A few years ago, I read an op/ed in The New York Times called “The ‘Busy’ Trap” that stuck to my ribs. This article is based on the notion that everyone is busy and forces themselves to stay busy for two reasons. The first is based on superiority, feelings of importance and being needed as indicated by an overflowing email inbox and workload. It’s a feeling that is preferred over the latter reason: if you aren’t busy, you aren’t working hard enough. The writer notes that for many Americans, life has become carefully scheduled (largely out of fear, anxiety, or ambition) because busyness is an addiction. Without it, what happens next?
As I read the article, I found myself trying to figure out where entrepreneurs fit into the equation. I do believe that for those with an entrepreneurial mindset, the need to be busy is rooted in passion for the work. When you run a small business, everything is heaped onto your shoulders. It’s a different kind of busy, where you’re responsible for so much you imagined and so much that you didn’t that each day can feel a bit like an endless to-do list. The more gets crossed off of it, the more you add back on — and that’s just your professional list, not your personal one! This is why it’s so necessary for entrepreneurs to set aside time to rest and recharge. For me, this means practicing gratitude. Here’s how I do it and how it gives me the perspective I need to stay grounded without allowing myself to get lost in the busy shuffle.
Every morning when I wake up, I reflect on everything that I’m grateful for. I do this before I get out of bed. It only takes a couple of minutes, but this kind of inner reflection helps me set the tone for my day.
How you practice gratitude will differ for every entrepreneur, but the key to embracing an attitude of gratitude is making it a daily habit to be thankful. Where you are, how long you dwell on the thoughts, and what makes you thankful are details you can tweak to make your own. All that matters is making it a regular part of your day — and one that you genuinely enjoy taking a break to do.
I read that when it comes to gratitude, don’t just think of the things that are so obvious. Instead, try to think of mundane things that you’re grateful for. For example, I’m thankful I live in a safe environment. It may not be as obvious as being thankful for my parents or children, but I don’t take any of it for granted.
As I mentioned before, gratitude differs for everyone but it’s important to consider the smaller details just as much as you would the bigger picture. Look beyond what’s obvious. Maybe you have a small Bonsai tree you keep in your office that makes you feel happy to look at or perhaps it’s a card you received in the mail from a friend you hadn’t heard from in a while. Take stock in the little things that happen throughout your day that makes you thankful. Who knows — your own actions might be part of someone else’s daily attitude of gratitude!
“This is very nice and all Deborah, but how can being thankful inspire you to stay motivated day in and day out?” I had a feeling this question was coming, especially since not all days for entrepreneurs are created equal. Business is full of ups and downs when you’re first starting out. And on those days when the chips are down and feel like they might stay down forever, it’s very hard to be thankful when you feel like this might be the end.
Practicing gratitude each day helps quietly adjust your mindset, bit by bit. You become less inclined to sweat the small stuff which changes the way you approach working. You also become content with knowing that you did the best you could where you’re at and with what you have. You begin looking forward to tomorrow, excited by everything you can learn and do and become, which is ultimately the biggest motivator of all. If you dedicate yourself to doing the best you can and treat your work as a place of creativity and fulfillment, you will walk away feeling productive, positive, accomplished, and grateful.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.