Stop Trying to be Perfect!
Whether you’re a business owner, a spouse, a parent, a friend, or all of the above, I’m willing to bet that sometimes you don’t meet your own expectations in that role. You feel like you’re not living up to who you should be. Here’s a provoking question for you: Who says you “should be” a certain way? Probably no one other than yourself.
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I successfully grew my first business filing company with my husband to the point that we were able to sell it to Intuit and enjoy some time with our family. Then we started a second business in the same industry. Piece of cake, right?
I assumed because the first go ‘round went so smoothly that I could apply the same effort this time and get even better results. But when I found myself having a panic attack in my car one day, I knew I needed to step back and reassess the situation.
Admitting My Own Flaws…I’m not perfect
I’d been lying to myself and others that everything had been fine when in fact it was far from it. Our company was bleeding money, and while I felt obligated to continue down the path we’d set for ourselves, my body was telling me otherwise. Serious changes — both to the business and to my health — had to be made.
It’s unfortunate that we’re not more honest with one another. In the business world, I’ve never met anyone at a networking event, asked them how business was going, and had them say, “Terribly, actually. We’re really struggling right now.”
If they were to open up like that, I certainly wouldn’t judge, having been there myself. Yet we feel like we must put on a mask of security and happiness to hide what’s really going on. I could no longer afford to wear that mask. It was jeopardizing my life and my livelihood.
Changing the Course But Keeping the Destination
The business decisions turned out to be easier than I imagined they would be, with the help of my level-headed husband. We cut back on unnecessary advertising spend and put more focus into delivering quality products and customer service. We waited with bated breath to see if the advertising cut would send our web traffic into a tailspin. Much to our delight, we actually saw more traffic and sales after drastically reducing what we spent on online advertising. If I had kept trying to do the same old stuff, kept trying to be the perfect entrepreneur I would not have had that success!
The mental shifts for me were much more difficult. My instinct was to put more time and effort into the business to right things, not less. And yet, I knew the message my body had sent me the day it shut down on me: I had to put more investment into me as a human being, and less as a CEO.
Listening to My Gut…
I realized I needed to surround myself with the activities that made me happiest. Those include spending time with my beautiful family, exercise, warm baths, meditation…even green tea. These simple pleasures helped me get out of my own head and nurture my body and soul back to health.
I’m also working with a therapist who is helping me mitigate those panic attacks that have come as the culmination of way more stress and anxiety than my body could handle. I now have coping mechanisms when I feel one coming on that keep me grounded.
I used to be “on” all the time for my business. I was at the office a lot, and available by phone or email after hours. But now I’m out of the office by 3 so I can pick up my kids and take them to their after school activities. I might answer a phone call or two, but by 6, I’ve taken off my CEO hat and put on my more fun Mom and Wife hat. I completely focus on what I’m doing, and don’t let a work problem interrupt me.
Not only am I happier, but so is my family. Like any bunch of people who love one another, they’re happy when I’m happy, and vice versa.
The Real Message of My Breakdown
Too often, we ignore the signs our bodies send us. “I’m always sick!” cries the overworked, stressed out business owner, who gives no thought as to the why behind her incessant illness. “I hurt my knee running again,” sighs the stock broker who works 80 hours a week and then runs another 10 hours weekly.
Our bodies are often smarter than our minds. They know when we need a break, and sometimes they have to force us to relax through drastic measures. In my case, my breakdown was actually a break through that illustrated to me that things could not continue on the same path.
I might not have listened had my husband insisted I take a day off to recuperate, but my body whacking out on me was something I couldn’t ignore. I probably missed a lot of warning signs, like getting sick or injured, but, knowing that I would be stubborn, my body had to be loud and clear with its message.
Now I focus on being whole. I am a business owner, yes, and it’s a role I love. But there are other pieces of me that deserve just as much attention. And believe me, I’m going to give it to them!
Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur and small business expert. She currently serves as the CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs start a business, incorporate or form an LLC and offers free business compliance tools.
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