Evolution Explains Why You’re Stressin’ About Marketing

Evolution Explains Why You're Stressin' About Marketing

If you’re anything like me, when you come across an article — especially one related to how our brains work — you immediately start analyzing how the author’s findings apply to you or your clients’ experiences. I recently came across an article by James Clear, a behavioral science writer, where he explains why human beings have become more prone to stress, from an evolutionary perspective. I instantly started thinking about how this relates to marketing your private practice.

This may seem like an unusual place for my mind to wander (okay…maybe not….I’m a marketing nerd, after all), but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much Clear’s findings applied to why we struggle with marketing our private practices. If you regularly find yourself avoiding promoting your practice, then keep reading!

Let’s Pretend You’re a Giraffe (Wait…What?)

Clear’s article opens with, “Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a giraffe.” He goes on to explain how giraffes live in what researchers refer to as an Immediate Return Environment. This is an environment in which actions deliver immediate benefits. For example, when a giraffe is hungry, it munches on grass; when a storm rolls in, it settles under shelter; when a lion is spotted, it runs away. Whenever a giraffe experiences stress, that stress can often be quickly alleviated.

Contrast this to what’s referred to as a Delayed Return Environment, an environment in which the choices you make don’t provide immediate benefits. Clear writes, “While a giraffe is worried about immediate problems like avoiding lions and seeking shelter from a storm, many of the problems humans worry about are problems of the future.” In other words, the issues that humans deal with, like saving for retirement or choosing the right partner or career, causes stress that cannot receive immediate relief.

Clear points out that the human brain has remained relatively the same for the past 200,000 years. Up until around 500 years ago, human beings, like giraffes, did live in an Immediate Return Environment. The problem is that 500 years means nothing in evolutionary time, and our brains have not adapted. Our brains still operate as if we live in an Immediate Return Environment.

So what does that have to do with marketing?  

The point is that the mismatch between our old brain and our new environment significantly impacts and causes chronic stress. Thousands of years ago anxiety was an emotion that helped protect humans. It was built for short-term problem solving, like escaping danger or finding food. Back then, there was no such thing as chronic stress because there aren’t really long term problems in an Immediate Return Environment.

But today we face bigger, longer-lasting concerns, such as, “Will I be able to make it out on my own? Will my private practice survive? Will I be able to find enough clients?”

Your practice can’t be built from the ground up overnight. The thing about a Delayed Return Environment is that problems can rarely be solved overnight. Clear says, “One of the greatest sources of anxiety in a Delayed Return Environment is constant uncertainty.” There is no assurance that studying hard in school will land you the right job. There is no guarantee that being successful in an agency job will mean that you are successful in your private practice.

What can you do?

Clear suggests (and we here at CounselingWise agree and think it’s solid marketing advice) to measure your progress in increments. 

Rather than worrying about the sinkedness or swimedness of your practice, worry about hitting smaller, more attainable marketing goals.

When you are building something from the ground up, there is A LOT of delayed gratification. And marketing is no exception. You create a website, you wait for it to rank on Google, post your site to directories, you blog, you send out messages to your email subscribers and post interesting videos and articles on social media. Knowing that MOST, if not all, of marketing work involves waiting to see results, you can then approach each project with more ease. And when you think of your marketing strategy as one looming giant project, it’s no wonder it causes tremendous daunting stress. You have to break things down into daily, weekly and monthly tasks. Do this and you’ll start to relax (not to mention gain more clients and grow your online presence).

We have seen this strategy work over and over again, and believe it can work for you, too. Plus, it’s just how our brains work! It’s science!

I encourage you to read the full article by James Clear here. Let me know your thoughts about his article in the comments section below.

If you have any questions about any of this, we are here to help. Also, if these marketing tasks seem overwhelming, we can do this work for you. Contact us today. We want to hear your story and help you thrive in your private practice.

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