The stages that entrepreneurs experience are fairly predictable. Typically there’s apprehension and fear at the beginning—questions about whether your new business will thrive or fail. Then, there’s an adolescent-like, new-romance phase when you’re so in love with your work and the flexibility it enables—taking half a day to see your daughter’s school play—that you can’t imagine how you lived any other way. Then, almost inevitably, just like those teen-relationships, the dazzle of something new fades.
You realize that despite the fact that you own your own business, you still have to produce results to please your clients. You have responsibilities to generate revenue and meet or exceed expectations. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to go through a stage in which they feel chained to their own businesses and to become disenchanted with their work.
Sound familiar? Don't worry, you can get that spark back.
1. Get back to your purpose. Yes, money matters, but that’s not the only reason you started your own business. There’s far less risk in taking a job and working for a paycheck, but at some point you felt compelled to strike out on your own. Remember why you started your own business—what you wanted to change, the function you wanted to serve in your community—and you’ll regain your sense of purpose and direction. (If you don’t quite know why, besides money, you started your business, then it's time to figure it out!) Your purpose pulls you forward, makes it easier to keep on producing excellent results.
2. Reconnect with your immutable laws. We all have core values that make us feel good when we uphold them and feel bad when we transgress them. Define your own immutable laws by examining what fulfills you as well as what beats you down. Make a list of your immutable laws and work toward hiring employees and clients who share those values. If we let our staff or our customers trample all over our immutable laws, then we’re going to feel depleted, drained by our work, rather than invigorated. Work the way that makes you happy.
3. Look beyond the money. A Time article in 2010 cited a Princeton University study that demonstrated money does contribute significantly to happiness, but only until you reach a salary of $75,000. After that salary is achieved, basic needs can be met, and any additional money only contributes to happiness if it’s used to achieve a goal. Money is the amplifier of habits, so once your basic needs are met, you’ll find greater happiness only if more money lets you do more of the things that matter to you. It’s about what you do with the money.
4. Look at the impact you’re having on your community. We all experience periods in our work that require old-fashioned hard work, the kind that isn’t very much fun. We can derive satisfaction from the effect we have on the folks we come in contact with, though. If your business provides a service that enriches customers' lives, you should feel good. If the profits you earn support a local little league team, then you’re making the world a better place. Strengthening your business’s ties to the community makes your work more fulfilling.
5. Get to know the impact you have on your employees. Taking the time to reflect on your significance to your employees’ lives can be enormously satisfying and can help you foster the kinds of relationships that sustain us through the tough times. Understanding that your staff takes pride in their work, derives satisfaction from providing excellent service, and relies on their income to support their families gives you a sense of the degree to which your vision as an entrepreneur really matters. Knowing that a host of people rely on your willingness to get out of bed and dig in to your work is certainly a great responsibility, but it’s enormously satisfying to handle that responsibility and know that people appreciate it.
To a large degree, these tactics are about adjusting your perspective—re-centering your mindset to reflect on the reasons you fell in love with your business in the first place. Just like a marriage, businesses that thrive over time and survive adversity require work, dedication and the determination to succeed. By connecting your vision to your community and working in a way that fulfills your values, you’re better able to find that dedication each day.
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