FINDING SUSTAINABLE JOY

After fifteen years of running a business, I’ve found that joy is a continually elusive aspiration.   Some days it’s easy to find with a thrilled customer survey or a excited team member.  Other days it can be more difficult to feel like we are making progress towards our goals.  A technology glitch, an upset customer, or missing an important milestone can feel so discouraging.

I what I do with a deep passion. But (like any job) being an entrepreneur wears on you over time. So as fifteen years has come and gone, I’ve been thinking about the ways I find long-term joy in my work in those tough days or weeks.

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1. Write a list of the things you have accomplished.

Sit down and think about where you started and how difficult it was to get where you are now. It’s so easy to get discouraged as an entrepreneur; building and growing a company is full of set backs that make you wonder if you’ll ever get where you set out to go. So write this list, and put it down on paper. Remind yourself that every accomplishment was once a set back, and give yourself the chance to be proud of how many hurdles you’ve already overcome.

For example, I had a tough technology week last month.  After allowing myself to get frustrated, I sat down and made a list of all the aspects of my business that are going incredibly well.  They included things like:

  • A dream management team who cares deeply about our mission and values.  Knowing they are there instilling what we hold dear every day in each of our locations is the biggest gift an business owner could receive.
  • Happy team members who love their jobs and takes pride in serving our guests and their families.
  • An overall NPS (net promoter score indicating customer satisfaction) of 76%, higher than industry greats like Nordstrom’s and Southwest.

When something isn’t going well, it’s natural to focus on it! Making a list of what is can help increase your overall joyfulness in your work.

2. Switch jobs with someone else for a little while

Living your passion is so rewarding, but it can also mean doing things you just don’t like. Maybe you love creating new cookies to sell at your bakery, but taking inventory makes want to cry. It’s okay not to love every part of your job, and it may even be possible to love it a little more by taking out the aspects that demotivate you. Have you thought about swapping jobs with someone?

Just a few weeks ago, I swapped tasks with an employee on the Little Nest leadership team. She was struggling with part of her job that I’m really good at, and I was dreading getting back to work on something I knew she would be great at. Now we’re both so much happier!

Maybe you don’t have employees or the ability to hire anyone yet. That’s okay; this can still work for you. Look around at your family and friends who you might be able to do a little trade for time with. Maybe you know just who to ask, or maybe it’ll be a pleasant surprise. You never know what treasure you’ll find until you dig a bit.

3. Give yourself time to recharge.

Entrepreneurship can be so energizing. When everyday is another day closer to meeting you goals it’s invigorating, and also exhausting. I know you have a million things to do, goals to meet, and a list of problems to solve, but eventually you’re going to have to take some time for yourself.

Trying to find your joy while exhausted is like trying to run a marathon for the first time in heels. You’re going to end up worn down and wondering why you bothered in the first place. You can write all the lists and swap every job you have, nothing is going to fix being out of steam except taking time for you.

Here’s the thing though that took me a while to figure out: you have to recharge in a way that works for you. When someone would remind me it was time to recharge, I would follow the unspoken rules: unplug, sit in a park, and bring a notebook. I would sit there, surrounded by nature and beauty, and think to myself, “why isn’t this working? What’s wrong with me?”

Then I realized that being alone is not energizing for extroverts like me, and I recharge by being around like-minded friends.  Now, when I am feeling like I need a break, I schedule time with other friends who are female entrepreneurs who are trying to balance it all like I am.  We “get” each other, and naturally know how to encourage and support one another.

I can’t tell you what recharging will look like for you, but I can tell you that it is the best gift you can give yourself.  Try different things, and take notes by journaling on what fills you up the most.

Those are the ways I help myself experience joy fifteen years into business ownership. I hope they help you.  Speaking of you, how do you find ongoing joy as an entrepreneur?  Leave a comment below and let’s continue the conversation together.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.