What To Do When You’re Sick and Tired of the Hustle
For a long time speed and extreme productivity have been touted as keys to success in business. Race to the top. Fail fast, fail often. And the nom de jour: Hustle. Oh, these days it’s all about the hustle. Hustle is lauded. Hustle is the means. And if you’re not out there doing it, you must not care enough about your business to work hard for its success.
Hustle might work great for some (I’m looking at you, Gary V), but what if the idea of hustle makes you a little sick in the mouth? What if you’ve tried this whole hustling thing, and it’s only drilling you faster into the quicksand of overwhelm and anxiety? What if you don’t want to hurry and push your way to the top? What if you don’t even care about The Top because that’s never even been your goal in the first place?
Hustling might get you what you want. Or it might not. It might get you somewhere but is it really where you meant to go? Doing more, constantly putting yourself out there, saying yes to every opportunity, cradling every Shiny Object like it’s the new holy grail… these things could get you more exposure and business. Or they could get you a whole lot of angst and stress and ramp up that festering FOMO into an ugly beast.
There is another way, an alternative to the inherent pace and doing of the Hustle. It’s going slow and being.
When I hear the word serenity, I immediately think of misty mountaintops, verdant meadows, vast bodies of mirror-like water. Serenity in business is feeling comfortable with your cash flow, working with clients/customers/colleagues that make you smile, getting into a focused flow for an hour or two with zero interruption or guilt, shutting off work by dinnertime to be with your family.
Does serenity mean you’ve got it all dialed in? No. Could things be better? Sure. But are you good with the way they are now? Do you sleep well at night? If the answers are yes, that’s serene success.
Even if you think you’re doing a crap job with your business (and believe me, every business owner thinks this at some time or another), you can still find serenity in it. By taking a few simple actions you’ll be able to calm the chaos and shift your perspective so the softer, slower, more savory aspects of your work come into focus. And by simple action steps, I really do mean simple and easy to incorporate into your day. Because the last thing any of us needs is more “stuff” to do that effectively gets us nowhere.
How to find serenity in your business while working in a world of chaos…
1. Give yourself a pat on the back.
The fact that you’ve made it this far is to be commended. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. And look, you’re still here. If you’re feeling down in the mouth about your current state of affairs or you’re feeling over-anxious about not being farther along, take a few minutes to jot down what you’ve accomplished so far. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to do a recap. Take stock now. What projects or products have you completed? What kind words did a customer share? What new skills have you acquired? How many times did you take a lunch break or quit work by sundown or went to bed before midnight? Once you start looking at all areas of your business instead of just sales or social stats, you’ll discover you’ve already accomplished quite a lot.
2. Say no to get to yes.
Okay so actually saying no to something or someone is really not that hard. What’s hard is saying no like you mean it and holding your boundaries. Saying no without dumping a heap of guilt on top of it because you’re a people-pleaser or wrapping it up in fear because they’re doing it and you’re not is hard.
Saying no without guilt and fear takes practice. It might mean taking a few minutes after you’ve given your ‘no’ to jot down what you’re feeling so you can look it in the eye and deal with those emotions. It does get easier. When you are able to say no without mental and emotional strings attached, you say yes to space, freedom, and clarity.
3. Give your business the high-five.
Writing down things you’re thankful for to generate gratitude for your life is great, but don’t leave your business out of this practice. Think of your business as an entity separate from yourself with the ability to nurture and grow and support.
If it helps, give your business a name, a persona. I mean yes, of course, your business has a name already, but for the purposes of this exercise, I’m suggesting you give it the name of a person so you can start thinking of it as a living being. At the risk of sounding woo-woo, your business has an energy all its own. While you’re the origin, at some point its energy and yours becomes symbiotic. What about your business do you like? In what ways has it brought joy into your life? What has it taught you? Write down 5 things you’re grateful for your business giving you. And then remember that it was you who made those things possible.
Whenever you feel that angst and anxiety rising up in you take three deep breaths. Count to ten forwards and back. If you can, take a whole five minutes to breathe deeply. I know, taking five minutes to breathe deeply when you’re already breathing because otherwise you’d be dead can seem a little ridiculous. Or doing so might feel like an eternity when every second of your day counts. But taking a few seconds or minutes to focus on your breathing brings you back to your physical self and the present moment. You give your brain a break from the constant stream of thoughts about what you should/could/need to be doing that provoke anxiety and stress.
One type of breathing exercise I like to do, especially when I’m feeling tired or frustrated, is a variation on Breath of Fire from Pranayama practice. While standing with legs about shoulder-width apart, inhale sharply through the nose and raise your arms above your head. Then while exhaling forcefully through the mouth, swing your arms down between your legs. You may need to bend your knees a little so that you can get a full swing. Repeat nine or so more times until you’ve done at least ten breath cycles. Fair warning: you will look a bit silly. But this absolutely works. Better than an afternoon latte, this full body, vigorous breathing exercise immediately invigorates and puts you back in the present moment.
5. Close the trap door!
It can be a good thing to follow someone you admire and respect, whether they’re a business celebrity or a peer who’s achieved great success. As role models, these folks can inspire and offer frameworks for how you want to proceed with your own business. But there is a fine line between admiration and comparison.
Since manicured snapshots on social media or slick websites will never be able to tell the whole story about someone and their life, it’s easy for our brains to try to fill in the gaps. It’s easy for it to seem like everyone else has their act together. You wind up convinced everyone else is much farther along and then you get down on yourself for not being more on top of your game. The comparison trap is a deadly pit to fall into. And a pointless one. You have no idea about the details of someone else’s story. And besides, it’s their story. Not yours. Yours is really the only one that matters.
If you’re feeling envious of someone else’s success realize A) this is a great clue to what you want for yourself and B) that feeling often stems from a belief that there’s a limited supply of fame and fortune in the world.
For A) spend a few minutes digging into why you want that thing, whether that’s more followers, more revenue, a better office location, etc. Then brainstorm a few small, doable steps you can take that will get you closer to what you want. If you’re wishing for snappy new digs, it could be something as simple as looking through office space rental ads and scheduling a few showings. When you’re intentional and specific about what you want, instead of just wanting it all and feeling very far away from having it, you’ll move out of that state of comparison and back into your own journey.
If you’re struggling with B) a mindset of limited abundance, start the shift by going through tips #1–4 which will put you in a more open frame of mind. Then take a few minutes to explore your answers to questions like: What does abundance mean to you? What does success mean? Why would there be limitations on the amount of success experienced in the world? Why do you or don’t you deserve abundance? Is abundance/success something you have to earn? What happens when you achieve success?
6. Find focus amidst the glare of Shiny Objects.
Shiny Objects — all those gleaming opportunities, tools, programs, and processes that promise to improve your business — are everywhere. They look so fun, so glittery. You want to explore them all. But pursuing them with abandon in the hopes that their advertised potential will prove true is a sure way to feel entirely unfocused and overwhelmed in your business. Of course, this is the antithesis of the serenity we’re going for. In this article, I share a simple method for sorting through your Shiny Objects so you can get off the merry-go-round and go after the ones that will be most meaningful for your business.
7. Eat lunch at your desk in front of your computer.
I’m serious. Forget trying to make a clean break for your lunch hour (or let’s face it, your lunch “minutes”). For many of us, it’s too much to ask to step away from work entirely during the middle of the day and eat without distraction. And when you can’t do it, you end up feeling like a failure or chalking it up to another act of self-care you’ll get around to eventually.
The key here is to not be doing work while you’re eating at your desk in front of your computer. Give yourself the amount of time it takes to eat your lunch time to do some mindless surfing through Pinterest or celebrity gossip rags or recipes or sports highlights. Anything NOT work-related. Having mindless fun on your phone or tablet instead of your desktop is fine, too. The point is to give your brain a break from work stuff without feeling guilty for being connected to your tech while eating lunch.
8. Take 10 to meditate.
Yes, here’s another one in the self-care category that can also feel undoable sometimes: meditation. But I’m gonna push this one because it really works. And you only need ten minutes. I mean we dinker around on our phones at some point during the workday for at least this long so finding a spare ten minutes to not do that but do meditation instead is possible. (Plus, fun phone time can happen during lunch — see tip #7.)
Dedicate these ten minutes of meditation to visioning the future of your business. Rather than making this meditation be about de-stressing (which will happen anyway), use this time to imagine how your business looks when it’s serenely successful.
Visualization puts you outside the constraints of deadlines and spreadsheets where you feel the pressure of having to constantly achieve. Your imagination is no-holds-barred, so go crazy, forget your expectations for at least these few minutes. Visualization can be a powerful catalyst for things coming to fruition. It’s also a great way to get pumped for the next steps toward meeting your goals. Bonus: by doing this meditation you’ll naturally get your five minutes of slow breathing in (tip #4).
A meditation app I highly recommend is Insight Timer (currently free at the time of this writing). It’s a phenomenal database of guided meditation, meditation music, and talks from a worldwide community of practitioners. I don’t know about you but I find it really hard to meditate without some guidance. With Insight Timer, I can find any one of thousands of guided meditations to suit any length of time I have available. There are several specifically focused on visioning your future.
9. Mentor or mastermind.
Just as there will always be folks further along in their business than you, so you are likely further along than someone else. At some point you may be asked to be someone’s mentor, and sharing your knowledge and experience is a beautiful way to find serenity in everything you’ve accomplished. If you’ve not been approached by someone and would like to become a mentor, check into your local Small Business Development Center. Many times these offices are welcoming of experienced business people who want to provide guidance for their lesser experienced clients.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, finding or creating a mastermind group of peers is another way to find peace and inspiration. Commiserating and problem-solving with others will leave you feeling less alone and pull you out of the quagmire of go-go-go. Having the support of others who understand your situation because they’ve been there, enables you to find rest and validation for where you’re at in your business journey.
Does giving up the hustle mean you lose your edge? Does serenity equal complacency? Indeed to realize success in business you must feel some degree of urgency and ambition. But ambition and peace are not mutually exclusive. You can acknowledge your progress and rest in the moment while still pursuing your dreams. You can feel zen while still feeling enthusiastic about the future.
Realize the pace of business is originates from one of two places: a desire for control and safety or in response to having focus and clarity. Finding serenity in business will surface those aspects of your business that are most nourishing, re-energizing, and restful. From this place you’ll be able to move forward with calm, clarity, and compassion. When something comes up that makes your heart sing, that fires you up all cylinders, then go for it. That’s passion. That’s purpose. That’s serene success.