Have you ever set a goal for your business, only to add it to a growing list of goals you slowly work your way toward, and by the time you’ve achieved it, you’re already focused on something else further down the list? Maybe your team has celebrated a success while you sit in your office brainstorming how to solve a problem or constraint that’s in the way of your business reaching the next level.
If you’re anything like most entrepreneurs, you’re full of goals. As humans, we need to feel a sense of progress and moving toward something to feel happy. But entrepreneurs experience an acute version of this feeling, a drive and focus beyond what many people have, and it can cause us to get entirely wrapped up in solving problems and doing whatever is necessary to reach our goals. Many of us tend to lose sight of other important matters. This can be especially true when there’s an obstacle in front of us or a problem to solve.
It’s important to have goals and to constantly move the bar higher. It’s good to know where you’re going next and to have a plan for continuous improvement. But when that’s all you’re able to focus on, it will keep you from paying attention to other important things around you, whether that’s something else that currently needs your attention or simply enjoying life.
This is the double-edged sword of entrepreneurship. You’re always trying to get to the next level, and you are not able to feel satisfied where you are. Ultimately, this drive and constant forward vision is necessary for success in business. You won’t get very far if you’re not planning for the future and taking action to meet your goals. But at the same time, too much focus on progress can cause you to miss important things going on around you, both in your business and your life.
Sit back for a moment and think about your goals in business. What are they for? What do you ultimately want to achieve, not in terms of business success, but personally? What is the purpose that drives you to do what you’re doing? Don’t lose sight of that purpose by getting lost in your goals.
The truth is that there’s not much point to success if it doesn’t serve some purpose in your life and make you happy. It’s important to celebrate how far you’ve come and the successes you do accomplish, instead of moving right on to the next challenge as soon as you reach a goal.
We live our lives in stages, and it’s incredibly easy to ignore that progression, forgetting to take stock of where we are, what we’ve accomplished, and what we have. It’s important to appreciate your current stage in life, wherever that is, because they pass quickly. Take joy in the little things in life—strolling through Target, sitting in the sun at your kids’ sports game, having dinner on the back porch on a warm spring day, and taking care of the plants in your home.
These small things can easily seem like chores when you’re focused on something else, thinking about problems in your business or stressing about reaching your next goal. But much of the joy in life comes from appreciating small things that will quickly pass by. In a year or two, you may find yourself missing some of those life details that are now gone. We slip into new stages of life without realizing it, without taking the time to truly live through each one. Entrepreneurs can be especially guilty of this because we are so goal-oriented and future-focused. But if you’re not happy, what is the point of working so hard?
Focusing too much on the obstacles keeping you from reaching your next goal can be detrimental to your business as well. It’s easy to become laser focused on some constraint keeping you from taking your business to the next level, until you’re stuck in an entrepreneurial rut, spinning your wheels trying to overcome the obstacle. When you become too close to a problem or obstacle and allow it to take over a large portion of your thoughts, it can seem like there’s no way out. In fact, sometimes you won’t be able to find the solution you’re looking for until you step away from the problem at hand.
When I find myself in an entrepreneurial rut, it’s often a sign I’ve been too focused on progress and need to take a break to look at what I’ve accomplished, celebrate my successes, and appreciate life as it currently is. The best thing to do is to take a vacation with family, one without any business allowed.
A vacation is often the perfect mental reset. It allows you to clear your mind, appreciate what you have, and celebrate how far you’ve come. It also gives you some much-needed rest, which your brain may be deprived of. You can’t solve problems effectively if you’re wrung out, exhausted, or burned out.
When you come back from vacation, you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to tackle whatever problem has had you stuck in a rut. It will help you remember your purpose and what makes life good.
By remembering to appreciate what you have and where you are in life, you’ll bring more meaning to your success, never losing sight of the purpose of what you do. It will also help you maintain positive mental health and keep you out of the typical entrepreneurial ruts. No one wants to fall on the wrong side of the entrepreneurial double-edged sword.