Before I started my own business, I imagined its trajectory would be linear, in an upwards direction. I assumed that the longer I was in business:
- the more I would know;
- the more money I would make; and
- the more confident I would become.
If pressed to choose a metaphor for my business at that time, I would have chosen a jet. I could imagine my business taxiing down the runway, slowly at first, but gaining speed and momentum, before launching into the air and soaring effortlessly among the clouds.
What a pleasant and inaccurate fantasy that was!
A more accurate metaphor for the early years of my business is a rollercoaster. There were definitely highs, but also many lows, and most of the metrics I was using to track my progress did not resemble a linear trajectory.
Instead of that straight, upward line to which I aspired, I felt tossed about in every direction.
Although my knowledge increased, it felt like the more I learned, the more I realised I didn’t know. This had me circling back to more courses and more experts, trying to up-level my knowledge to a point where I felt like I knew enough.
Also, the income I was generating was inconsistent. The feast and famine phenomenon made me uneasy.
For these reasons, perhaps the most variable of all was my confidence. I frequently experienced the confidence wobbles, where self-doubt and uncertainty would creep in, my harsh inner critic would be on high volume, and I would question whether I had what it takes to succeed in business.
Here’s what helps when those confidence wobbles come calling:
Celebrating the small wins
It is so easy to focus on the big goals, and the distance between where we are and where we want to be, that we forget to appreciate how far we have come.
Nelson Mandela said, “Remember to celebrate the milestones as you prepare for the road ahead”, and this is important for many reasons.
Recognising our progress makes us feel more positive in that moment. It also primes our biochemistry to stay focused on the bigger goal ahead. This is because the reward circuits in our brains need reinforcement in order to keep working effectively. When we celebrate the little wins, we are helping our brains to stay motivated.
Conversely, if we only focus on the big goals our reward circuits are not reinforced. After a while of all work and no reward, our biochemistry shifts from a motivated state into a quitting state.
Celebrating the small wins doesn’t have to involve a lot of drama and expense. A few moments of mindful appreciation of what you have achieved is enough to get your biochemistry working in your favour and fueling you for the road ahead.
Remember your “why”
Keeping your “why” salient is a powerful motivator and an important antidote to the wobbles. It reminds you that your reason for being in business is bigger than your fears. Remembering that you have a big reason for doing what you are doing is helpful to withstand those days when things are difficult, and the wobbles are threatening to overwhelm your confidence.
As Gandhi once noted, “Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph: a beginning, a struggle and a victory”.
Progress, not perfection
Thomas Edison created 10,000 prototypes before he invented the light bulb. Undeterred by his many unsuccessful attempts, he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
This is the epitome of a growth mindset, and a helpful reminder that progress, not perfection, is what we should be aiming for. The wobbles may surface if something doesn’t turn out how we intended.
Be like Edison and look for the lesson. Something amazing may come of it!
It is said that comparison is the thief of joy. I agree.
I would add that it is also the thief of motivation, confidence, and ultimately, success.
We are inundated with evidence of other people’s success, but it is important not to get caught up in comparisonitis. The reality is, we only see what others want us to see, and I can guarantee that behind every perfectly curated social media profile, there is uncertainty, worry, and insecurity that all of us have felt at some point in our business journey.
Surround yourself with people at different stages of business
Business gurus often recommend that you surround yourself with others who are more advanced than you. I agree that being the least experience/established in the room provides you with many opportunities to learn.
However, I’m going to suggest a caveat.
In addition to spending time with others who are more advanced than you, there are benefits to also spending time with others who are less advanced in their journey than you are. This is because one of the best ways to learn is by teaching.
Sharing your wisdom with others who are less established in their business journey than you are provides you with the opportunity to:
- reflect on your experiences;
- consider the lessons you learned from a different perspective (which may have relevance for where you are now); and
- appreciate how far you have come.
You will also get the benefit of those delightful feel-good chemicals that come from helping others, which can be great for building confidence.
Possibly the most important thing to remember is that building a business is like a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself the gifts of compassion and patience while you figure it out, and don’t forget to stop and be proud of what you have achieved.
Many would-be entrepreneurs are still thinking about it, and you are way ahead of them, even on the days where you feel the wobbliest!