As a business coach and mentor over the past 15 years, I have seen many business owners get caught in the cycle of overworking, in their pursuit of a great idea matched with guts, hard work and determination. But often the result is simply under- earning, even as they stop along the way to chase “gurus” believing that they will show them the way and things will finally click.
Looking outside for a “cure all” or a “quick fix” only leads to continued frustration for business owners because without looking inward at the things that stand in the way of success, the same situations show up repeatedly. The key to success for each of us lies within ourselves.
If you are committed to building a great business and bringing the key elements of success to the surface, you need to adapt these 15 strategies into your business and personal life.
1. Realize It’s All About You
Your business is a reflection of you. It is a container for our own rich spirits, talents, gifts and energy. It also contains your issues, blocks and attitudes. What we experience in our business is a mirrored image of the values, beliefs and images we hold within. In this way your business is all about you and can only get as big as you are, no more and no less. You may want to blame the economy, lack of money, busy-ness…yet to grow your business you must be willing to work both on the inner game (seeing yourself clearly and clearing beliefs that keep you stuck ) as well as, the outer game of action and technical know-how (knowing what to do and doing it). Once we recognize that the difficulties and limitations in our business (and our lives) are reflections of our own patterns, we have a powerful tool to change patterns and to create what we truly want.
2. Grow Yourself
A client once said, “Having a business is the best personal development course you’ll ever take.” This is very true. If you want to grow your business, all the marketing systems, secrets and strategies in the world won’t help you unless you first grow yourself. For example, if you have a belief that you have to work 16-hour days in order to be successful, then you will end up working 16-hour days. And you may or may not be successful. If your leadership style is disrespectful of team members and customers then the energy of the business will reflect this. Only second-rate team members will be attracted as you will only attract people who are OK being disrespected and not appreciated. Your business will only achieve a fraction of what is possible. Your style and level of development sets the tone for your entire organization. Everything is reflected back to you multiplied, exaggerated and often dramatized. This means, if you want your business to change, if you want your team to change, if you want your results to change… It all starts with you. Many people work on growing the business, their teams, and sales, yet leave out the most important factor in the entire equation -you.
3. Get Out of Your Own Way
One of the biggest obstacles most of us have is that we get in our own way. It is as if we are driving down the road to success with one foot on the gas and the other one on the brake. We don’t do it on purpose or get up in the morning and say, “How can I sabotage my success today?”
It looks different for each of us, even from day to day. Sometimes it may be just being too busy to do the things we know we need to do. It could also be fear. This, too, could show up in many ways.
We may be afraid we are not good enough, so we procrastinate or become overwhelmed at the thought of doing the task. A personal favorite of mine was the fear of being wrong, so I played it safe and limited myself to things I already knew I could do well.
Clutter is another way we slow ourselves down. Besides the physical difficulty it causes, clutter can also weigh us down subconsciously. Marie, a small businesswoman, was pitching clients to increase business. But no one was signing on with her. After a brief discussion it was obvious that she was exasperated; I could feel this in just a short phone conversation. When I asked Marie to describe her office, she told me about the piles of files on her desk, projects on the credenza and other items on the floor, plus the spillover into her personal space. The piles represented unfinished business; work that she knew she needed to do but could not get around to doing.
When she would visit new prospects she would say the right words to solicit their business, but energetically she was saying, “Please, don’t hire me! I can’t handle what I have; I don’t have any space to take on additional work!” After several days of completing outstanding projects, not only did she clean up but also achieved a sense of peace. As a bonus, she noticed that several prospects to whom she had pitched earlier called to hire her. Coincidence? When we get out of our own way, major things happen.
4. Focus on What You Do Best
As an entrepreneur you wear many hats, but some don’t fit or may clash with your personality. Too often I see small business owners or solopreneurs fretting incessantly about sending out invoices, following up with clients, or marketing. This constant worry drains their energy and keeps them from focusing on the parts of the business they do well.
Rather than trying to be all things to all people, it is better to focus on your strengths and become an outsourcing expert for the rest. Do what you do best and delegate the rest.
5. Define Success
What does success mean to you? In a world with so many coulds, shoulds and wants, how do you know if you are successful? Many clients have found that until they take the time to define success for themselves, it tends to be defined for them — and often not to their benefit. When you live by someone else’s definition, you may feel boxed in, un-empowered, as if you have no choices. You end up chasing goals that aren’t yours, and although you might achieve things you thought would make you feel successful, you find that something is still missing. You don’t feel any different than you did before.
Define what success means to you and you’ll notice a tug to make changes in your life, both significant and small. You’ll have a better idea of what you really want to do, deep down inside. By defining success on your terms, you’ll release yourself from priorities that are not relevant and be free to enjoy life completely.
6. Be Responsible
In the syndicated comic strip Frank and Ernest, two bums are sitting along a wall talking with each other. One says to the other, “Do you believe in fate?” The other replies, “Sure. I’d hate to think I turned out like this because of something I had control over.”
You have control and you are responsible for everything that shows up in your life. If you believe that someone or something else is the cause of whatever is happening, you are choosing to be a victim. Look at the word responsibility: response-ability; the ability to choose your response. Recognize this responsibility. Don’t blame circumstances or conditions. It all comes down to your choices.
The good news is that since you are solely responsible, you can make changes. You don’t have to be stuck in a bad relationship, a dead-end job, fear, or whatever is not working for you. Owning your behaviors allows you to see what makes you unhappy and gives you the opportunity to change it. Taking responsibility for your behaviors and actions, thoughts and beliefs is empowering and one of the simplest ways to make lasting changes. You are the creator of your life.
7. Become Conscious
Other than when sleeping in bed at night, aren’t we already conscious? Not always. Too often we operate at a level below sensitive awareness. We go through life never stopping to think about what we are doing or why. We get up in the morning, turn on autopilot and let it take us through the day. We react to whatever comes our way, overlooking many choices available to us.
Mark’s pattern was to see the world as a dichotomy. He would unconsciously put things in one of two categories: black/white good/bad, either/or, yes/no. For him there was never an option in between. Although he knew something was not working in his life, it wasn’t until he could objectively see this pattern and associated beliefs that he could accept that other options do exist. With this new consciousness many choices suddenly became available to him.
Linda struggled to increase her business and make it profitable. She became aware that she did not value herself and would under-price her services or even give them away. Her unconscious pattern of unworthiness led her to believe that no one would actually pay for what she had to offer. As she began to clear these beliefs and patterns her profits grew; and more importantly, she began to do the work that before she had only dreamed of doing.
To become conscious is to become aware. When we are present with our mind, body and spirit we accept responsibility for the choices we make and move from being victims of situations and circumstances to self-actualized human beings.
8. Get a New Perspective
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” said Albert Einstein. Knowledge and understanding is limited to one’s own experience. We see things through our own story and beliefs and are oblivious to other possibilities.
Any decisions we make from this vantage point are always through old paradigms. We continue to do the same things over and over, making the same mistakes and wondering why things never change or get better for us.
It takes courage to go beyond our limited perception to see that which we believe to be true is only true for us. From another perspective things look different. For example, the idea that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west is only true from our perspective on earth. From space the sun always shines. Both versions are true only from their respective vantage point. As you move beyond the limits of your own perspective, possibilities emerge and a new world opens.
9. Build Community
You are never alone. Everything is in contact with other things, which connect to more things, like an interconnected web. Nothing and no one exists independently. If such a thing did exist then it would be incapable of change.
It is a common misconception that the end of development is independence. Each of us is a living link in the chain that binds us all together. Only with an attitude of cooperation and communication are we able to produce viable results, come up with creative ideas, and create what we want.
Through cooperative endeavors community is made. As a part of the chain, every one of your gifts will shine and the joy and pleasure that may have been lost will be restored to you. Each individual becomes part of a giant mosaic of endless possibilities.
10. Get a Life
When you expect your work to provide meaning and fulfillment it ends up being a desperate search for something that can not be found there — a life. Your work is not your life! You are more than what you do. You are the sum of your parts, only one of which is work.
Too often work becomes our identity and we put off the rest of our life. As a work-centered culture, we have lost touch with ourselves. We skip lunch, conduct business while in our cars and at our kids’ soccer games, and are always connected, even on vacation. We perceive we have no choices and consequently feel like victims. In realty, we are using work to avoid other things.
When this happens we feel trapped in circumstances of our own making. Busy-ness, procrastination, crisis, drama, struggle — these are all ways of avoiding things that we would rather not deal with. Choice and responsibility are keys to creating the lives we want.
11. Keep It Simple
Life is simple. We are the ones who make it complicated. There is a difference between effort and struggle. Consider nature… it puts forth effort in sustaining itself, but does not struggle. It just is. Living requires effort. Running a business involves a certain amount of effort. Struggle, however, is optional. It is a battle we fight with ourselves.
What is struggle to one person is gentle effort to another. Struggle is mixed with fear, anxiety and worry and comes from what we believe about a situation or event, not from the event itself. What you believe, consciously or unconsciously, creates your reality.
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change,” said Wayne Dyer. As you begin to take responsibility and accept that you create your life, you can move beyond the struggle toward an inner calm. Life was never meant to be a struggle.
12. Be Kind
We’ve all heard our mothers tell us to be kind. I interpreted this to mean to be kind to others. And while this is important and certainly makes it easier for everyone to get along, there’s another point of view to consider.
Be kind to yourself. Most of us beat ourselves up mercilessly. The way we talk to and treat ourselves would cause anyone else to run away. So why do we think it’s okay to act toward ourselves that way? Value yourself as you would a dear friend or family member. Do not judge, criticize or beat yourself up, even in your thoughts. In addition, take care of yourself and your needs. If you are constantly taking care of others at your expense, then you are mistreating yourself.
13. Accept What Is
If your life is about wanting for the future instead of living now you will end up with a life filled with a lot of wanting and very little living. Life is here, now. It is not going to happen one day when all the stars in the sky magically align, your business takes off, or everything in your life is working out perfectly. Life becomes easier and more enjoyable as we accept what is happening and showing up right now — even if you do not want it, like it, or enjoy it.
Recently, someone had put in an offer to buy our house. Since it had been on the market for a few months, we were excited. A few days later however, they pulled their offer and we were back at square one. While we were disappointed in the turn of events, it really had no other impact. My choice was about aligning with what was actually happening rather than trying to control and manipulate the events. This is more than just positive thinking; it is truly accepting things and having no expectations. It is attachment to expectations that cause our hurt, pain and disappointment. As we move toward acceptance, each day is ours to enjoy regardless of outside circumstances.
14. Find Your Own Answers
Sometimes it seems easier to look outside of ourselves for answers, to rely on words from others or stories we tell ourselves based on external factors rather than facts. The problem is that these external answers don’t bring us closer to our truth. More than likely, they drive us farther away. Seeking answers requires patience and awareness; everyone has a unique way of finding them.
My job as a coach and mentor is to help individuals find their own answers in a way that brings them closer to their truth. And even if your answers don’t agree with the experts, know that while they may be an expert on certain things only you are the expert on you. Consider all the pioneers, inventors and explorers who were all told they were wrong and that what they wanted to do was impossible. Only you know what’s best for you; be willing to ask the hard questions of yourself and listen carefully to the answers.
15. Go With the Flow
Everyone today is busy. We are conditioned to being busy and wear it like a badge of honor. People overload themselves with unimportant tasks or commitments, most of which have little benefit. Being busy is different than doing. Doing has a sense of purpose, a feeling that something is happening, even if you can’t see it yet. Busy is doing a lot but never getting a sense of accomplishment. Many people are addicted to busy and spend their days never doing anything.
Being busy is also an excuse for poor performance or to ignore parts of life or business that require attention. Many people mistakenly believe that busy means important. Busy really means out of control, frenetic and unorganized.
The other choice is flow, a unique state of mind where productivity and creativity are at their highest. Flow happens when you are fully present and engaged in what you are doing, where time melts away in a commitment to the goal-oriented activity. Admit that you cannot do everything and devote your time to what’s most important. You will have room to be focused and enthralled.
Some of these tips may be familiar to you while others may challenge your paradigms. Each one has the potential to change your life within as well as without. No matter how many goals we achieve, or how much success we have, if we don’t change what’s on the inside, the outside is never enough. Use the tips and techniques daily to achieve success in your business and your life.