Finding Your Way to Growth

Written by Anne Sigman

For small business owners there’s a close relationship between their own personal life balance and well-being, and the performance of their company and its ability to reach its goals.

What owners deal with in their personal lives, with their physical and mental health, in their family life and close relationships, and how they relate to their employees and customers (through the lens of whatever is going on in their life) can eventually make its way to the company’s balance sheet.

Make no mistake, there are certainly times when undeniable market forces come to bear on our businesses and we get off track on our goals through no real fault of our own. But there are also times when the company has had a bad week, month, quarter or year, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we know we are at the source of the fall-off in achievement.

We tend to stay in our comfort zone, until it’s uncomfortable.

Typically, when confronted by a set of circumstances that, for whatever reason—market, personal or other—are becoming undeniably unworkable, we (usually without realizing it) retreat into our comfortable operating zone, and try to get on top of things from there.

Depending on how we’re wired, we all react differently to these kinds of challenges: owners who are highly organized tend to double down on the structures that have brought them success in the past and organize their way back toward the goals they’ve set for themselves. Those who are innately creative “out of the box thinkers” usually try to innovate their way out of their situation, and get back on track.

If this doesn’t work for us “innovators,” we might step outside of our naturally free-flowing way, adopting constraints that aren’t necessarily a fit for us; or if we’re “organizers,” we might try innovative new ideas (throwing things against the wall to see if they stick), even though that doesn’t come naturally to us, and maybe making us feel like we’re flirting with chaos.

I’d love to tell you that the answer is one or the other—that you can make a binary choice between focusing on organization, innovation, or any of the many other ways that our personalities and experiences express themselves when we’re in the throes of what it is to run a healthy business—but it’s not that simple.

Discover and embrace a growth regimen.

Consider regimens as distinct from schedules, and certainly distinct from just doing “whatever” or doing nothing at all to keep yourself on track and headed toward the achievement of your goals.

“Regimen” is a word typically associated with diet, medication, therapies or exercise, aimed at improving health and well-being. I’d like for you to consider embracing that same concept when evaluating the relationship between your personal well-being and your business’s well-being.

The way I like to think of it is that a schedule includes the things I have to do, and my regimen includes the things I truly need to do, so I can do the things I have to do. Let me explain:

Like you, I keep a very busy schedule. I coach business owners and executives, facilitate business owner peer advisory groups, and consult companies on their technology adoption, usage and practices—and that’s just my work day! But none of that is possible without my regimen:

Every day, no matter what is going on in my business or my clients’ companies, I make it a point to feed my body, feed my soul, and feed my brain, because these are the things that affect my personal growth, the growth of my business… and my ability to support my clients in their growth. That’s my regimen.

I make it a point to get out and get some fresh air every day. I read something that challenges me and feeds my curiosity. I engage in problem solving. I stretch. I have a meaningful conversation with someone I care about. And I’m mindful of what I’m consuming, whether it’s on TV or the Internet, or through my interpersonal interactions in business and in my community. I take time to assess how it affects my energy, and I make my consumption choices from there.

For the most part, my clients make my schedule—so scheduling these life/work balance elements (my physical nourishment, my emotional nourishment, and my intellectual nourishment) doesn’t really work for me. But being intentional about the core elements of my regimen does. It empowers me, and fuels me to do the work I do and follow the schedule I maintain, and keep both my life balance and my balance sheet in the black.

I encourage you to discover, establish and engage the core elements of your growth. And when you do, if you’re a scheduler, then schedule it into your day. If you’re the kind of person who is just making it up as you go along each day, that’s fine too. Just make it happen like you do everything else. If you’re somewhere in the middle (like me), just make it part of your daily regimen, whenever you can make it happen. But do make it happen, because for a small business owner, a healthy life balance makes for a healthy balance sheet.

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