Most of us become entrepreneurs because we're good at what we do, and we want the flexibility to do it on our own terms. We want to put our personal stamp on something meaningful. It's exciting, it's hard work, it's fulfilling, and...it can be exhausting and stressful.
A recent Fast Company article, “How to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship” talked about this confluence of opposites.
“The reality is that entrepreneurship is an emotional roller-coaster–it’s either going to kill you or make you stronger. Most entrepreneurs out there are wrestling with this flux day in and day out. No doubt, the lifestyle can be exciting. The work can be incredibly fulfilling. But it can also be insanely stressful at times.”
In my experience as an entrepreneur, I've found that there are two things that keep me sane:
- Building and maintaining a community
- Making time to feed my soul
Building a community
Working on your own can get lonely. Especially when you're in development mode and spending long stretches of time not talking to another human being. It's important to make opportunities to share ideas, get feedback, and simply connect with others for community, support and, let's not forget, laughter.
A few years ago I put together an AdviseHERy Board. The initial goal was to create a small board of directors (there were three of us, and this has now grown to four) who would help each other build our businesses, talk through issues, give feedback and ask questions that would move us forward. Over the years it has developed into an incredible support system both professionally and personally.
Another thing I've done to build community is join a co-working space. It gets me out of my home office a few days a week, and I can walk there, which is another benefit. In our current sharing economy, co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular. Most even organize social and business-related events to help connect people.
Feeding your soul
The second thing that I think is really important for entrepreneurs - or for anyone really - is to take time (make time!) to feed your soul. Whatever that means for you.
We often get so busy trying to get that next gig or to keep up with all the responsibilities of business ownership that we forget to take time to rest and recharge. How often do you say, "I don't have time for a break," or, "I just need to get through this project, and I'll take a break"? Don't...put...it...off!
It doesn't have to be a two-week or even a one-week vacation (although I highly recommend them!) It can be a 30-minute walk three times a week. An hour a day reading something that has nothing to do with your work. A concert. The theater. Yoga. Whatever it is, factor it into your schedule and make time to do it. Feed...your...soul.
Oh. And don't forget laughter. You need at least one belly laugh a day!
Till next time,
Admit it. How many of you, as you rang in the new year, secretly (or maybe even publicly) said, "Thank GOODNESS 2018 is over!" or words to that effect?
Certainly, there were things in the past year we'd all rather forget. And yet, you are doing yourself a major disservice if you don't pause to reflect on - from a personal and professional standpoint - some highlights of your year. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What challenges did you overcome? What new skills did you develop? Taking stock of these items will not only improve your view of the past year, it will also help guide your thinking as you plan your goals, intentions, whatever you want to call them, for the new year.
So. Grab a tablet, a pen (or your laptop), and a beverage of your choice. Find a quiet place and allow yourself 30 minutes or so to list out the following for 2018:
What I accomplished
What I learned
A challenge I overcame and how
A new skill(s) I developed
Once you've made your list, give yourself some time to reflect on (and feel good about) all that you've achieved. Focus on the positive! Then, as you plan for 2019 (and you are developing a plan, right?) let your list help guide your intentions (that's what I like to call them) for the new year.
I think we've all figured out that New Year's "resolutions" don't work. They are typically too broad (lose weight, get out of debt, win the lottery) and not tied to specific actions or deadlines. Research shows that 80% of them are abandoned by February. So why bother, right? Wrong!
I suggest a different approach. First of all, keep it simple yet specific. Second, keep it balanced. Too often we focus so much energy on changing one aspect of our life that we totally neglect the other aspects. For example, there's that promotion you want, so you put 110% of your energy into doing the work, gaining the visibility, and finding the opportunity that will get you there. Pretty soon you're skipping the gym, eating junk food at the office for dinner, and saying "no" to time with family and friends. "Vacation? Not happening!" And do you get the promotion? Maybe. But at what cost?
Here's my guide for creating a simple plan that will help keep your life balanced and moving forward. It's called the Circle of Life. As you consider your intentions for 2019, think about the eight aspects of your life illustrated below. Where do you spend the most effort? As you look back on 2018, what aspect did you neglect or ignore? How will you change that this year?
Now make one or two intentions for each aspect. Make them simple, make them specific, and write them down! Include due dates wherever possible.
Once you've created your plan, keep it visible. Put it someplace where you can see it every day. Schedule time on your calendar once a month to assess how you're doing. Pay attention to what's getting out of balance, e.g., when work is eating into your intentions in personal growth or friends/family. Make some adjustments to get back on track.
Taking a look back before moving forward and being more intentional about creating balance in our lives are components of my GET REAL philosophy. So often we burden ourselves with what others tell us we SHOULD do - "find passion in your work," "lean in," "keep climbing that corporate ladder," - that we lose sight of what we WANT to do. We are so focused on the destination that we miss the view along the way.
Here's to an amazing and balanced 2019! I'm declaring it a year to GET REAL! Stay tuned for more GET REAL developments.
"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." - Neil Gaiman
Till next time,
Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” I couldn’t agree more. In this often oh-so-serious world, we need to find opportunities to take things (at the very least, ourselves) a little less seriously. Laughter is good for the heart. It’s good for the head. It’s good for the soul.
Here’s what research tells us about laughter.
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh (I like to call it a “belly laugh”) relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
In addition to these physical and emotional benefits of laughter, there are also cognitive and social benefits. Humor and laughter contribute to increased creativity, improved problem solving, enhanced memory and increased ability to deal with stress. They also strengthen bonds with family and friends, increase attractiveness to others, and contribute to happier marriages and closer relationships.
And you might also be interested to know that while you are laughing you are burning calories! A researcher from Vanderbilt University conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.
Perhaps the best testimony for laughing comes from those who have spent their lives helping us derive the benefits of a chuckle, a chortle, a guffaw, a giggle, a cackle, a crack up, a smile, and a big ol’ belly laugh. Here’s what a few of them have said….
“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle
“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” – Ellen DeGeneres
“If love is the treasure, laughter is the key.” Yakov Smirnoff
“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” – Mark Twain
“If Heaven exists, to know that there’s laughter, that would be a great thing.” – Robin Williams
“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese
“Live by this credo: have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness. Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations.” – Red Skelton
Till next time…keep laughing,
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past year or so (and who would blame you?) you’ve probably felt the effects of the big black cloud of negativity that’s looming about. I see it hovering in the buildings of the organizations I work with, reflected in the grim expressions of people on the street, and bolstered by the politicians and pundits we hear every…single…day. Even Pollyanna might have difficulty finding something to be glad about today.
So what are we to do? Give in to the negativity? No! Despite what’s going on around you, you have a choice as to how you respond to it, just like in this Native American legend.
One evening an old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."
"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
I’m here to suggest that you feed the right wolf. Make a conscious effort to focus on the positive, and increase what Shirzad Chamine calls your “positive intelligence” (PQ). Not only will you be happier, you’ll improve your relationships, increase your success at work, and, let’s face it, be a lot more fun to be around!
Here are some ideas for feeding the right wolf.
-Think about one thing that is causing you a lot of stress. Now think of three ways you can turn that into an opportunity.
-Practice saying “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…”
-Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down something positive about the day.
-Surround yourself with positive people.
-Turn off the news and turn on a comedy.
-Get away from your computer and go for a walk, a hike, a run or some other activity OUTSIDE.
-Watch kids at play.
And check out my latest podcast: Please and Thank You - words that are very easy to use.
Let’s make positivity (and politeness!) “trending…”
“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” – Joyce Meyer
Till next time,
Research shows that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Additionally, 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually! What is wrong with this picture???
We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. And, we all know someone who lives by the motto: “I do my best work under pressure.”
However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents.
Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and over-emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.
So…how do you do it? Start by taking some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break?
Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to reduce. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to resolve a lingering issue? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.
And, to get started on reducing your stress level in general, here are some stress busters for you.
Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you do not take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.
Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.
Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine!
“Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown
Till next time,
Chances are, you’ve spent some time since January 1 thinking about and/or talking about what your “resolutions” are for 2018. Admit it. It’s something we do automatically every year. And although some of us may have the same set of resolutions every year – lose weight, exercise more, drink less, earn more, travel more, work less – we are confident that THIS will be the year we keep them. But the fact is, it’s estimated that by February, 80% of resolutions have dissolved. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?
Too often we focus so much energy on changing one aspect of our life that we totally neglect the other aspects. For example, there’s that promotion you want, so you put 110% of your energy into doing the work, gaining the visibility and finding the opportunity that will get you there. Pretty soon you’re skipping the gym, eating junk food at the office for dinner, and saying “no” to time with family and friends. “Vacation? Not happening!” And do you get the promotion? Sometimes. But at what cost?
There is a better way. We need to “shake up” our approach, put balance back into our lives, keep it simple, and, of course, insert some fun!
Let’s do an exercise. Close your eyes. No wait. Read this first. Then close your eyes. Imagine you are standing in the center of a circle – the circle of your life. There are eight sections in the circle, each representing a different aspect of your life:
5. Personal Growth
7. Significant Other
Now. Think about your life today and where – in that circle – you spend the majority of your time and effort. Is it in your career or business? Probably true for many of us. Is it worrying about your financial situation? Is it at the gym trying to forget about your career and your financial situation? What other aspects of your life are you neglecting in the process? Is your circle leaning significantly in one direction? Time for a change. If you truly want 2018 to be a better year, you need to get your circle back into balance. Here’s how.
1. Assess. Think about each of the eight aspects and how much attention you pay to them. Then rank each of them from 1 to 10 with 1 being “I pretty much neglect it” and 10 being “I spend most of my time and effort here.”
2. Review. What patterns do you see? What has been the impact – on you, on the neglected areas?
3. Recharge. Change the “out of balance” pattern by creating one or two SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) in each area of your life. These are not New Year’s resolutions that will dissolve by February, but reasonable goals that will help you pay attention to ALL aspects of your life.
4. Commit. Write the goals down. Put a due date on them. Share them with someone who will keep you accountable. Better yet, find an accountability partner who will recharge their circle of life and then you can keep each other accountable. It’ll increase the fun factor, too. And need I say that the fun factor is verrrrrry important?
5. Maintain. Keep checking your balance throughout the year to ensure that it doesn’t get off kilter. There will be times when you need to focus in one area more than the rest. That’s natural. But assess, review and recharge on a regular basis to ensure that you don’t let that one aspect of your life cause you to sacrifice the others.
Don’t resolve, evolve!
Here’s to a balanced and AMAZING 2018! I’m declaring this The Year of Shakin’ It up!!
Till next time,