“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
~James 3:13-15 ESV~
If you have been living the entrepreneurial life for any length of time, you might have noticed that it comes with a myriad of ups and downs, from enthralling wins to devastating disappointment. The only thing we have control of is our response to all of it. I’ve said it before, but an entrepreneurial existence—and if we’re honest, any existence—requires flexibility. Depending on our personalities, it may be hard to factor that in, but if we remain rigid, change will be very painful.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You sit down and create your five-year plan, one-year plan, quarterly plan, etc., but you don’t achieve those goals. Life happens and things don’t go as planned. Or maybe you achieve small pieces of it but you always feel like you are spinning your wheels. You look back and see that you didn’t accomplish this or that objective and feel like a failure. That voice in your head taunts, “I’m never going to..." “I guess I’m not cut out for…” “All I do is fail…” and so on.
The planning itself isn’t really the main problem. The issue is the story you are telling yourself about accomplishing or not accomplishing your goals. “I’m not good enough” “I’m not consistent enough” “I’m not focused enough” or even what it all seems to boil down to: “I’m not enough”. It could very well be that you may be expecting too much of yourself, but also it helps to set your system up to adapt and flex with the curveballs life will inevitably throw. As entrepreneurs and as humans on this earth, we will face many unexpected twists and turns. Stay flexible in your planning. That way you can be ambitious and still gracious with yourself, and tell yourself a different story, with grace at the forefront. Consider adopting messages like “I am doing the best that I can” and “I can adapt to the unexpected events that come up” and “I am not behind—I am exactly where I am supposed to be”. The key word here is “be”. Before we do, we are, and that is where we need to start. Too often we begin with doing.
Sometimes we try to work outside of who we are. That can look like resisting our God-given personalities, dreams, core values, or even destinies. Let’s get back to the basics and look at purpose again. A big part of living within your purpose is getting to know yourself deeply, and then working within those parameters. This is anything but boring or restrictive: this is freedom! When we embrace our passion and design, we can be free to grow and thrive. This way of living is catching a glimpse of heaven. We will be aligned with who we are meant to be, and then we can find out what that means for the action part of the equation. Sometimes we get so caught up in the doing that we just need to stop, take a step back, and ask who we are and what that means for our next step or an upcoming decision.
Although the pursuit of knowledge and strategy is good, it may be that what many of us need is to come back to square one, ask ourselves who we are at the core of our being, and then focus on being that person, rather than trying to do more or do things differently. It could be that the breakthrough you need is in your heart and head, not as much in your office, files, or procedures. All of that will follow. You can have so many ideas and inspiration, so many options. But consider doing some inner work alongside the practical, and you will see growth like you’ve never known.
There are so many strategies I could give you for planning, organizing, getting things done—but right now, take a deep breath and consider reframing what you may have painted as failure. If you are living outside of who you are designed to be, you are probably frustrated, weary and maybe overwhelmed. I have been there! I am here to tell you that very likely, there’s nothing wrong with you. You just have to learn to work with yourself and be kind, rather than trying to force a way that other people do things if it doesn’t work. I’m not holding out on you in terms of strategy. But there is a more important truth I’m trying to get at here. Tell yourself a different story. Don’t settle for feeling bad and sinking into despair. Instead, set yourself up for success by making your systems compatible with your personality, lifestyle, and goals.
Whew. That was a lot, I know. I wish I could hand you a boba tea, iced coffee, or hot chocolate. I would give you a hug and tell you that you are doing well, that you’ve got this, and that even the fact that you’re reading this means that you are pursuing the right things. Instead, you’ll have to get yourself a beverage, but the message from my heart to yours is no less true. Keep delving into your why, making your plans and living from your heart. You’ve got this.
“We all have stories we tell ourselves...And it is past time, I think, for you to stop telling that particular story, and tell the story of yourself. Stop defining yourself in terms of them. You don't just have to exist in the empty spaces they leave. There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”
~Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters~