Owning your own business is great. You have the freedom to choose the days and hours you work, the clients you work with, the products or services you sell, the way you conduct business. You get the best of both worlds – loving your work and working your way – balanced brilliantly with quality time for family, friends and outside interests. You make all the money you have ever wanted, and it’s easily done because you love what you do. That’s right, isn’t it? Does that sound like the situation you find yourself in right now?
Sadly, it’s quite likely your answer to the last question is “no”. I imagine you’re likely thinking – “who is this crazy person talking all this nonsense, you can tell she’s never run her own business!” Does that sound more like it?
In actual fact I do run my own business, and have for several years. I also work with many entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who come to me because they wonder what went wrong – why their lifestyle has not turned out the way they planned.
So, why is it that running your own business seems to end up falling so far short of what you imagined and what can you do to turn it around?
There are six keys steps to regaining your focus and creating the business of your dreams.
1 – Be absolutely sure of what you really want
2 – Understand where you are now
3 – Establish a plan for change
4 – Take action
5 – Assess your progress
6 – Keep moving forward
Be absolutely sure of what you REALLY want
… and get it written down – in detail (backed up with pictures where possible).
How can you possibly know how to achieve your desired outcome for your business – and your life – unless you know what you really want in the first place? One of the very first things I do when I work with clients in this situation is to get them to reconnect with the reasons they wanted to go into business. Take some time to think about that for yourself now. Why did you decide to start up? How did you imagine life would be – in the first instance, as time progressed, and as your business became fully established? Bring those thoughts into the present tense … What would your ideal routine look like? Who would you be working with? What types of people? What type of work would you be doing? What hours? How would you spend your free time? Who would you be lunching with? Partying with? Where would you be going on holiday?
If possible, take yourself off somewhere and really let your mind do the talking … don’t overthink anything – write it all down exactly as it comes to mind. Enjoy how it makes you feel to be imagining yourself living that lifestyle and owning that business!
I recommend keeping this information in a journal (paper or electronic) and adding to it each day. The more detailed you make it the more real it becomes, the greater your desire will be, and the more aspects you’ll find you are able to fulfil sooner. For instance – you may have imagined that when you started working from home you would enjoy walking the dog on your lunch break – there is one simple thing that you may never have made time for but find you can implement right away!
Now that you know what lifestyle you are aiming for you are ready to get back on the path to reaching it.
Understand where you are now
… what are you already getting right, and what needs to be different?
It may seem in the thick of it all that you are a million miles from the lifestyle you anticipated when you started, and you may even be just about ready to throw in the towel and return to that corporate life you used to live and loathe (seems suddenly so appealing looking back!). Now is the time to take an objective look at what’s really going on and take stock of what you really have.
In the same way you made a detailed account of the things you want … do the same for things as they are right now. What is your routine like? Who are the people you are working with? What are the products and services you are offering? Which ones are you selling? How many hours are you working? What are you doing in your free time? What are your finances like?
Get it all down … the good and the bad. As with the previous exercise – don’t overthink it – just let your mind guide your hand as you get it all down.
Now you have an account of your current situation, take some time to read it back. Highlight the things that are already in tune with what you want to achieve, and any that make you feel good and content when you read them. If you can – also highlight these within your notes from the previous exercise, or add them into that account and highlight them there.
You will find that there are some things that jump out at you as you read them as things that you can immediately eliminate or alter. Highlight these in another colour.
Of the things that are left uncoloured there will things that evoke real emotion when you read them. They will make you angry or upset. Make a note of these as bullet points on a separate sheet of paper or a new page. These are things that most likely have the biggest impact on how you view your situation and are the things that need to be addressed as highest priority. You may not be able to resolve them immediately – but there will be great comfort and motivation to be gained from knowing you are setting them straight.
Establish a plan for change
… and cultivate new lifestyle habits.
You don’t need to have touched the stars to be able to enjoy them. In the same way – you don’t have to tick off everything on your wish list to feel the joy of working your way to your end goals.
Remember the items you highlighted in the previous exercise as things that you know you could do differently right away? These will be key in the initial part of your action plan. Pick three things that you know you could change today, and list them down. Are these one-time things, or things that that occur regularly? Daily even? Making just one small change right now will make a positive difference – you’re headed in the right direction. Making a change to something that is repetitive will have an even greater impact long term – and when you change habits you are changing your life! The key here is also that it needs to be things you can – and will – change TODAY!
Next to tackle those big ones!
Go back to the list of things from the previous exercise that evoked real emotion for you – the ones you copied out onto a new page. Pick just one item. Turn to a new page and write this item as statement – but as a positive statement of how you would like it to be, rather than the way it is right now. For instance, you may have written – “my finances are a mess”, this may be rewritten as, “my finances are organised, I understand my income and outgoings, and my paperwork is all in order”. With this revised statement you now have a specific state to work towards, that once achieved will mean the issue that caused you all that heartache and headache no longer exists. Now break that statement down into achievable actions WITH DATES that you will achieve them by.
If you feel comfortable pick another one of your major issue points and do the same. Don’t overstretch yourself though. Be realistic about what you can achieve. If one is enough for now – work on just the one until you are happy it is resolved and then move onto the next.
With all of the actions that you have now listed … get them into your diary or calendar to make sure you do not miss them!
… each and every day
You now know what actions you need to take … this stage is simple … DO THEM!
With the one off actions – get them done. Don’t allow yourself any excuses for missing the deadlines you have set yourself. These are not menial tasks – these are lifestyle defining changes.
With the routine actions – repeat them over and over until they have become part of who you are.
Assess your progress
… review, reward, move on
Part of the reason you ended up so far from your ideal lifestyle was losing sight of what you REALLY wanted, and not checking in to see how you were doing against that benchmark. Don’t make that same mistake again.
At the very least take time once a month to sit down and read back through your statements from the first exercise. Take stock of where you are now. Have you completed the actions you set for yourself? Have you developed new habits? How do you feel about your business? Your lifestyle? What are you now doing that you resented not doing before? How are you doing in-line with the goals you have set yourself? Have your ideals or aspirations changed?
Take time to be proud of what you have achieved, revel in your successes and reward yourself – whether it’s a chilled glass of wine or a week away soaking up some sun – be sure to let your body and mind know you are pleased with your progress.
Keep moving forward
As far as possible keep taking steps toward the lifestyle you know you REALLY want. Each day ask yourself, “what one action can I do today that will move me toward my goals?”. When choosing how to spend your time, energy or money ask yourself, “will this help make dreams a reality? Will this contribute to the lifestyle I am striving for?”
Running your own business means being solely accountable for your own success or failure, for your happiness or misery, for your wealth or poverty. Embrace this and you will achieve success.
Trudy Spikesman is MD of Crazy Days Ltd