to own your voice, assert your needs and desires with integrity and stop feeling guilty about taking care of number one.

1. Get crystal clear on your long-term goals and let them guide every single decision you make

If you’re making decisions on a whim, you’ll lack consistency and principle. Make it a non-negotiable to regularly review your long term goals and let that direction trickle down to mold your short term goal, which then guides your decisions on smaller things like to-do’s, tasks and individual projects.

When you let your life vision guide your decisions, and you’re clear on what direction you want to take, and you stay focused on this path, then saying “no” to anything that isn’t in line with achieving this goal becomes a no-brainer. Saying “no” to these things or speaking your true opinion no longer is cause for feeling guilty because the answer is guided by your vision for your life. The let-down is not a personal rejection; it’s not personal at all. It’s simply you being you and it is your right to do so. You can’t get much more authentic than that.

As a bonus, when you do, in fact, agree to do things, people will start to value it more because they know it’s coming from a genuine interest to do it, as opposed to simply because you felt pressured into it.

2. Don’t fear the act of speaking up

Sometimes we fear to speak our true opinions because we don’t want to be difficult, egotistical, and we don’t want to rock the boat. The funny thing is, though, that there may be others who have the same opinion, and they’re sitting there thinking and feeling the same way you do. Now both of you are sitting there, wishing the situation was headed in another direction. You’re both not speaking up and now the “leader” with the great idea is the minority, but no one knows it.

Here’s a concrete example:

If as a group someone on a team suggests using Facebook Ads for lead generation and you think it would be wiser to try organic lead generation through guest posting. The natural tendency of the human race is to follow community. A study by social psychologist, Solomon Asch back in the 1950’s, proved that participants in his experiment chose the wrong answer to a simple question, even though they knew it was wrong, 32% of the time, simply because someone else before them chose that wrong answer.

So when applied in business, you can bet that there is probably someone else in your group who also shares your opinion about using content marketing over paid ads, but they’re going along with it simply because they want to fit in.

If you speak up and let the others know that you don’t agree, there are probably others who will feel more comfortable about speaking their true opinion as well. But if you don’t take that step and speak up, even though you know you don’t agree; you’ll never open up that possibility.

Speak up, make yourself heard, and you’ll probably be surprised to know that there are often others who feel the same way. And if not, and you truly are the only one with that opinion, so what? What’s the worst that can happen? After all, if you’re running the business, it’s your call no matter what. You don’t have to be a jerk about it. Just have the courage to make your true feelings heard. Don’t become defensive or dramatic about it. Just stay level-headed and calm.

You don’t even have to justify your opinion. The sheer act of stating your true opinion and making it heard puts you in a position of power. You put two valid options on the table and now the team can discuss which option or idea is better.

3. Embrace the joy in getting rid of baggage

There is nothing more liberating than saying “good riddance” to things that aren’t serving you. Things that aren’t serving you could include groups, memberships, friendships, or business relationships. By focusing on the things that truly resonate with you, and are in line with your vision, you are staying true to yourself.

Seeing as how you are the only person you have to tolerate 24/7 for the rest of your life, being in alignment with your values serves to increase your overall wellbeing and happiness.

You’ll start to feel free and experience more joy and confidence knowing you’re in line with your vision. Letting go of baggage that is making you play small, limiting your belief in your abilities, and preventing you from reaching success will likely 10 x your chances of getting where you want to be in life and business.

4. Make it a new habit

Charles Duhigg writes in his New York Times Bestselling Book The Power of Habit about our brain’s ability to be rewired by actively choosing to change our habits. Knowing we can change our habits is great, but how is this done? I like to combine Duhigg’s recommendations with a study of the power of vocabulary.

Start by defining the trigger that provokes the behavior or habit you would like to change. Then use specific situations to clearly and precisely define the behavior that you want to change. Now clarify what new behavior or habit you would like to implement instead of the old one.

It might look like this:
Trigger — When on a discovery or sales call where someone is trying to sell me something I don’t want or need
Old habit — I cave in and buy it anyway because I am afraid of hurting their feelings or letting them down
New habit — I stick to my gut feeling and decline the offer

Now, here’s where the psychology of using the right vocabulary comes in. Word the old habit this way: “I don’t …” By using the phrase “I don’t” you are reinforcing a psychological feedback loop that helps train your brain to change that old habit.

Then we tie it in with the connector: “Instead I …”

Let’s see it in action:

“When on a discovery or sales call where someone is trying to sell me something I don’t want or need, I don’t cave in and buy it anyway. Instead, I stick to my gut feelings and decline the offer”.

If you go through this process with all of those awkward and uncomfortable situations you are sick of enduring, you’ll be effectively arming yourself with a collection of habit changing affirmations that you can practice to yourself each day, or have written down in a journal you keep with you.

This way you can refer to them each time you find yourself in one of your trigger situations, and you are taking away your body’s need to make a decision and rely on self-discipline because your answers on how you want to behave are right there in front of you.

5. If all else fails, change your environment

If you are finding it too difficult to assert yourself with people who have known you to be a pushover your entire life, you always have the option of starting to surround yourself with new people. The new people you let into your life ideally get to know the “real” you right off the bat and don’t have any older version of you to try to preserve.

As a bonus, by hanging out more with people who know the “real” you, you will feel more energy because you’re not wasting it all on maintaining a façade and putting up with things that you do not like.

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