Do you ever find yourself pushing through a day in your business with a smile on your face knowing that just below the surface there’s turmoil brewing? If you do, you’re not alone. I see this time and again, and in fact I have experienced it myself.
This “chronic turmoil” is often the result of the pressure faced by founders, CEOs and business owners, pressure that not only comes from the outside world, but most often — and most dangerously — from themselves. As a solopreneur and the ultimate decision-maker in your business you might feel like a puppeteer who is responsible for every move in your business. The weight of that can dampen your spirits and ultimately make you feel like you’re wading in quicksand. So, if you’re feeling stuck or trapped, you’ve picked this article up at the right time. Here I’m going to give you some tips to keep you from going to that tumultuous place, or to turn things around when you do start to spiral.
But first, I want to tell you a little about my own story. The pressure I felt in the early days of Vegan Mainstream was primarily self-generated. I created expectations, deadlines and goals that weren’t realistic, then I would get down on myself when I failed. I felt guilty for feeling bad when I was supposed to be living my dream! And I would move forward, trying to fix or manage things without any type of structure in place. I have learned some critical lessons since those early days, and that’s what I want to share with you today.
No more shaming
I used to expect perfection from myself every single day. If I ever missed a deadline I beat myself up mercilessly. Once I completed a project I would immediately transition into an evaluation phase looking for mistakes. Suffice it to say I was not my own best cheerleader; instead I became my own best critic. While excellence is important, and you obviously want to put your best foot forward in your business, not everything needs to be endlessly assessed, reviewed or critiqued. I had to learn to move on, or better yet, have a team member or a family member do the review. This was a big learning point because I was never fair to myself. I never patted myself on the back the way I would with others…instead I would come up with new hurdles or requirements because I thought that was the best way to push myself to do better. But I learned that encouragement is far more motivating for me (as it is for most people). So I changed my approach.
Now if I am going to miss a deadline I tell the appropriate person as soon as I know, whether that’s my team, client or husband. I don’t try to pretend it’s not happening, or worse, wait until I get to the final hour and frustrate people (and stress myself) because I’m late and haven’t said anything about it. I’ve realized that I don’t have to be perfect, but that it is really important to communicate when I run into challenges. Once a project is completed, I give myself a pat on the back and allow myself a moment to actually feel proud of my accomplishment. Happy dance, anyone?
I also go out of my way to create opportunities for encouragement. For example, I list my accomplishments on my whiteboard as I make my way through my week. Then, at the end of the week I have something physical to look at to see that I am making progress. Sometimes, I text a friend once I have finished something I told them I was working on, and I always tell my husband when I finish something. These are all examples of creating opportunities for an “atta girl!” from myself and others.
Dealing with down days
Running a business is hard, and you don’t realize how hard until you’re in the middle of it. In the past I have allowed myself to feel bad for those really crappy days. I didn’t feel like I deserved to feel bad when I was pursuing my dream. Sound familiar? Trying to ignore our feelings or telling ourselves that we aren’t strong enough has to stop now. That’s BS. Some days you are going to feel bad. What you need to remember is that real strength is recognizing your feelings, dealing with your issues and finding a way to restore your mood. To do this successfully you must have an action plan for when this happens (because it will!). I have three strategies that I know can quickly pick me up if I start to get down:
- taking a walk (simple, but true)
- watching funny Youtube videos (I like to watch a few of my favorite comedians; normally they are short videos so I don’t get distracted for too long)
- making a location change (if I am feeling stuck sometimes I find it helps to get up and take myself and my computer to another location like my favorite coffee shop or the library — that change of scenery and new perspective can be enough to turn things around)
Those are just a few ideas that work for me. You need to figure out what your pick-me-ups are, but whatever they may be, keep at least three in your back pocket. Doing this ensures that a bad mood or day doesn’t escalate, moving from a moment to something longer-lasting with more serious implications for your business.
Always remember that a compassionate business MUST start with you, and before you can take care of anyone else — people or animals — you must look after yourself. In the wise words of Lucille Ball, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
Write a list of 3 pick-me-ups that you can draw on if your day starts to go sideways. Stick them to your computer, or somewhere visible in your office so you don’t forget about them when you need them.