Find the One Thing that Changes Everything


It was an unusually dry, warm December in northern Vermont.  The brook is usually iced over solid and covered with snow by January, but this year was different.  The edges where the water moves slowly had given up their energy and frozen solid a week ago, but there was still a narrow channel of quickwater that refused to yield to the cold’s persistent temptation to cash out.  

I watch the brook that runs by our home as often as I can.  There’s often a teaching offered while watching the flow, and while having a “brook moment” last weekend, my teacher did not disappoint!  It was a warm, rainy Sunday.  As the rain continued, the mid-stream channel began to broaden.  There was more energy in the system.  In addition to the rain, snowmelt was feeding the flood.  Some of the flow started to run on top of the ice.  Some started to spill into channels usually dry.  As the volume grew below it, the ice ceiling, thinning from the melt, began to bulge from the surge below.  Then, absent any apparent catalyst, all hell broke loose.

A section of mid-stream ice popped up and then unzipped across a wide swath of the brook.  Like dominos, big chunks appeared, broke free, and stacked on top of the downstream ice.  The pile broke loose larger chunks, and they all lunged downstream.  In a moment, the entire brook was an uproarious, churning mass of icy energy in motion.  The deal was done!  Watching it from the shore, it seemed like a million things that needed to happen just happened, all at the right time.  In fact, though, it was just one thing.

The good news is that there’s probably just one thing in the way!

Sales is like that, isn’t it?  We work the system, putting in our efforts to align our offering with our customer’s needs.  There’s frequently ice cold resistance because, well, customers are human.  We try to understand the real reasons they’re hesitating, then add energy based on what we’ve learned.  We warm things up, align players, address issues, connect the dots, put ourselves out there, and look for ways to open up the bottlenecks.  It seems like everything takes forever.  We pour more effort into the pot.  We add heat and incentives for immediate action.  We stir.  We smile and thank and connect and creatively rearrange deal components and are sure it’s ready to move. Finally, we discover and address the one thing that really matters.  Perhaps it’s someone’s need to feel involved, or a supervisor’s need to be consulted, or a gatekeeper’s need to feel respected.  Once we take care of that one issue the resistance finally crumbles, the floodgates open, and things break free allowing the deal to flow perfectly to completion.  The stress is relieved, and everyone is happy!

Life is like that, too.  We sometimes find ourselves dissatisfied with ourselves – or everything – yet can’t seem to find the energy to fix it.  We may have already tried lots of things, like getting organized, cleaning off the desk, prioritizing goals and activities, spending more time with loved ones, or working harder.  But nothing seems to work.  We feel stupid for putting up with whatever nonsense we’re dealing with, and we feel even more so because we haven’t found a way to get out of our own way.  

The good news is that there’s probably just one thing in the way!  Like the brook, the jam will let go if only you can find, embrace, then transform that one thing.  Maybe it’s a limiting belief, a subconscious fear of failing, or an incorrect assumption that things really are the way they seem.  Just one thing!  The trouble is that we often just can’t see things like this because they lurk just below our awareness.  Some people work for years with a therapist to find that one thing.  Some people choose to work with a coach, who can help you move forward by asking empowering questions like, “How would things be different if…?”.  

You can coach yourself through many situations by asking yourself such questions, too.  Asking yourself questions that look for the positive in a situation, that enable you to recognize the choices you have, or that help you see how you might learn from a situation will truly help you get closer to understanding the one thing you can change that will break the jam.  Questions that seek to identify problems, assign blame, or seek to externalize responsibility for the situation you’re facing will only make things worse.  But empowering questions add energy to your system.  Give yourself the gift of an open mind and the time to hear your honest answers to the empowering questions you’ve asked yourself.  Then watch out for a gush of productive, happy energy as the ice jam clears!