Most of us know now that happiness at work matters for our employees, but what about you and your happiness as the executive or business owner? When was the last time you asked yourself if you were happy at work?
When you are devoting the majority of your time to a business (as most small business owners and executives do), it's easy to become overwhelmed and burn out. Sometimes we don't even realize we're burned out until we explode over something inconsequential or give up on a passion project out of frustration. You may have even said that you hate being an entrepreneur (like I did) and tried to work for someone else at one time in your career. And let me guess: you're a terrible employee, right? I apparently was because I kept trying to make things more efficient. Who knew that would annoy the people in charge?
When you're an entrepreneur, your spirit of independence and innovation drives you beyond what anyone sane would do for a job. You push and persevere because you have a vision that you know can make the world a better place, make people's lives easier, and leave a powerful legacy for your loved ones. A little insanity goes a long way in building a business.
But there's a dark side to all that pushing; SO many entrepreneurs "power through" the challenges and difficulties, ignoring the naysayers and the negative Nicks or Nancys. This is what makes the Mark Cubans and Barbara Corcorans of the world so amazingly successful and inspirational. They pushed through when everyone said they couldn't. Now, I don't know how they felt when struggling against the challenges they faced, but I know many entrepreneurs who seem to go through cyclical "dark nights" of the soul. So I ask you:
Does your work bring you joy?
It's okay if the answer isn't always yes, but it should be yes at least some of the time. Hopefully, it does the majority of the time. But if your answer is a resounding, frustrated, overwhelming "NO," then maybe it's time for a change.
Recently, I was brought into a huge writing project. It has been so much fun that I've been reevaluating the rest of my business. Like many of you, there are some things I love to do and others I hate. As entrepreneurs, we do the things we hate because we know they will bear fruit now or in the future. Most of the times I've persevered at things I hated because I could see a light at the end of a long journey. But what if that light is just as far away today as it was last year?
Those situations give us the chance to reevaluate our path mid-stride. My guess is, if you're reading this, it may be such a time for you. There's an incredibly fine line between the determination that will lead to success and the futility of driving forward when you're not seeing results. What if you quit when success was just one more step away?
It's an incredibly difficult place to be, and unless you have an exceptionally reliable crystal ball that can tell you what to do, it's a question you will probably never know the answer to.
It's an impossible question, but there's a solution that I'd wager the most successful entrepreneurs use--whether they realize they're doing it or not. They let their gut instinct (also known as intuition) guide them.
If you're facing that impossible choice, here's how to find a solution you can live with:
- Gather your data and review it. Chances are, you've been pondering this for ages anyway, but if you haven't compiled the relevant facts, do that now. This may also include asking for input from trusted mentors, advisors, and colleagues.
- Calm and center yourself by taking a few deep breaths.
- In your mind, imagine yourself standing before the possible paths you can take. Sometimes there are two paths in front of you, other times, it feels like you're standing in the center of a wagon wheel. Whatever it is is fine.
- Visualize or feel what it would be like to walk each path. You don't need to know all the details or imagine it fully--just enough for your intuition (gut instinct) to tell you whether it feels good or bad.
- Make your decision.
- Give yourself a few days to mentally and emotionally adjust to and plan your new path without sharing your decision with anyone else.
- Share the new plan with your teammates and begin putting it into action.
Once you've made your decision (step 5 above), you should feel lighter, less overwhelmed, and more at ease. I often feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from me. If you don't feel better after a few days, you may want to reevaluate or discuss this with a trusted advisor. Just make sure you've given yourself time to mentally and emotionally "settle in" to your new plan.
During that time (step 6), ruminate on your next steps and go through whatever mental brainstorming processes you do when starting something new. Keep this part under wraps though for a few days. As the entrepreneur, you have a different level of vision and commitment than others will, so this incubation time is critical to developing your plan. If you let others influence you, the gut instinct that led you to starting your business will be compromised. There's a time to ask for help, input, and guidance, but this isn't it.
The rest of the process is easy; once you have a direction, pursue it. It's not perfect, and your instincts can be wrong, but at least you know you're making a decision you can live with. The worst feeling in business is looking back to realize you didn't trust what you knew to be true.