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Secondary Gain – is your habit actually helping you?

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The habits we find difficult to change often have a secondary gain for us


To press the button or not to press the button…… that is the question.

Nope, I haven’t gotten my Hamlet wrong, but I certainly had a Hamlet moment and discovered a secondary gain to a habit which I am now changing.

The other day I did something quite out of character for me both as a person as well as a business person. I’m glad I did because I found out something new about myself which I know a lot of business owners who maintain an online presence and email list have also experienced.

Here’s what happened.

I was launching a new course on my Teachable platform on Emotional Intelligence and was inviting participants for the beta run first. So I was out promoting this course to friends, colleagues and my email subscribers.

Like any good business owner and professional, I invest in courses whenever I feel I need to develop a particular skill or gain new knowledge to pass on to my clients.

And I’ve invested and completed some really good courses on creating courses but the promotion and marketing part was a toughie because of the way I am.

Each of these courses talked about sending emails including reminders right up to the last minute for people who leave things for the last minute. That felt weird for me and I refrained.

This time I decided I really should step out of my comfort zone and I did. The second email wasn’t so bad – I’ve done that before but the 3rd got me in Hamlet mode.

I hummed, I hawed and I even found an excuse to take my pet friend Miss Coco for an extra walk while I waited for the course enrollment deadline.

Walking The Furry One actually helped because I got a chance to think about my resistance to sending the 3rd email which was all drafted and just needed a gentle press on the Send Button.

I asked myself in all honesty, what do I get to not feel, not do, not experience by staying stuck?

I came up with some good answers and also with some counter answers from my Intuition whom I’ll call The Voice.

I was concerned I would have tons of folk unsubscribe if they saw 3 emails because my subscribers weren’t used to it. The thought they wouldn’t enroll had not crossed my mind.

The Voice inside me told me that given the open rates (mine are actually better than industry standard) if someone missed the first or the second email, they would still see the 3rd one.

The Voice reminded me of opens and clicks that I’ve gotten whenever I’ve sent a reminder and the fact that the Biggies in the business coaching industry send emails out right till the last minute. (I’ve got those emails in my Inbox. Thanks to time differences, I often wake up to find 5, yes 5 emails telling me about how a cart is closing for these thousand dollar programs with all the bonuses I can get with 1 click of a button and payment details).

The Voice finally told me if someone unsubscribes, bless them and let them go.

Actually, nobody unsubscribed!

Later that morning, there was a post in one of the Facebook Groups where the owner was talking about doing things that stretched us.

I mentioned getting out of my comfort zone to send that 3rd email and received encouragement. It seems I’m not the only one who finds this challenging.

I understand why I was experiencing resistance and I’ll share more about it later in this post but first, I have a question for you.

How many times have you had a habit or behavior  which you knew was bad for your health, self esteem or general well-being and you have taken active steps to break it only to fall off the wagon?

Changing ourselves can be tricky sometimes.

Handling change is not easy for everyone.


Karmic Ally Coaching Change Quiz


Just when we think we have successfully adopted a new, more empowering habit or behavior, the old one creeps back in.

This could quite possibly be due to the existence of a sub-conscious underlying reason, which can be called a Secondary Gain or a Pay-Off.

This underlying reason is why we continue with a certain habit or behavior even though we are consciously aware that the activity is not beneficial to us.

These habits and behaviors could include smoking, excessive shopping on your credit card, blaming others for your problems, being non-assertive or   a yes person.

They all have an underlying  Pay-Off Factor.

A smoker who finds it difficult to quit or manages to for a while and then goes back to the habit may make the excuse that stressful situations cause the lapse in the effort to quit the habit.  Perhaps we feel more part of a peer group or accepted by others. The excuses are numerous.

Whether it is low self esteem, lack of confidence or motivation, continual negative thinking, peer pressure – they will all have an underlying payoff factor – which may or may not be positive.

The first step would be to analyse the actual underlying reason and determine whether it is positive or negative. Self introspection and being honest with oneself is the key here.
If the underlying reason is avoiding a deeper issue then one must first deal with this issue and understand that that the habit or behavior is limiting oneself.


Empowering habits are only possible if we get to the root of our limiting belief


Empowering habits or behavior are only possible when one gets to the root of the limiting belief or fear.

For example, an individual who stays on in a job despite growing job dissatisfaction may believe that this is important to provide for his family but he may actually be scared of stepping out of his comfort zone and challenging himself.

Supposing he doesn’t get another job or a lower paying one?

Supposing he follows his desire to go into business and it fails?

We can often restrict ourselves without even realizing it.

Recognizing this limiting belief or fear, the individual could consider baby steps towards stepping out of his comfort zone by asking for more challenging work or seeking avenues for further learning and development in his organisation  thus contributing to both his and the organisation’s success in the long run.

He may also begin to explore and research a new career or even a business if he is so inclined.

On the other hand, there may be a positive underlying factor for the individual. For example, a person who has self assertion issues might keep failing in his quest to become self assertive because he may have learnt early in life that to maintain the peace and draw away attention from himself, it was beneficial to keep quiet when there is conflict.

This might have served the purpose of keeping away the fear of being unpopular or even being bullied. In adult life, this habit or behavior might not serve the person.

Instead the person might do well to understand what benefit they were getting from this behavior and see if there is a positive behavior which can replace the undermining one and yet give the same results such as asserting neutrality in conflicts where the person is a third party or learning to express oneself while willing to listen to the other’s point of view openly and objectively.

By doing this, one will have made a good start at gaining a higher order of change. The more changes one makes that still satisfy the Secondary Gain, the easier it will be to change habits and behaviours.

Returning to my story, a deeper analysis post pressing the button led to my realizing that during my corporate world days, I had worked in the Audit and Assurance Industry where we were taught not to openly ask for the business and in those days, the governing body did not allow us to advertise explicitly.

Even when the firms did advertise, there were caveats in the advertisement. We were encouraged to invite inquiries but not blatantly say we wanted the business.

Coming from that, when it came to follow ups, there were those that one could do (like for the invoice payment or extra information required to complete an audit or project) and those that we could not.

I realized I was looking at that 3rd email as being unprofessional and my secondary gain was not breaking the rules of follow up not realizing that these rules were now redundant for me!

I’ve already started practicing new habits for launches which will include reaching out to my network like I did this time as well as keeping up the practice of informing my list that I will remind them again. And if someone unsubscribes, so be it.

In fact, one subscriber was kind enough to write and tell me that the course was not of interest to her. Hey, I got some engagement from a subscriber who felt she needed to let me know – that’s something online business owners love.

What about you?

Have you ever found a habit, good or bad that you wouldn’t let go off because there was a secondary gain involved?


PS: If you need more help in letting go of those awful limiting fears, then the 3 step process outlined in this post will definitely help.

3 step technique to solve baffling problems like the rubic cube



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18 Responses to “Secondary Gain – is your habit actually helping you?”

  1. Appreciating your authentic story! I connected with several parts and will be reflecting for my own business, as I too am launching a teleclass on September 19.
    I see this experience as a practice with the new habit of self-confidence…one I need as well.
    BRAVA! for you!
    Email away, 3, 4, or even 5 times! lol

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Go for it, Lore! It’s only when I shared my feelings within the Facebook Group that I discovered I wasn’t alone. 🙂 I might just email 5 times next time – all the best for your teleclass!

  2. Rachel says:

    I love the questions you ask yourself about what you get to not feel/do/experience. As a health coach I understand that every unhealthy behaviors has a “reward” that needs to be uncovered in order to see it and change it. Very courageous and wonderful post.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you Rachel. Stepping away from the computer and going for a walk with the family pet gave me the space I needed to focus on the monkey chatter going on inside me and then take an action that I needed to take. It certainly takes courage to face the underlying issues and make changes.

  3. I look at my stage of readiness for change from the Motivational Interviewing model I was taught 23 years ago to understand resistance to change. Ambivalence is what stops me from changing so resolving my ambivalence is essential in moving forward. I usually ask myself or my clients what are the pros and cons of changing and what are the pros and cons of not changing then I can see what benefits I am receiving from both and can make an empowered decision. Thank you so much for sharing your story and wisdom!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you Kelley for sharing your experiences and wisdom too! It adds more value to the valuable lesson I learned about Secondary Gains – the fact that there can be gremlins and limiting fears that we aren’t aware of until we face them square in the face.

  4. I thank heaven every day for “The Voice.” Great post.

  5. Suzie Cheel says:

    Vatsala, congrats on listening and following through, I understand that feeling especially of not wanting to send those emails. Today one of my mentors was saying to send 2-3 emails a week and that felt uncomfortable. Love your responses, maybe people would love to hear more from us xo

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks Suzie. More validation to let go of fear and do what we have to whether its in business or otherwise. I’d think 2 emails a week is doable and when there is a broadcast for an offer that is useful for the subscriber, doing the 3rd or 4th email is justifiable considering open rates of emails. Thanks again for sharing the advice of your mentor.

  6. CK Kochis says:

    Great article and right on time, Vatsala. I’m going through a lot of personal and professional transformation; this is the extra kick in the pants to get out of my comfort zone. Thanks for sharing your pearls of wisdom!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you Cindy for your kind words. Happy my story has given you more motivation to do what you need to do. To your transformation success!

  7. Heather says:

    I really enjoyed your post, it was open, honest & relatable, something I really appreciate. Thank you for your encouragement, it was very helpful. I have been very shy in the past and everyday I work on being a better version of myself

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Delighted sharing my story has provided encouragement to you to step out of your comfort zone, Heather. We all have our own unique limiting beliefs and fears which often stay hidden under the covers for years until a trigger event happens and we are compelled to face it head on and take action. To your Success!

  8. This post was perfectly timed with one of your examples lining up exactly with something that’s going on in my own life right now. Thanks for giving me some things to think about over the weekend.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      My pleasure, Jessica. The first step is difficult and the worst doesn’t happen, as I discovered from experience. 🙂

  9. Nicki T says:

    I am definitely a creature of habit and feel safe when I do things that are routine. I need to break these habits and reach out of my comfort zone.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      We are all creatures of habit, Nicki, though its good to regularly reassess our habits and let go of those that no longer serve us to create space for new, empowering ones. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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I believe the world would be a better place if high achieving professionals accepted setbacks and challenges to their careers as Wake Up Calls to embark on a Journey where their empowered course correcting actions create a New World Order that encompasses achieving their career aspirations & potential with authentic life balance.

I work with driven, passionate, talented and ambitious professionals who’ve hit a speed breaker in their business or career create their desired breakthrough reclaiming control of their situation with customized strategies and tactics that deliver results.

When my clients first reach out to me, they are not in a very happy place, needing clarity about themselves, their desires, chosen vocation and what will give them peace of mind. They are drawn to me for the very reasons that I highlight in Who Is Karmic Ally Coaching.

Their professional problems are playing havoc with other areas of their life. They know they need to take radical steps to change the status quo but they also know they need support and accountability to get them their desired result.

I really get it, because I’ve experienced that dark night of the Soul. I know firsthand the outcome of getting lost in my work rationalizing decisions that were detrimental to other aspects of my life.

I’ve struggled with and won battles of stress management, corporate politics, life balance and career decisions to emerge in a place where I can confidently say that I live my desired life according to my personal Manifesto and have created a business that provides me with a platform for my desired lifestyle and self-expression for myself. I want that for you too!

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Email: Vatsala(at)karmicallycoaching(dot)com Phone:91 9818517664
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