Smart business owners are excellent at creating immense stress through thinking. Lots of smart owners come to me skirting the edges of burnout, made worse by the fact that they can’t point to an external event that’s causing them stress.

On paper, everything appears dandy. Internally, they’re suffering under immense strain to

  • Increase their revenue and profits
  • Save the world
  • Save the whales
  • Get fit and healthy
  • Prioritise wellbeing
  • Be kind and generous, without giving everything away leaving you a hollow wreck
  • Be intellectually challenged
  • Enrol in that course/qualification/PhD you’ve been eyeing
  • Get a good night’s sleep.

Smart business owners are too hard on themselves to label themselves Type As (“Surely I’m not good enough to be a Type A?!”) but clearly, their self-imposed expectations make the sky seem not high enough.

Get clear goddamnit!

To make matters worse, in the midst of a burn-out-existential-crisis, said Business Owner typically decides that they just need to Get Clear On What They Want, and everything’s coming up roses.

So ‘Get Clear!’ gets heaved atop the castle of expectations, another casualty in the pursuit of peace.

Business plans are rubbish

Typically, a crisis calls for a plan. Said Business Owner is convinced by some well-meaning friend that it’s the lack of business plan that’s the problem.
Except most business plans are rubbish: a relic from another era for an entirely different purpose – to raise capital and showcase the business to the board.

For agile owners, a traditional business plan makes no sense whatsoever, and could even be damaging, should the owner be sufficiently distracted by trying to cleave off parts of their round peg to fit the square hole.

A plan is useful when it’s used, amended, added to, reviewed – when it has the look of your favourite dog-earned, oil-splattered recipe.

A traditional business plan is none of these things. In a world of exponential change, a traditional business plan is a death knell.

Habits, rituals, routines

The only thing you can control is yourself. That includes what you do with your hours and minutes, but also your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions and attitudes.

Your thoughts, beliefs and feelings are just as habitual as your habit of coffee first thing in the morning, or Netflix after dinner.

Feeling overwhelmed is a habit. As is feeling confused, worrying, seeking copious feedback on all decisions, or taking too much responsibility for things outside your control.

In the last 20 years, neuroscience has shown us that our brains are highly malleable and equipped to deal with the volatile, unpredictable vagaries of the twenty-first century. To use this, we must treat our thinking as habits to be either strengthened or redesigned.

You can change the way you think, the lens through which you view the world, and even the way you treat time – not as an enemy to be conquered, but as a friend.

Managing expectations

You might think that I’m now going to tell you to opt-out of the hustle and grind, find a forest, and spend your days listening to the sweet gurgle of the stream, fossicking for joy in each precious moment.

Alas, this is a fantasy for some, and neither practical nor appealing to others.

While I’m a huge fan of doing less admin, housework, volunteering, and all manner of other modern detritus that sucks my lifeforce, I don’t believe that opting out of modern society will reduce stress or overwhelm, for most of us anyway.

Instead, I propose:

  • Getting on the ‘no train’
  • Embracing ‘selfish’ as a compliment
  • Prioritising thinking time
  • Flexing your brain towards the many and varied possibilities of how you can exchange value for money
  • Setting aligned goals that you actually care about
  • Making action plans rather than business plans
  • Prioritising regular time for activities that regulate your nervous system

Prioritising joy

Being successful is not the same as being happy. And while I’m pretty damn happy on holidays or while walking in the bush near my house, when the sun comes in sideways and has an extra quality that makes it distinctly winter, this isn’t enough to build a life around.

What I’m aiming for – and I guess you are too? – is to create success on my own terms, working for love and money.

And – here’s the clincher – to do it without creating stress, overthinking, or being so wedded to the outcomes of actions that nothing less than expectations being 100 per cent met will do.

The only thing you can control is how you fill your minutes and hours. The outcomes are not within your control.

What most people really need help with isn’t being successful in business: it’s being happy while being successful. After all, a successful business owner who’s unhappy doesn’t look like much of a success.

It’s taming the monkey mind to think less and focus instead on useful rituals, habits and routines. It’s sleeping soundly at night despite the ongoing, never-ending to-do list. It’s being okay with not knowing (the outcome, the future…). It’s being so fiercely committed to the things you care about that honoring these commitments is building self-love, self-trust, and deep self-satisfaction.

It’s divorcing work from suffering, work from dirge, work from obligation, and untangling productivity from self-worth. It’s prioritising joy in each minute, despite (despite, despite). It’s creating a new, twenty-first marriage between success and happiness.

Want to learn how? Join us for Business Reset.