I like to compare the process of building a business and personal life to the construction of a new home. First you have to examine your needs, values and boundaries. How big do you want your home? What do you consider the essential elements? Where should it be? Plans have to be drawn up; land has to be leveled and cleared; forms have to be laid; and a foundation must be poured. Then you have to define and protect your space by putting up walls, installing insulation and completing the basic construction. It’s also important to add the personal touches that put your “stamp” on your home. What colors do you like? What do you want visitors to feel? What features will make your home easy to maintain and comfortable to live in?
In the first two installments of this series, you learned to prepare for building a strong personal and business identity by defining your needs, core values and boundaries; you discovered how to create a structure that was in sync with your values and to eliminate anything that was interfering with them. In this issue, you will learn to express yourself by creating the atmosphere you most want in your business and personal life.
This process requires that you weave together four important elements: knowledge, wisdom, experience and application. Knowledge is the possession of facts and data; wisdom is the right use of that knowledge. When you combine your personal experience with wise use of the facts, you can transform your knowledge into application. To fully express yourself, you move thoughtfully from experience to action by
- examining your attitude;
- striving for simplicity; and
- creating time to meet your needs and work on your goals.
What do you want your business to look like and project to the world around you? How are you going to be different? How will you leave your mark?
Examine Your Attitude
Your attitude toward your life and the people in it determines your journey. When it comes to attitude, you have basically four options from which to choose:
1. I’m okay, you’re okay. (I have skills to offer and so do others.)
2. I’m okay, you’re not okay. (Everyone else is stupid, so I might as well do everything myself.)
3. I’m not okay, you’re okay. (I’m stupid and can’t make good choices. I’ll just follow what everyone else says.)
4. I’m not okay, you’re not okay. (Life is the pits for me and everyone else. I can see nothing good.)
As a child growing up in Texas, I used to watch the old country music show Hee Haw on Saturday nights at my grandparents’ house. I can still see the rundown setting for my favorite song. Some old coots would be sitting on a dilapidated front porch with an aging hound dog lying lazily nearby. The oldsters would sadly evaluate their situation—speaking about one word every 30 seconds—and then would mournfully sing (with the dog yowling at the proper times): “Gloom, despair and agony on me, deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me!” I remember that song whenever I am tempted to wallow in self-pity for long. This sad bunch of folks obviously adopted attitude number four!
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy: You attract what you expect. The type of energy you emanate, positive or negative, attracts like energy. The attitude your business and employees project affects your ability to draw and retain customers. How would your attitude be described by the people who know you best? What attitude is projected by your company?
Application. In one sentence, give a detailed description of the attitude and atmosphere you want your business to project. Evaluate how well your business is meeting your expectations, and make alterations if necessary.
Strive for Simplicity
If you were to invest the time to seriously evaluate your business practices, personal routines and possessions, would you conclude that your life is complicated or simple? A complicated life requires tremendous energy and lots of time, and can create great anxiety. On the other hand, a simple life is easy and low-maintenance. It relieves stress, creates peace and allows room for creativity. I carefully plan my work schedule every month with this goal: When I look at each week, I have no feelings of dread. I know that those “dread-full” weeks take a huge toll on my mental and physical energy. When my life becomes cluttered, full and complicated, I automatically begin removing things to get back to simplicity.
Simplicity is plain and uncomplicated. It involves reducing to basic essentials, diminishing complexity and streamlining your life in order to gain clarity. When life is too full, you miss out on opportunities.
Application. Let go of the pressure of being busy and looking productive. Identify changes you can make to simplify your business practices and policies. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I doing that is complicated? How can I simplify?
- Am I giving my customers too many choices? Are my offerings confusing?
- What am I creating with my lifestyle? Is there a future in it? What is it costing me in the present?
Carve Out “Me Time”
You have probably heard this expression several times over the past couple of years: Work on your business, not just in it. For you and your business to thrive, you must create time to meet your needs and work on your goals. Our ultraproductive society tends to brainwash us into thinking that taking care of ourselves is selfish, but that isn’t true. A selfish life is one that is all about you. Selfish people hoard material items and ignore situations in which they could make a positive difference. Selfishness is not about taking care of your personal needs so that you can live your values. On the contrary, taking time to meet your own needs makes you stronger and more capable of meeting the needs of others.
The question is simple: Would you rather do preventive maintenance now on your schedule—or emergency care later at a less opportune time? Blocking out time for personal relaxation and recreation, or business planning and development, is preventive care. You stay ahead of the game, aware of subtle changes in the business world and mindfully “in tune” with your personal needs.
Application. Find ways to carve out “me time.”
- Block out at least 30 minutes each day (apart from exercise) to do the things that matter to you.
- Review your list of needs, and weave needs gratification into your week.
- Allow yourself time to get past the guilty feelings.
- Quit overscheduling work hours or personal functions.
- Refuse to do anything in a hurry. Let go of the habit of running on adrenaline.
Dare to Be Different
When it comes to your business, don’t be satisfied with just being one of the crowd. In a world of sameness, “different” is a refreshing alternative. Sell who you are and sell it with flair!
Simplifying your business and personal practices provides a number of benefits. You become relaxed and at peace. You get back in touch with your values and feelings and begin to practice better self-care. Your body begins to heal and regenerate. Creating simplicity requires constant attention and practice until you are comfortable with your new level of functioning. Allow yourself a full year to see drastic and permanent change. Following are four practices that can help you simplify:
1. Eliminate three projects, responsibilities, tasks, goals, habits or routines that do not match your most significant needs and values. (That night class you teach may cost you more than it’s worth!)
2. Identify tasks or habits that can be eliminated, delegated or systematized. (If cleaning your home or business is currently your job and you dread it, hire a professional and add the cost to your budget.)
3. Eliminate or shorten your to-do list. How much of it is really important? Some people choose to eliminate the to-do list altogether and simply function in the present.
4. Manage the “beforehand.” This is the best practice of all. In the evening, get everything prepared for the next day. Lay out your clothes, make lunches and put your briefcase or gym bag in the car. Get absolutely everything prepared in advance and placed where it needs to be before you go to bed.