On today’s podcast episode, we are going a little off course. I’ve been speaking with small business owners lately, and many of them feel lonely and unsure about their success. It feels like they should be further along by now, or maybe they feel like quitting. This has been a year where I’ve worked less than ever before, and I’m wondering where the ambitious and driven woman has gone. What do I actually want?
Starting a Business is Both Challenging and Healing
Throughout this transitional year, I’ve questioned whether or not I should keep my business open. But I’ve realized that I am still hungry and want success. I just have no appetite for the things I used to do. So, instead of the original plan, I wanted to use today’s episode to share some vulnerability and honesty, hoping it lands and resonates with at least one person.
For the last 30 years, I’ve had my foot on the gas. I haven’t really had a break since I was 15 years old. Many high achievers have a work ethic that feels normal and natural. I had time off when each of my kids was born, but I proactively did the work ahead of time to prepare for that leave. I’ve worked through chronic health issues, family troubles, and more like so many of you listening.
When I started this business, that didn’t stop. Even though I started the business to help heal from burnout and do things differently. I wanted to be able to schedule free time more easily. Starting the business did help me heal, and I could slow down at times. But starting a business takes effort. With my corporate job, I was surrounded by a big, incredibly high-performing team. But when you start a business, you often work with a set of contractors who aren’t fully dedicated to you. You are the one who has to be very present in how things are happening.
Defining Ambition and Success is Individual
If you are nodding along with this and feeling the same way, you are absolutely not alone. It’s important to know that other business owners face the same challenges and are experiencing many of the same feelings as you. This isn’t new, either. In 2012, I started a blog right after we were bankrupt and had a failed business to help people feel less alone. Social media was portraying these perfectly curated feeds, and it was increasing the feelings of loneliness for those who were struggling.
I’m not immune to feeling lonely in business and feeling like my success isn’t good enough. Interestingly, some of my clients who never go online have greater self-confidence and less comparison with others. Our conversations are less about debunking what they see online and more about doing the actual work. Neither is good or bad; it’s just the way it is.
While stepping back from commitments this year and working less, I’ve sat with the discomfort of still having that driving force but no longer being willing to do things the way they’ve always been done. I have wondered if I’m quiet quitting my own business and questioning my ambition. So I turned to the actual words I was using to help find clarity.
Ambition is defined as a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. It doesn’t define ambition by a dollar amount or any specific number or target. Your value as a human being is not attached to a number or dollar amount either. You can define and measure success by your own standards.
Advice When Planning for the New Year
When you begin planning for next year, your brain will likely default to growth and make it your best year yet. The excitement is great; we should all be excited and positive when looking towards the future. But it’s important to remember that you get to define success. Don’t worry about what you see online, and get sucked into what other people deem as ambitious and impactful.
Some examples of possible successful outcomes include wanting to work less in the new year, preserving cash to have a transitional year (like I did this year), or just stabilizing your business after a growth year. Paying the bills is the number one measure of success in any business, so you can simply focus on putting food on the table and providing for your family. If you want to reach further than that baseline, go for it.
Thanks for following along with us. Wishing you a fantastic new year!