If you're running (or starting) your own business, you know: entrepreneurship can be rough. Every day, you have about a million things to do and all of them feel urgent.
Your to-do list has essentially become a joke because no matter how much gets done, it never gets any shorter. You have notebooks upon notebooks filled with ideas, yet never manage to find the time to implement any of them. You can’t fall asleep at night because your brain is cracked out on the stress and excitement of thinking about what to create next.
It’s exhausting. It's amazing. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
But what I’ve noticed is that even though we all have never-ending to-do lists, it’s not the work itself that makes us feel so overwhelmed-- it’s the beliefs we have about that work. I know I’m veering into life coach territory here, but our thoughts and beliefs have an enormous amount of weight on our actions. If we think we’re super busy, we’ll start feeling completely overwhelmed, which in turn makes our actions reactive and ineffective.
So let’s talk about some of the beliefs that make our entrepreneurial lives much harder than they need to be.
Mindset Pitfall #1: You’re not doing enough
In almost every conversation I have with other creative entrepreneurs, some variation of the following comes up: “I should be doing X.”
“I need to get on Twitter.”
“I should do more marketing.”
“I need to update my website.”
“I’m not networking enough.”
We’re all working like maniacs, so why do we constantly feel like we should be doing more?
I do the same. I drive myself nuts thinking about everything I'm not doing instead of focusing on what I am doing.
But if I’m honest? The vast majority of the time, it’s not my to-do list itself that makes me crazy, it’s my guilt about not getting enough of my to-do list done. It’s trying to do a million different things instead of focusing on the 2-3 tasks that actually matter.
It’s not a lack of motivation, it’s a lack of prioritization.
I have yet to meet another business owner that really, truly wasn’t working hard enough. Most of the time, the problem isn’t the quantity of tasks accomplished, it’s the quality. Because no matter how efficient you are, or how many productivity hacks you use, if you’re spending your time on tasks that aren’t important, you’re wasting your time.
Of course, prioritizing which tasks are most important isn’t always easy, but the next time you start feeling like you’re not doing enough, ask yourself: Is the problem really that I’m not doing enough? Or is it that what I'm doing isn't priority?
Mindset Pitfall #2: It's not ready yet
I’ve talked about perfection before, and I’m going to keep talking about it because 9 times out of 10, it’s what keeps us from doing the most important work.
Remember when I talked about that amazing guide I was working on to help creative entrepreneurs sell what they do confidently and authentically? Did you notice that it took me 8 months of talking about it before I launched it?
Oh, I had time to do it. I knew exactly what it was going to be and how I was going to get it out. It was essentially finished for 5 months, but I still wouldn't launch it.
I’ll let you guess…
The fact is, expecting an offering to be perfect on the first launch is unrealistic.
This is especially true for new entrepreneurs. When you’re first starting out, you don’t know exactly what your audience needs yet. And the only way to learn is to give your audience something to react to. Test and adjust. Allow them to see version 1.0 and then improve it based on their response.
It doesn’t need to be perfect the first time. You can always improve it later. But you can’t improve something that doesn’t exist.
So stop waiting until it’s perfect and just get it out.
Mindset Pitfall #3: You are your business
Back when I was working in corporate, I couldn’t care less about my work. My job was just that: a job.
Sure, my textbook-Type-A-perfectionist nature made sure I still did good work, but at the end of the day, I could leave my office and literally forget about my work until the following morning (when I would fantasize about getting into a car crash because I hated my job so much.)
Things are much different now.
Now? I love my work. Desperately. I honestly never thought it was possible to love what I do for a living so much.
And I know I’m not alone.
Most of us start our own business because we want to make a living doing the work we love. We pour our hearts and souls into our work. We create personal brands that feel like an extension of who we are. Our professional life blends into our personal life until we become our businesses.
And that’s the problem.
Because as soon as things go wrong-- you get bad feedback from a client, your website traffic goes down, someone unsubscribes from your mailing list, your Facebook post gets zero engagement-- it feels like a personal rejection. It’s not your work that’s being ignored or criticized or pushed away, it’s you.
Or at least it feels that way.
This mindset is not only awful for our self-esteem, but it’s also bad for business.
When your sense of worth is so tied up in your work, you won't take the risks necessary to move your business forward. You’ll put the same impossibly-high standards on your work that you put on yourself and allow perfectionism and fear of failure to hold you back. And because every criticism, no matter how small, feels like a personal attack, you’ll be more likely to try to please everyone, which will inevitably make your brand ignorable.
So when setbacks happen-- which they inevitably will-- please remember this:
Your work is not your worth.
Even if you’re the face of your brand, you are not your business. Your worth as a person is separate from what you do for a living. If things aren’t working, it doesn't mean that there’s something wrong with you. And conversely, if things are going well, it isn’t necessarily a reflection on how great you are.
Yes, your business is important. What you do has value. Your work has worth.
But not as much as you.