When we first start out as an entrepreneur, life is so exciting! We’re pursuing our passion and have the opportunity to fulfill our through purpose and intention. Yet, many times, in the midst of happily pursuing our dreams… suddenly something goes wrong. We make a mistake, encounter opposition, or a face a challenge that makes us question whether or not we were supposed to be doing this in the first place. When this happens we can so get frustrated and become overwhelmed with discouragement.
After fifteen years in business I’m come to learn that mistakes are to be expected and always produces the greatest lessons. We can try to avoid trials and tribulations by taking best practices from those who have forged ahead of us, but it’s our own personal journey to fulfilling our hearts’ desires that often creates a unique path. For that reason, there’s almost no way to completely avoid the idea of a blunder! It’s simply going to happen. So when it does take place how do you push forward out of that place of discouragement and produce an even more positive outcome?
Here are three steps to rise above discouragement:
Step one: Self-reflect
The first step is to simply figure out we could have improved. It’s important to think about how we can learn from the situation, setting aside all of our emotions and frustrations around what happened, why it happened, and how to remove any temptation to blame others.
My favorite method of self reflection is the traditional five step daily examine, an Ignatian Spiritual prayer. St. Ignatius practiced this everyday, and it’s designed to encourage the habit of becoming aware of God’s presence in your daily life. He first calls us to first review our day with gratitude, and to be thankful of what’s already going well. Then you choose one shortcoming from the day to focus on and pray for God to show you more about yourself through it. Your method might be to take a yoga class, talk to an unbiased friend, journal or meditate.
During this period of self-reflection, it’s important to be aware of the transitory nature of emotions. Understand that they don’t always lead us to the truth of a situation. Let’s say your challenge of the day was a disappointed customer. Your emotions may whisper to you, “Well, if she’s not happy, then no one will be happy.” Those are just emotions obviously, not a fact! The one fact from the day is that you experienced an unhappy customer. Maybe there’s something you could’ve done to prevent it. Or there’s something you can do to fix it. Honest, fact-based self-reflection helps us learn how to grow from the challenges we face.
Step Two: Practice grace
The second step is to offer yourself the gift of grace. I like to think of grace as the kindest support you’d offer a dear friend in need.
Let’s say a friend came to you and said, “I have this unhappy customer and I can’t stop thinking about it.” You would probably say, “But you do such great work! Think about all of your happy customers! Besides, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Try to not beat yourself up over it.”
The practice of grace helps us form a habit of self-forgiveness. This fuels us with the power to move beyond obstacles, gently and with kindness. Grace is divine encouragement in action. Once you have identified opportunity for growth through self-reflection, and given yourself the grace to move on, you’re ready for your third and final step of showing humility.
Step Three: Show humility
Showing humility allows us to discover an even deeper sense of purpose from our work. This could be as simple as saying to an unhappy customer, “Hey, I messed up here and I really could’ve done better for you. This is how I’d like to fix it.”
If you’re managing a large team within an organization like I do, it’s humbling and healing to say, “I made this call as a leader and in retrospect, I would have approached it differently. I’d like to share what I’ve learned from it and move forward.”
Being vulnerable and “owning” your mistakes is a powerful approach that can generate respect and produce a surprising amount of freedom on your entrepreneurial path.
Sometimes your mistake might be a poor reaction to someone else’s mistake. One time, I managed a team member who constantly missed deadlines. As a result, I scrambled to make up for the work she missed. We would have tense, blame-filled conversations…and then the cycle would happen again. Over time, it started affecting other team members, only compounding my frustrations.
One day I decided to approach it differently, starting with my own shortcomings. I scheduled a meeting and said, “I have to talk to you about something really uncomfortable for me.” I watched her cringe in defensiveness…but this time I went in a different direction.
“I’ve done a huge disservice. Over the years, when you would miss a deadline, I’d scramble to make up for it. I did this because I hated the tension between us. But now, I see it affecting other people. I’ve realized I’ve set a terrible example for you and this organization. So moving forward, I have to keep you accountable for the deadlines. If that’s not possible, I respect you as a person…but I can’t continue to have you on my team.”
By first examining my heart to see where I could have done better and then forgiving myself, I was able to have an open, honest conversation about setting a different example moving forward.
Being a creative entrepreneur of a small company doesn’t mean you’ll avoid mistakes or difficult conversations, but if we pursue where we could’ve been done better with an open heart and mind, we improve on many levels, not just professionally but spiritually. We learn to forgive others as well as ourselves. We practice grace and embrace mistakes instead of beating ourselves up.
Many times we enter into entrepreneurship with dreams of growing a business, and instead it grows us. By being open to what where we could have done better, learning to forgive and let go, and owning our part, we develop a foundation of wisdom and personal growth through experience.
Over the last fifteen years I’ve learned that business ownership can provide the greatest joys and sense of purpose, and at the same time the most challenging moments of deep discouragement and overwhelm. I started this blog to share some of the stories I’ve experienced on this journey, as well as the wisdom of others, to open up a conversation of encouragement and support.
Doing what you love means that we are living out our purpose using our God-given gifts and talents for a greater good. Our love for the work we do and the mission behind it fuels our desire to get started and to keep going! You know you are doing what you love when you just can’t picture yourself doing anything else. By aligning our personal values with the work we do, we create a wonderful sense of joy and intention with every day.
Loving what you do is about living out this passion through the day to day trials of business ownership by sharpening our intuition skills. By surfing the ups and downs while being committed to our purpose regardless of the outcome, we experience immense happiness! But loving what we do in the long haul takes intention, discipline and habit. Over time I’ve learned that habit builds character and character builds intuition, giving us sustainable joy in our work.