Starting a business or changing careers is often fraught with anxiety. We are moving outside of our comfort zone, naturally putting us in our “lizard brain,” the state of mind that resorts to impulsive and binary choices. To move clients past this state, counselors often use a tool called the ecomap to help clients reveal the rich resources at their disposal.
By taking a few minutes to sketch out the important places in your life -- work, school, gym, book group, alumni association and place of worship -- you can expand your vision of the people and organizations you can draw on to help build your practice. Ideally, your ecomap can empower you to navigate resources fully to make your daydream practice a reality.
I use ecomaps to help solopreneurs and career changers see possibilities in unexpected places. For example, I would start by asking you to draw a circle with your name at the center with lines radiating in four directions. Next, draw a slightly smaller circle at the end of each line. In each small circle, write the name of an organization or group with which you connect regularly.
For each organization listed (which usually extends beyond four), identify people you have met or interacted with in those places. Before you know it, you have an impressive network of people you can meet for coffee to ask for help spreading the word about your practice. Among closer connections, you can request feedback on your startup journey. Questions like “Do you know someone who might benefit from my workshops?” or "Do you know of any venues where I could do a talk?" can help open up opportunities for your practice while questions like “How well do you understand what I do?” can help you workshop your messaging. All of these questions are best asked of someone who can offer you a fresh yet objective point of view. Brainstorm more questions you have been asking yourself but find impossible to answer on your own. People in our lives want us to be successful and will feel flattered that you are seeking their feedback.
As much as I want you to build your practice, I urge you to lead the conversation with an offer of help. Ask your coffee dates "What is the best way I can support you in your career/life/business/practice?" Use those well-honed listening skills you've long developed and offer your support and encouragement.
In an upcoming blog post I will share another trick for continuing to make the most of this tool. Until then, share your thoughts on how the ecomap helped you (or ideas on how to make it more useful) by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.