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.

PS Fancy getting these blogs by email? You can subscribe here.

Here's the thing: feel the disappointment in order to move forward

Disappointment is a somewhat disappointing fact of life.

And even though we can be in the ongoing process of creating a life with fewer disappointments by adjusting our expectations and our actions, the truth is we can’t guarantee outcomes, and so we experience disappointment.

From minor disappointments, like drinking a cup of tea way after it’s gone cold, to major disappointments, such as business opportunities not being fulfilled, it’s important that we can process everything we feel and make great choices going forward.

Even small disappointments, when noticed and processed, can lead to better situations next time. You might be more mindful of when you make a cup of tea next time, or you might get an insulated cup! For the bigger disappointments, the more we process them, the more we learn about what happened, what fell through, what that means for our choices going forward.

Too often, we’re too quick to try and jump up and move on and pretend nothing happened. Hope no one noticed, including ourselves. In my experience, this can keep us stuck in secret disappointment that we can’t shake off…

I was thinking about this over Christmas, when my five-year-old stepson got really upset at losing a game. My initial reaction is, “Wow, it’s not a big deal. He needs to not overreact like this.” Partly, I don’t want to see him upset, but also it’s so easy to forget how much of a disappointment this is for a small person. (Side note: I’m terrible at most games, so losing is no big deal for me!)

Reflecting on it, I want to help him deal with the disappointment. If he’s disappointed, I want him to be able to express it and process it healthily. I don’t want it to be suppressed so that in the future he’s just aggressively determined to win. He needs to know that it’s okay to lose, to be disappointed, but he can still try again, he can still have fun.

Disappointment points us to what we want

Maybe you wanted to win that game. Maybe you wanted to score that interview in the local paper. Maybe you wanted to win an award, or buy a specific house, or get a wholesale contract with a lovely shop.

Maybe you were disappointed by someone – someone let you down, whether on purpose or not.

I absolutely want you to be able to pick yourself up and move forward. I think that is one of the most important strengths of an entrepreneur. The determination and resilience required to try again is vital in pretty much any self-employed profession.

But I don’t want you to squash the disappointment. Now, I’m not saying dwell in it and take a billion years to move past it. I’m not recommending getting stuck in being the martyr or the victim or starting the buy into the belief that you “have terrible luck”, “just never win anything”, or similar. (Insert your own downtrodden phrase here…)

So how do we hold space for the disappointment in order to get over it?

We have to acknowledge the disappointment. We have to look at it, describe it, explain it, see it. We have to notice what it’s showing us about what we were hoping for, and what we can learn from it.

And then we can make a plan to either get what we were hoping for some other way, or turn our attention to something else.

Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re disappointed until way after the fact. We didn’t realise how much we wanted something until it hasn’t happened, until it falls through. These can be confusing to process, but are some of the most interesting places to discover what you really want.

Sometimes we can attach a whole load of meaning to why we didn’t get what we wanted – meaning that isn’t really there. “I didn’t get that promotion because my products aren’t good enough.” “I didn’t get the house because I don’t deserve it.” “That relationship fell through because I’m not pretty enough.”

Before we jump to conclusions in reflecting on disappointments, let’s avoid making sweeping assumptions, especially when they relate to other people’s decisions. We don’t know what led someone to promoting something instead of yours. We don’t know exactly why someone chose to go in a different direction.

Honestly, I think entire lives can change based on an assumed meaning we’ve attached to something because it’s a tender place or a secret fear. Let’s keep our minds open to the possibilities – and remember that we don’t always know exactly why something didn’t come together.

Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • Start by naming your disappointment. What are you disappointed about?
  • Did it catch off-guard? Were you expecting to be this disappointed?
  • What were you hoping would happen?
  • What is it about that thing that was important to you?
  • What’s the feeling? Can you describe it physically, emotionally? Give it form.
  • What do you need to let go before you can move on?
  • What are you telling yourself about this disappointment? Are there any stories you need to acknowledge aren’t necessarily true?
  • Is there anything you can learn from the situation to help you in the future?
  • Do you still want to pursue the outcome? How might you change your approach having been through this experience?

Brene Brown talks about the vulnerability of actually admitting how much we want something to happen, so that we give ourselves the time and space and support to process it if it doesn’t happen. Let’s not pre-reject ourselves when we’re declaring our big dreams, and let’s not shrug off something that was disappointing because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable.

For me, even the client who decides not to book a session can be disappointing, especially if it’s someone I’d love to work with. Yes, I trust that they are making the best decision for them. Yes, I’ll survive. But if I let that little disappointment go un-checked, I can end up with a story about how I’m no good or will never get a client again.

I need to write about the disappointment, to explain to myself what I was looking forward to, and remember that I can still get that elsewhere and with other clients. And I often end up writing a list of all the factors that could have been – a powerful activity for anyone who tends towards thinking it’s their fault.

Embrace the disappointment so that you can move forward with a clear mind, a clear heart, and more information about yourself and your business. I highly recommend it.

Jx

PS New Year Coaching sessions are still available until the end of February. Get booked in now.

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