Would you sabotage your own success?
Not intentionally, of course. You wouldn’t do obvious things, such as showing up late (or not at all), being too casual with clients, procrastinating to the point of inaction or wearing flip-flops to meetings.
But if you take a close look, you might be surprised to discover you’ve picked up a few daily habits, practices and perspectives that keep you stuck in a rut and incapable of moving toward your goals. If you want to be the CEO of your life and make success happen, you first must take 100 percent responsibility for your present.
Don’t be your own saboteur. Here are five things to stop doing now — and what you should be doing instead.
1. You listen to your gremlins.
You’re not the only one with voices in your head, telling you you’re not good enough or smart enough. I call these voices gremlins. Gremlins lock you in your comfort zone to keep you safe from the risk of failure. This means they also hold you back from discovering your full potential.
Do this instead: Gremlins aren’t bad. They’re scared. Thank them for looking out for you, but tell them their fears are not welcome. Then shut them out. Give the megaphone to a different internal voice — the one that says, “Go for it! You can do it! This will be amazing!”
2. You focus on failure or setbacks.
Things won’t always work out the way you’d hoped or planned. That’s disappointing. But focusing on the things that don’t work blinds you to seeing things that might be worth pursuing. Much like those pesky gremlins, fear of failure will keep you stuck in a negative frame of mind.
Do this instead: Confront your feelings so you can move past them. It could be as simple as talking it through with a trusted friend or mentor. If you’re still struggling internally, consider writing your feelings by hand and then (safely) burning them. Release these negative emotions as you watch them literally go up in smoke. The symbolic gesture actually can be a powerful practice that frees up energy to welcome positive thoughts and feelings. Once you do so, you’ll gain the perspective to see the failure or setback as a gift. Take what you can — a hidden lesson, an experience to be shared — and then move on.
3. You don’t celebrate success.
How can you be excited about your path if you don’t acknowledge the steps you’ve takem along the way? Motivation can be the most difficult part of any journey. Recognizing your successes, however small, helps keep you fired up about what’s ahead.
Do this instead: Celebrate and record your achievements. Did you finish that huge project a day before deadline? Celebrate! Did you assemble that Ikea desk for your new home office on your own with no leftover bits? Celebrate! Then record that success. At the very least, use a distinct color to mark the accomplishment in your planner or calender so you can look back and see at a glance how incredible you are.
4. You see struggle instead of opportunity.
No matter what you’re trying to achieve, challenges are inevitable. If you choose to see only the struggle, you’re in for a tough road.
Do this instead: Accept that certainty as being out of your control and work to better yourself by changing how you perceive these challenges. What you view first as an obstacle could reveal a chance to increase your knowledge base, develop a technical skill or make new contacts. You might even boost your resume in the process: The next time an interviewer asks you for an example of a time you overcame adversity, you’ll be ready.
5. You focus on tasks over the big picture.
Life gets busy. You’ll never run out of tasks that need doing. But are those duties helping you advance toward attaining what you truly want? If you aren’t consciously taking daily steps toward your big-picture vision, you’ll end up lost in a sea of to-do lists.
Do this instead: Make decisions from where you want to be, not where you are. Visualize yourself in the moment after you’ve achieved your goal by aligning actions with your core values. What do you need to do today to become ideal-future you? Make a list of the responsibilities that demand a “yes” and also define which tasks should be a “no.” Maybe it’s “yes” to that weekend workshop or working on your side business but “no” to social media or an extra shift at the job you don’t want to be doing five years from now.
Originally posted on entrepreneur.com by Melissa Dawn
Being your own boss sounds like a dream: Doing what you love, making the rules and choosing a schedule to suit you.
But the reality can be very different: only 58 per cent of small businesses survive beyond three years. It takes grit, resilience and hard work to succeed with little chance to stop if you’re sick or desperately need a day off.
Small business owners face different challenges to their corporate counterparts. Fifty-seven percent report above-average stress and 80 per cent admit cash flow issues affect their mental wellbeing. Income and financial uncertainty mean endlessly chasing work under changing economic conditions and owners feel responsible for the livelihoods of their staff. The absence of support structures mean they must also juggle multiple responsibilities, like sales, marketing and finance, that don’t always align with their key skills.
The Cost of Not Caring
Making a new venture succeed can take its toll: long days, little sleep and working when you’re sick lead to high-stress levels. Absenteeism, presenteeism (at work but unproductive), productivity losses and workplace accidents due to stress cost around $44 billion in the US, 15.1 billion pounds in the UK, and $12.6 billion in Australia each year.
Not only does chronic high stress affect your cognitive functions, slowing your accuracy, response time and ability to make critical decisions; it’s been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. There’s also a greater risk of depression compared to the general population with business failure often associated with suicide risk.
Consider self-care an investment: Not only does cash stops flowing in if you can’t work, PriceWaterhouseCoopers found each dollar spent on workplace health meant a $14.50 return on productivity benefits.
So where should you start?
Over 50 per cent of owners work nine hour-plus days and 43 per cent work weekends. But long hours don’t make you more effective: you’re wasting time spinning wheels because you’re too tired to think straight, and you risk burning out completely.
Studies have shown regular exercise is a powerful way of managing stress. To be our best, we need to feel good inside-out, which means a healthy body is key to achieving a healthy mind. Use your breaks to move: schedule time before work or escape your phone and email at lunchtime. Hit the gym, go for yoga, or just walk around the block.
Sleep is another way to replenish: sleep deprivation impairs our focus, judgment and ability to make sound decisions because we can’t assess situations rationally and plan accordingly.
You can only give if your own cup is full, so take enough time out. Gift yourself a sleep-in, get a massage or have lunch outside so you can organize your thoughts. Feeling refreshed allows you to think creatively and take better decisions for your business. You’ll be more available for personal relationships and be more effective with clients because you’re more present, less frazzled and can focus on the task at hand.
Owning a small business can be lonely. Literally, if you’re a solopreneur working long hours; or as a boss unable to share your struggles with staff. Isolated working conditions and lack of social connections are some of the biggest triggers for stress.
Whether it’s your financial situation or something else outside your expertise, ask for help or invest in a business coach. It could make the difference between spending hours working on a problem or getting a solution with a two-minute response. Take advantage of someone else’s gifts and talents so you can use your own more effectively.
Many industries and local councils have business networks you can join for peer support. Not only will you feel less alone, having someone to bounce thoughts and discuss challenges can lead to fresh ideas.
A plan of action helps keep you focused, providing structure and sense of achievement as you tick off completed tasks.
Set up your day before you start by deciding what your priorities will be, what you want to achieve that day and what can wait. Plan your work according to when you function best: if you think you’re better in the morning, complete complex tasks early and leave other work for the afternoon.
Distractions can lead to a 40 per cent drop in productivity, so don’t be afraid to turn off your phone and messages while you concentrate. It may feel odd but if you’re consistent with checking emails at specific times and respond quickly, clients will be trained not to expect a response outside these hours.
Delegate and Outsource
When your business gets to a certain scale, find the resources to delegate or outsource things you’re not great at. Not only will it create more time for you to grow the business and use your expertise better, but you also won’t be stuck doing something you don’t enjoy.
Ask whether there are smarter ways of doing something. Is there an automated alternative? What do your competitors do? Time spent training someone or purchasing a new system is an investment that will repay itself multiple times over; you gain efficiency and free up resources.
And learn to say “no” if you don’t believe you will achieve the right outcome for the client and yourself. You’ll save the heartache and keep your reputation intact by not taking on something that pushes you to the brink.
The people around you bear the brunt of your stress, so take notice of how your employees are feeling (stress is contagious) or if people start asking you if everything is ok. Use it as a sign to assess how you’re feeling: the quicker you identify stress, the quicker you can change things. Take time out, delegate work or say no to a project because you’re full.
Embrace your Mistakes
Perfection has no place in your business. You’ll reach a point where more time spent making something perfect will make very little difference. Pause and ask yourself whether there are any more benefits in continuing work on something.
Accept you’ll make mistakes. No one takes the right decision every time and all successful entrepreneurs have stories of failure: not all of Richard Branson’s ventures worked out (think Virgin Cola and Virgin Vodka), and Sir James Dyson took 15 years and thousands of prototypes to develop his iconic vacuum cleaner.
The past is done. But you can learn from mistakes and change the way you see the future.
Ask for Help
Deloitte Access Economics found 84 per cent of workers experienced mental health issues due to work and there were similar findings among small business owners. The earlier you seek help, the quicker you can get yourself and your business back on track. Health practitioners can help you find the support and tools you need.
Your health and well-being is an invaluable investment: you can’t work if you’re sick. If you’re in great mental and physical health, not only will your productivity improve, feeling mentally and physically well can be the key to taking your business to new heights.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Amy Chen
The only way to improve your life is to consistently make choices that will make your life better. It’s tempting to think you need to make sweeping changes in an effort to shake things up and improve everything all at once. But the reality is, it’s the little things that add up and have a huge impact on us.
If you really want to start improving your life, start with small but meaningful steps that you can build on over time. Take on new and exciting activities, but begin slowly so you don’t get overwhelmed. In no time, you’ll begin to see your life improved by taking steps that help you build knowledge, improve confidence and engage in activities that make you feel healthier and more connected to your inner self and to others.
Here are seven steps that will help open your mind, release stress and remind you of what’s really important in life. Start today, and in just seven days you’ll begin to notice the small but profound improvements to your life.
1. Begin learning a new skill.
What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to learn, but have never made the time for? Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to speak a foreign language, play an instrument, knit or use a sewing machine. You may wish you had a practical skill, like Photoshop or Excel spreadsheets, but never made the time to learn it.
Or you may consider taking up an activity you used to enjoy but gave up on, like learning how to Rollerblade or ski. Pick something that’s been gnawing at the back of your mind and come up with a plan to learn it.
Next, look for the resources you need to help you master this new skill. To learn a foreign language, there are a number of apps available for download. LinkedIn Learning offers many tutorials to help you with business, management and software tools. YouTube is another great resource, offering free tutorials on anything from learning to Rollerblade to using a sewing machine. Set aside 15-30 minutes every day to work on your new skill, and see how awesome it feels to start chipping away at this bigger goal.
2. Give yourself a reward every day.
One of the greatest pieces of self-care advice is nestled away in an early episode of Twin Peaks, courtesy of Agent Dale Cooper: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good hot black coffee.”
Too often, people get hung up on the idea that a self-reward should be a big, rare event limited to special occasions; that it needs to be planned in advance and earned through hard work. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t need to push yourself in order to deserve something nice. In fact, it’s much healthier to indulge once in a while (in moderate doses, of course), rather than constantly live in deprivation.
Giving yourself a little treat each day will provide you with an extra boost of happiness and positive motivation. Consider it the emotional equivalent of hitting the “refresh” button. So, rather than burn out, you’ll be rejuvenated and ready to tackle the challenges of your daily life.
3. Start an exercise program.
Exercise is not only an important part of living a healthy life; it’s also a great way to improve your mood, maintain control over your weight, suppress your appetite and reduce the effects of stress. And as the ultimate incentive, people who exercise live longer and healthier lives than those who are sedentary.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of the two. If you’re not getting that level of activity now, it’s time to start doing something about it.
No matter what your fitness level, you can start a home exercise program. First, assess your fitness level by taking into account your basic level of fitness. Then consider what your goals are. Do you want to lose weight, increase flexibility, build muscle? Are you hoping to train for a marathon or another fitness challenge? Set clear goals so you can gauge your progress. You should aim to incorporate strength training of all major muscle groups into your fitness routine at least two days a week. Try making exercise a daily habit. Start slowly and work up to more rigorous exercise routines over time.
4. Declutter your environment.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Marie Kondo approach of decluttering by asking yourself if an item “sparks joy,” you have to admit that living in an orderly and clean environment is a great way to improve your life. It can decrease feelings of stress and help you operate more efficiently.
A clutter-free living environment creates a feeling of ease and contentment in your home and office life. A neat and tidy space allows you to perform daily tasks more efficiently because everything is readily available and you know where to find the things you need.
Removing clutter is also physically healthier because it removes dust particles that accumulate on all the stuff we never use. And the process of decluttering can give you a sense of accomplishment. You’ll take pride in your environment, which means less anxiety or embarrassment when visitors pop by.
5. Make a bucket list.
A bucket list (a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”) is a great way to provide clarity on what’s important in your life. A bucket list can be whatever length you want it to be, and it can include both short-term and long-term goals you want to accomplish. This list is an important step to improving your life because it can help you see what’s most important to you.
The ultimate goal of a bucket list is to help you make the most of each day. Instead of letting your days float by in a blur, use a bucket list to give your life purpose, focus and direction.
It can help you determine what experiences you want to have, and help you reach for the things you want to accomplish. Once you have the list, you need to start having these adventures, exploring your world and building the memories that will make you smile each day.
6. Confront a fear.
We all have fears. Fears can help keep us alive and safe. But fears can also hold us back, especially if we let them control us. Take time to define your fears. Some fears are valid, but others are simply deep-rooted anxieties. Separate “real” fears from worst-case scenarios that you have let spiral out of control. When we confront our fears, we build courage and learn to overcome these dark thoughts.
As you work through your fears, you develop wisdom. Some of our fears may come true, but living through adversity helps us gain insight. Even if the worst happens, we can learn to overcome. Understanding our fears helps us develop compassion for others.
We can put ourselves in other people’s shoes and have empathy for what they’re going through. And most importantly, facing your fears will help you build resilience and tenacity. If you have confronted your fears, you have learned to overcome obstacles. You have learned that you can succeed even under difficult circumstances.
7. Reconnect with an old friend.
There is nothing quite like the joy of reconnecting with an old friend. Sometimes we let space and time come between us and those we cherish. Sometimes friendships fall away or become muted, not out of any feeling of misgiving or malice, but because we get busy and don’t make the effort to maintain those ties.
But when we revive old friendships, we reconnect with our past. And you may find that those connections are still as strong as ever; that you can pick things up right where you left off.
Old friends can remind you of who you were before life got complicated, and this can help you see who you want to be in the present. They can reawaken those old dreams and desires you once had. Perhaps you’ve moved beyond those old ambitions. Perhaps those old desires are no longer valid. If that’s the case, those friends we’ve had forever can help us gauge how far we have come, and remind us how far we have yet to go.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Deep Patel
Business school won’t teach you everything you need to know about starting and running a successful business. I learned that the hard way.
While business school taught me how to negotiate, communicate effectively and understand the foundations of finance, economics and law, it wasn’t until I started a business that I realized there were significant gaps in my knowledge.
The relationships and network I built in business school are worth more than the cost of tuition. However, I wound up learning a lot more about business by being an entrepreneur for four months than I did sitting in a lecture hall for four years.
Here’s what I learned as an entrepreneur that business school didn’t teach me, and that it won’t teach you about building a successful business.
1. A business can be scrappy.
Starting a new business will require you to “figure things out as you go.” While business school will emphasize the importance of funding, hiring and scaling, starting a business means making the most of the few resources you have.
The reality is most successful companies today started out very scrappy, and from zero. They didn’t really have a plan, they didn’t lease a space, nor did they stick with their original idea in some cases.
Your success will depend a lot on how scrappy you can be and how you can make the most out of the resources and tools available to you right now. Even if this means launching with a minimum viable product to test the market before trying to get the funding, staff or resources you think you need.
2. Plans aren’t the most important thing.
It’s counterintuitive, but overplanning can kill your business, especially when you’ll be pivoting and adjusting based on how your customer uses, perceives and buys your product or service.
Business schools like to treat every new business idea like a massive venture that can be completely planned for. “Want to start a business? Create a business plan, determine your product-market fit, calculate breakeven, etc.”
The truth is a lot of this will become more clear as you test and first bring your product or service to market. It’s much more important to execute on your idea and get proof of concept, instead of trying to plan every single aspect of your business to perfection. Excessive planning before execution is usually just procrastination.
3. How to set goals.
With so much emphasis on planning and strategic decision-making, it’s kind of ironic how little business schools go into setting goals and reverse engineering what you want.
So many entrepreneurs know what they want to do, but they don’t really know how to do it. Setting goals makes it easier to determine the path since you can reverse-engineer from where you want to be.
Goals keep you accountable, as well as align everyone on your team. The last thing you want as a business owner is for your team to have different motivations that contradict (or compete with) one another.
What’s that one goal you want your whole team focused on? Zero in on it to drive a bigger impact.
4. Marketing in the 21st century.
Many schools are finally starting to improve their marketing classes to fit in with the digital age, but you’d be surprised how far behind a lot of the marketing education still is. To be fair, it’s because this information changes a lot faster than most business schools can keep up.
As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to stay in the loop on the current trends in digital marketing, as well as the tactics that work right now.
A lot of the fundamental marketing principles business schools teach are still useful and relevant. However, it’s crucial to your success that you have a deep understanding of things like pay per click advertising, search engine optimization, and email marketing, just to name a few.
If you want to learn how to create a successful Facebook ad, for example, you’re not going to find the answer in a classroom. You’ll have to create one and tweak it as you go.
5. How to be creative.
Entrepreneurs need to channel their creativity often, whether you need to come up with unique solutions to your customer’s problems or find that great business idea.
Creativity is very hard to teach, so it’s no wonder this is something lacking in business schools. Business schools teach systems and rules. They show you the parameters you’ll work within as an entrepreneur and how to make the most of them.
Creativity is about working outside those parameters, thinking outside the box. As an entrepreneur, sometimes the best solution isn’t the most obvious one. Sometimes it requires an inspired solution.
When you think about some of the most famous cases of companies succeeding despite the odds, or the most well-received marketing campaigns, there’s usually a lot of creativity behind it, not a cookie-cutter formula taught in a business school.
But that inspiration often comes from trying new things, making mistakes and learning from others. And that kind of experience gets fast-tracked when you’re an entrepreneur.
Schools are designed to teach students not to fail. They teach students to be more risk-averse than risk-taking. They are designed to have students work within a set of rules. This is the antithesis of being an entrepreneur and running a business.
Running a business means failing, a lot. Entrepreneurship is about taking risk. It involves thinking outside the box and creating an unconventional path.
Failure should be seen as part of the learning process. Because students are discouraged from failing, they never see the value of failure as a way of learning. Thus, B-school students that go into entrepreneurship may become more risk-averse.
The problem with this of course is that entrepreneurs give themselves an excuse to give up too early, and they avoid taking the risks that could help their business take off.
Any roadblock or challenge you encounter as a business owner shouldn’t be perceived as a stop sign. Instead, it may simply mean you need to push forward in a different direction.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur by Corey Ferreira