It’s interesting to note that one of the main reasons we choose to become our own boss is to reduce the stress, unhappiness and structure of being employed and gain more freedom, balance and pleasure. Yet what can so easily happen – if you’re not really careful – is that you step out from a ‘cage’ that of someone else’s design, into one of your own making in which you may work longer hours, under more pressure than you ever were in before. But this need not be the case for the Soul Trader.
When you are your own boss – especially if resources are tight – there will be times when you have to work hard and for long hours. But there are some simple things you can do that will help you ease the stress and boost the fulfillment.
5 key steps to fulfillment in business
- Doing what you love for a living
We often make a risky trade-off in life of doing what we don’t really enjoy in the hope that we can then do what we love later on in our life or in our spare time.
There may be some brief periods of time or some short phases in life in which this is a necessity or an acceptable – or even shrewd – strategy. But overall, for a pro-longed period of time this is a dangerous strategy for two reasons.
- We don’t know how much time we’ve got and how much time is left on the clock. So doing what you don’t like today in the hope you can do what you do like later is very risky, for that tomorrow may not come.
- The stress of doing what you hate doing may really take a major toll on you mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. The price may be far higher than any material gains you may make. Likewise the rewards of doing what you love can be huge in all sorts of ways, not just financially.
Doing what you love for a living takes a huge amount of the stress out of life and your work. As the cliché goes, it may even turn your business/work into something that feels more like play and rarely feels like ‘work’.
- Playing to your strengths
This is linked to the first point but branches out further. I often make the point that in sport it would be crazy for a great sprinter to push them self into long distance running or for a weight lifter to try to turn into a jockey.
The first step in playing to your strengths is taking the time to acknowledge what your skills, talents, passion and gifts are. The second step is to really begin to build on them and explore how you can really use them to their fullest. Often it may take many years of trying this and doing that to spot the bits in various jobs or businesses that we really are good at, and that we really enjoy.
There is a notion in some schools of thought and cultures that you can’t make a living out of what you love. There’s also a fascination that we have about focusing on our weaknesses. Again, I point to the scenario of sport and the athlete. Actually most of the truly content people that you meet in work and business do what they love and play to their strengths.
There is a greater point: life and the world you live in will be the poorer for you not doing what you are great at, and the richer for it when you do. This isn’t just about what you choose to do for a living / as your business but how you do business. Thinking about your strengths and having the courage to play to them is in many ways what makes you special. It’s the thing that you may do better than the rest. By not playing to your strengths you stand the risk of seeming just the same and not standing out as great.
The other key element of this is that as you develop your business you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and develop the support you need in the areas where you are weaker, or that you are simply not interested in – or where others are better. Again, it’s no surprise that in sport even the athlete in an individual event (and you could say especially the individual athlete) has a team. The challenge for the Soul Trader, sole trader and start-up business is often the resources. But one of your strengths and your opportunities may well be your resourcefulness and I spend a lot of time in the book and coach yourself video exploring how to build a team that work for you and what you do – even if – like many Soul Traders you never choose to employ an actual staff member.
- Free time first
When it comes to life balance as a life / business coach the first thing I encourage my clients to do is to put in the
1) Me time
2) Free time
3) We, friends & Family
time first. I’m not putting these in a specific order. But it’s key that you can identify some time (even if its just 10 minutes in a day) where you can connect to you. This brings us on to the free time and the time for loved ones, close ones and things you love to do and that keep you fit / healthy.
My personal and professional experience is that you can’t just push on through with all your business related stuff and address this afterwards, or when there is time – or when everything else is done. In the business of being your own boss you could probably work 24 hours and 365 days a year and still find things to do. Given that, you need to put in the down time, rest time, holiday time, relationship time, social time, you time and family time first.
- Keep it fun
This is so important. I have a saying “It’s one thing doing what you love for a living. It is another thing – at a higher level – to do what you love with love.” I hosted an ‘In Conversation’ with entrepreneur Kell Ryan at the British Library. Kell’s late brother Tony Ryan was the visionary behind the airline. Kell was a co-founder. Kell not only shared the journey of starting with a big dream, little money and one airplane (they were Europe’s largest at the time) but he also talks a great deal about the importance of fun. He shares and believes in the adage to take what you do seriously, but not to take yourself too seriously. He also is a joke-teller and very light-hearted. I’d noticed this straight away on meeting him at an event I was hosting, at which he was a guest, a few years ago. It was his personal warmth, humanity and kindness that I was impressed by – much more than the remarkable success of the airline with his family name on it.
Look at ways of making your working days fun and your working environment enjoyable. Also start seeing customers, contacts, staff, associates and suppliers as partners and colleagues along the journey, and this may help bring in and keep the sense of enjoyment and appreciation. Do also ensure you put in that time for things you enjoy.
Running your own business can be solitary at times and it’s important to know what kind of person you are. But whatever kind of person you are there will be times when you will need support because you can’t do it all on your own. One of the things the Soul Trader book and Coach Yourself video programme invite you to do is explore how you want to go on this journey, who you want to travel with, what types of personal and professional support and expertise you need – and that’s probably going to change throughout. But take a few moments right now to think about the type of help, guidance, support, advice, skills and expertise that you and your business need and could benefit from now and for the next phase of the journey. Also consider where you’re at personally, and the kind of relationships that perhaps need time, attention – or that you need to allow to emerge and blossom.
Find out what centres you
I have one additional tip for you and that’s to find out what centres you. Art, sport, yoga, meditation, exercise, nature, and making things – we’re all different and we’re all drawn to different pursuits. But one of the things that the shrewd Soul Trader does is to learn what it is that energizes and centres you. Many things will happen in business that can swiftly throw you off centre and challenge you. You need to find your own way of staying calm, collected, conscious, considered and able to serve, gain and engage (potential customers). For you it may be about faith, family, friends, fitness, fixing things or fun days out. It may well be about a blend of these things. The more mindful you are, the more centred you’re likely to stay. In many ways.
Rasheed Ogunlaru is an acclaimed life, business and corporate coach whose simple ‘become who you are’ approach has helped countless business owners connect with themselves, their businesses and their customers. His background spans over 20 years in coaching, training, media, PR and performance. Rasheed is the business coach partner to the British Library’s Business and IP Centre and business coach mentor to TiE UK. He is a highly sought-after public speaker and regularly appears in the media, including the BBC, The Times and the Guardian.
Twitter – @RasheedOgunlaru
or call 020 7207 1082