Here’s the thing: 4 things to let go of as a business owner

As humans, we regularly need to let go of stuff in order to move forward with efficiency, energy and clarity. Today, I’m sharing my top four things I’d love for business owners to release on the regular.

It’s a bit like Marie Kondo-ing your brain so that you have more space for excellent business strategy and clarity.

Are you ready to let go? Here we go:

 

1. Perfectionism

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: perfection is an illusion, and, if you’re a business owner, it can be a costly thing to focus on.

No project is ever perfect. No plan is ever perfectly executed. So stop beating yourself up about it, and please, please focus on all the good stuff you are doing.

The progress you make is worth far more than perfection, which is worth absolutely zero.

If you, like so many of us, try really hard to make everything perfect, consider:

  • Identifying what “good enough” looks like
  • Focusing on one or two things that REALLY matter to you
  • Reading about iterative processes and how valuable they are in business. The Lean Startup is a great book to get you going.
  • Launching something before you think it’s ready, and rolling with it
  • Joining my anti-perfectionism group coaching course, Progress not Perfection

 

2. Expectations

Okay, I definitely believe in forming an authentic, aligned vision for your business. So let’s make sure we know that I’m not saying you should let go of that.

Expectations are different. Expectations are often fantasies of how we hope things will go, without much basis in reality. And, crucially, expectations are usually things we put onto other people.

Brene Brown says, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” And I think we could do without resentment, yes?

Here are some examples of expectations to let go of:

  • The expectation that you will consistently do more than is reasonable in a given day, eg the work of 20 hours in 8
  • The expectation that other people will automatically have the same passion and drive that you do
  • The expectation that other people are as hard-working as you, or will do things in the same way
  • The expectation that other people will be able to read your mind (they really, really can’t)
  • The expectation that your business will consistently out-perform what’s statistically possible

How to let go of expectations? Notice them. Write them down. Perhaps on a daily basis. These things are easy to think without thinking about it, and then will trip you up later!

 

3. Disappointments

Oh, the disappointments. If you’ve been in business more than a year (and/or alive more than 25 years), you’ve probably experienced some pretty hefty disappointment.

Maybe you’ve been let down by someone. Maybe a project didn’t come to life the way you’d hoped. Maybe the decisions you made in good faith turned out to be wrong in ways you couldn’t see at the time.

Feeling let down sucks. And it can be a huge drain on your energy, often leading to a mindset where you can’t imagine trying or trusting anything (or anyone) ever again.

If you’ve been disappointed, here are some suggestions:

  • Feel it. Be angry. Write down everything you feel and would like to say to all involved.
  • Release it. Shout into the sky. Burn everything you wrote. Or rip it up and throw it away.
  • Forgive yourself. This is a big one. Actively tell yourself that you forgive anything you’ve been beating yourself up for.
  • Learn. What are the lessons of your disappointments? What did you learn about what to do next time, or who to trust?
  • Put lessons into actions. The best way to let it go is to move on, and that takes action. End or repair relationships. Change the direction of projects. Start new projects based on your learnings.

 

4. Comparison

If I could make a wish for all business owners everywhere – no, wait, all people everywhere – it would be to let go of comparison.

It truly is the thief of joy, and it can corrode confidence, passion and enthusiasm quicker than you can blink.

And comparing yourself to others is so. easy. to. do.

Especially on social media, where everything can seem shiny and easy and perfect (see above). In reality, everyone is facing challenges and messiness and disappointments.

You can waste so much time and energy on stalking competitors, or even comparing yourself to friends who seem to have it all together. You know what I’d love? I’d love for you to put all that delicious time and energy into YOUR business, your designs and creations and unique gifts.

So let go of it as much as you can:

  • Unfollow people who make you slip into comparison
  • Write down all the things you think “people” are doing / achieving and acknowledge that you have no idea what their behind the scenes really looks like
  • List your own gifts, talents and skills – regularly

 

What else would you love to let go of? Or perhaps you’d like a witness to the perfectionism, expectations, disappointments and comparison you’re releasing now. My emails are open.

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Comparison and recovery: a reminder for the new year

Comparison and recovery: a reminder for the new yearIn the last couple of weeks, there’s been a theme to my client calls. I’m going to call it The Late January Blues. Perhaps you know it?

We’ve all rushed into the year, full of hope and possibility, and then we’ve hit a wall. And, in the world of small business, where the Christmas season can really take it out of you, hitting the wall looks like two things:

  1. You’re looking around at “everyone else” and seeing unprecedented success and unwavering energy for new projects. And, of course, you then imagine yourself as coming up lacking.
  2. You just can’t get motivated. You know there’s loads to do. You’ve got big vision for 2016 and your business, but you’re finding it hard to get out of bed.

These are the things plaguing my clients at the moment. So, I want to revisit two key business practices that will keep you sane. They are Comparison Combat and Self-Care Of The Highest Order.

Self-Care Of The Highest Order

If you’re a gift-based business, likelihood is you had to work pretty hard in the run up to Christmas. And I want to be really clear about my definition of “working hard”: it’s not about working to 150% capacity or even hitting 14 hour days. There is no blanket one-size-fits-all definition of working hard that applies to everyone. If you worked a lot, worked hard, juggled work and family commitments, worked hard in an emotional capacity, worked hard at worrying about working hard, then you’re in the club.

You’re the only one who can decide whether or not you worked hard. It’s your own standard to create. But please don’t make “working hard” something that other people say it is. Don’t make it about 14 hour days and working in your sleep and resulting in 10,000 sales a day. Sometimes, I work hard and only work 4 hours a day. But I still work hard.

So, let’s say you worked hard. And then you had a few days off between Christmas and New Year. You spent time with family and friends (not always restful) and it was nice to not be working. Now, the truth is, for the majority of people I’ve spoken to of late, that was not enough rest to replenish your energy and enthusiasm.

And this is the economics of self-care: sometimes we have to rest FIRST in order to work hard later, especially if we’ve been running an energy deficit.

If you’re feeling unmotivated, or like you’re hating your business, or you start resenting the orders that do come in (while simultaneously worrying about money coming in), you need restoration. You need pure, unadulterated time off. You need to re-engage with the things you’re passionate about. You have my unconditional permission to take a day (or a week) off to take baths, read for pleasure, take slow-paced walks, avoid the washing up, write all your thoughts in a journal and nurture yourself. This isn’t catch-up-on-housework time. It isn’t “I could box up all that stuff for the charity shop and landscape the garden and bake 10,000 cakes” time. If you are worn out, you need the purity of self-care.

As a client told me last week, taking a day off (at my suggestion) on Friday made her Wednesday and Thursday more productive so that she could really relax at the end of the week. Taking the Friday off allowed her time to herself, without family commitments, to get back on track. I highly recommend it.

Comparison Combat

Unlike self-care, Comparison Combat is a more active practice! Self-care is often gentle and nurturing. Comparison Combat requires discipline. It’s still loving and ultimately nurturing, but because comparison comes from a fear-based place, it needs a firm hand, and it needs regular exercise to move away from it.

A quick reminder of comparison: checking Facebook, becoming obsessed with what other people are doing, seeing Instagram as an accurate representation of perfect homes and lives and businesses.

For me, it doesn’t just manifest as comparison to similar people or businesses. I can also get caught up in imagining what clients and potential clients want from me, rather than what I want to offer. Yes, of course I like to think about what would be most helpful to me clients. But it can also be a huge distraction, because people want and need a whole load of stuff that I’m not in a position to offer, either because I’m not qualified or not inclined.

When I get stuck in a spiral of doom (my original name for the comparison trap), the only way out is for me to shut it down. To switch off, log out, go for a walk, do whatever it takes to bring myself back to what I care about and what I’m focused on. A little check-out to then check back in.

So, what do you need?

Ah, my friends. What do you need? Self-care? Comparison Combat? Both?

Take a deep breath, maybe a piece of paper and pen. Reflect on what you might be feeling at the beginning of February. Have you been unconsciously unmotivated and blaming it on something other than burnout and over-working? Have you been caught in comparison, rather than focusing on your aims for the year?

A wonderful question from Tara Mohr: Are you being more faithful to your dreams or your fears?

Then, what needs to change?

Do you need more rest, more sleep, more free time?

Do you need to re-focus on your dreams?

What do you need to feel good?

How could you combat comparison in your day-to-day life?

I can’t wait to hear. I can’t wait to see you thrive.

Jx

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