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The Refraction Effect: How Your Experiences Influence Your Course

Have you ever looked at an object through a glass of water and noticed how strange and off kilter it looks? Sometimes that’s exactly what happens with us inside our businesses. In this episode we’re going to talk about what I have very lovingly and non-scientifically dubbed The Refraction Effect.

But before we get into that, I have something really exciting I want to share with you.

For the past few months I have been diligently working designing my own high-touch group coaching program for new and aspiring course creators. I’m really excited and so proud of what I’m creating and I cannot wait to share it with you. If you want to create a new course using my proven framework with my support in a room with like-minded peers, mark your calendars! Course Design 101 will be open for presale on June 15th. I’m only opening up 10 spots for this first round, so it’s super limited, but if you want more info or to be the first to know when the doors open, be sure to get on the waiting list at

All right, let’s get into today’s episode.

Welcome to next level course creator. My name is Erica. And this is a podcast about creating premium online programs that participants never want to leave. If you want a program that serves the whole person satisfies participant needs, and creates brand ambassadors who tell all their friends about how awesome you are. This is for you. Listen, and as we go beyond conversion numbers, sold out launches and five figure months to get to the heart of the matter. Taking care of the people who have already said yes, let's go.

Recently, I came across a photo illustrating the effects of light refraction on objects moving from air to water and immediately my brain went, oh my gosh, that’s just like business.

So let me explain. Light refraction is the bending or change in direction of light as it passes from one medium (like air) to another (like water), due to a change in the speed of light. This bending or change in direction can cause objects to appear distorted or displaced.

Imagine you have a glass of water. You take a straw that is perfectly straight and place it in that glass of water. Even though the straw is still straight, from the side of the glass, it appears to be bent and somewhat distorted, maybe even larger under the water than above the water.

That’s the thing about light refraction, not only does it make objects seem like they’re displaced, but it can also affect our perception of size, even though nothing about the size of the actual object has changed.

Regardless of your stage in business or course creation, the way you view your business journey, your offers, your clients, even yourself, is influenced by an endless number of outside factors.

For instance, I know that when I’m overly tired my anxiety spikes, and when my anxiety spikes my obsessive compulsive disorder comes out to play, and once that happens, my perception of time and people is skewed. I tend to believe I have much less time than I actually do, which then causes more anxiety, and I just assume that my clients are always upset with me which means if they email me, I feel like I did something horribly wrong and beat myself up about how I should have known better about this or that so that everything would have been perfect in the first place. It’s super messed up and takes me way way down the spiral, but I know this about myself.

Now, maybe that sounds something like you and maybe it doesn’t, but it’s just an example of how light refraction occurs in business. I’m going to name this The Refraction Effect.

We view our experiences through specific lenses based on previous experiences which causes the current experiences to be refracted and distorted. And out of that distortion, we develop these stories about ourselves, our businesses, and our clients and if we’re being frank, most of the time, these stories are not good ones. We assume we’re not cut out for this. We say we’re the imposter in the room and don’t belong. We believe our business is going to fail. We think our clients are mad at us and are just waiting for one thing to go wrong so they can fire us and leave a terrible review and tell everyone not to work with us.

That might sound drastic, but honestly, our minds go there too often, right?

Oftentimes we tell these stories we have no business telling!

But it’s because we’re viewing these experiences through these lenses that cause The Refraction Effect, so situations appear to be different than they actually are.

So what does this have to do with course creation and supporting students?

I see three major opportunities for course creators when it comes to The Refraction Effect.

First is to get really honest and clear about how we view our programs, feedback, and data. This is going to require some introspection and maybe journaling or even therapy, but pulling out the stories we believe about our programs, which includes everything right, the curriculum, the community, the coaching … we get to look at the feedback we’re getting from participants and not just bits and pieces but looking at it collectively, just like the data. We get to look at all of that as a whole and then go inward to see what stories our brains are telling and believing about those things.

Once we’re super clear on these stories, the lenses that we’re viewing them through become much more apparent and we can begin to dismantle those so that the refraction effect isn’t so influential. Creating awareness in our own brains is key. I also want to mention that I did a deep dive on data analysis in episode 11 if you’re interested in how to analyze data objectively, which is an important step in this process.

The next opportunity is how we guide students through their implementation of our processes and frameworks. There aren’t many things I can guarantee, but one that I can is that students WILL get stuck along the way. No matter how clear your process, no matter how straightforward and free of fluff and roadblocks, there will inevitably be times people get stuck.

This is a podcast all about high-touch, high-support programs, so I’m going to assume that if you’re listening you either have a program that has coaching opportunities in place or you’d like to have a program in the future that has coaching opportunities.

So when students hit roadblocks and need support during implementation, what is the process? And why is the process the way that it is? I challenge you to look at your processes with a kind of ruthlessness that allows you to uncover all the reasons, healthy and unhealthy, that you structured them the way that you did. Again, this just allows us to get really clear on our own lenses that are causing refraction.

This is just really important because the more we’re able to uncover our lenses and how we’re affected by the refraction effect, the better we’re able to help our students because how we guide them through implementation is steered by our own refracted sense of the situation. If we’re aware of and can remove the lenses from our perspective, then we can better and more clearly give students support.

The third opportunity I see for course creators to counterbalance the refraction effect is community development and support.

Again, I’m going to assume that a private students’ only community is or will be in place, but if it’s not or if it’s weak, this is where I recommend putting some time and effort into developing a supportive community. And if, as a coach and course creator, you don’t have a community you can go to, that needs to be a top priority.

When you're part of a supportive community, you have access to a wider range of perspectives and experiences than you would on your own, which can help you to gain a more accurate and balanced view of just about any situation. It’s going to keep your students (and you) from getting caught up in distorted or exaggerated perceptions.

Community members can provide constructive feedback and guidance and help identify blind spots or areas where someone might be overestimating or underestimating the importance of certain factors.

And then maybe most important of all, having a supportive community boosts confidence and resilience. Celebrate wins. Share challenges and setbacks. And then see how this group of people who believe in you so hard build you up and help you do the next thing.

Who knew a straw and a glass of water could have so much in common with a course creator’s business journey, huh? You’ve just consumed a whole lot of info, so let’s recap:

The Refraction Effect (which is a term I just made up and is not at all scientific) refers to the phenomenon that, in business, we have experiences that are colored by all our previous experiences and because of that our brain distorts situations to be different than they actually are.

There are three major opportunities for course creators to fight against The Refraction Effect:

  1. Get really honest and clear about how you see your program, feedback, and data

  2. Consider how you are guiding students through the implementation process and get clear about why your processes are the way they are

  3. Be a part of and develop a really supportive community

And listen, those three things are no small tasks. Those are big and beefy and have a lifetime of experiences that may have to be rifled through. This isn’t something that you have to do all at once, it gets to be sustainable, but it is important that you start. The sooner you get started, the sooner you get to let go of all the things your refracted sense of self might be telling you that just aren’t true.

Well, I hope today's episode brought a little clarity and community to your next level course journey. If you enjoyed listening, please consider subscribing and leaving a review. And if you'd like to connect, be sure to find me over on Instagram at Erica Nash design or on my website at Erica I would love to hear from you. Alright, you guys go forth, educate and change lives. I'll see you next time.


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