Seems like an easy word right? It's only 7 letters long. Maybe a little tough to spell on occasion...(how many c's? how many s's, kind sounds like a K is in there somewhere...?)
Most people might use this word on a daily basis and we probably all know what it means right? Or do we?
I want to challenge the status quo on this. You often may hear:
- "we all have our own definition of success" or
- "success looks different to everyone" or
- "let's redefine success"
Hopefully we all get the true, underlying intention of these phrases, but I am a word junkie and I think words are important. We really need to be using the right word in these phrases. And that word is rooted in the actual, true definition of success.
Google definition of success:
- The accomplishment of an aim or a purpose
- The attainment of popularity or profit
- a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity
The ONE THING
You can't know if you are successful unless you have goals. That is the ONLY way you will ever be able to measure any sort of success with your business. Did you accomplish your aim or purpose?
Why is this important?
I could probably talk or write about why I feel this is important for hours, but in order to save you and I both some time, let me ask you some questions.
- Have you ever felt unsuccessful?
- Have you ever wished you had more likes, comments, hearts, followers and pins?
- Have you ever scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and then suddenly felt like crying?
- Have you ever contemplated giving up all this hard stuff you've worked on because you feel like it's just not going anywhere? Like you are stuck in the mud while everyone else is dancing at the party seemingly without a care in the world?
I don't know about you, but I've got my hand raised over here at the end of every single one of these above questions. This is important, because all of that...the disappointment, the sadness, the frustration...it's mostly avoidable based on actions YOU choose to take.
Straight Talk. I'm not here to tell you flowery words that might make you feel better for 10 minutes. YES, you are worth it and YES you are doing great and YES you are valuable and enough, but knowing that is not an action plan.
Understanding fundamental truths about your value as a human being on this planet does not help you understand what steps to next take in your business.
Stop the madness
Combating the comparison monster is probably one of the most difficult things to tackle for most small creative business owners these days. Social media is the number one reason. Its in our face all. day. long. It's true that "her success is not your failure" and "flowers next to each other aren't concerned about each other, they just bloom" (is that how that one goes?), but how do those concepts translate into specific ACTIONS you can take to help you understand or achieve your OWN success? Honestly, they don't.
Personal story...These concepts of success and comparison have been on my mind a lot lately. Our move across the country has challenged me in ways I didn't think were possible. I had a healthy, growing business in California and I knew that this move would take a sledgehammer to my hard work. But I also knew that I needed to set some measurable, realistic goals for myself because I knew that if I didn't, I would flounder. I knew in my mind that I needed to think about what I actually wanted to accomplish when I got to NJ and in what realistic time frame I wanted to accomplish it in. But, I failed. I kind of had some ideas in my head, but I never wrote anything down.
I am heavily involved in many different photography groups and have found myself following and surrounded by some amazing people who also are photographers. I am extremely blessed to have found such an encouraging group of people to learn from and grow with, but at the same time none of them have moved across country, they've been in business much longer than I have and they are in the process of achieving goals for their business that they set YEARS ago.
I know myself pretty well, but I still wasn't prepared for the effect the combination of this has had on me. I had to get honest with myself. Why am I feeling like such a failure? Why was I struggling so much with feeling like I'm accomplishing anything? I knew it was hurting me to SEE others achieving goals left and right, and in no way did I feel angry or mad that these people were and are doing amazing things, but I continued to feel like the hurdles in front of me were so big, I would never get over them, but at the same time I wasn't even sure what the hurdles WERE.
This is the result of not having goals. I run the risk of sounding cliche, but I needed some SMART goals in my life and my business. (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time Bound)
I had to step back and take some action.
I am deeply rooted in my faith and prayer is always something I aspire to do even though most of the time I fail miserably. Personable ambition and hard work is never a bad thing, but my hope is also rooted in the fact that God has my back. He works all things together for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28) and that gives me more hope and joy than anything I could ever accomplish on my own. The only way to know and believe in that is through relationship with Him and how else do you build relationships? Through talking!! That's the value in prayer.
This was hard. An unfollow without explanation or conversation is tough. Its like when you accidentally cut someone off in traffic. You know it was a mistake but the other guy just thinks you are a jerk.
A few months ago I made the conscious decision to unfollow MANY people on social media (Instagram mostly). I still have other ways of connecting with some of these folks on occasion to keep informed (every now and then) on what they are up too, but the amazing and life shaking things they are doing aren't in my face everyday.
Please don't confuse this with jealousy or ill-intent. I love these people and cheer for them and think they are rocking at so much, but I don't know them personally. I don't know their struggles. I don't have a relationship with them. There is too much information missing for me to have healthy and growth inspiring thoughts when I am surrounded by their info.
I also found myself to be heavily swayed by actions they were taking for their own business or goals they had set. I could see myself slowing morphing into wanting to do everything they do since their life seems so great. I was struggling to come up with original thoughts and my creativity was slumped. On occasion I would have some great idea that came to me while driving or in the shower only to see them launching a full product on that exact same idea the next day! Talk about deflating!
In the time I have been more separated from others on social media, I have felt some of my creativity and drive return. The combination of removing myself from tempting situations (tempting to compare myself with others) plus goal writing has freed me up to return the attention to where it actually needs to be: on my own business.
Write everything down
I'm still working on this, but it the absolute crux of understanding your own success. Seeing and measuring it in written form.
- If your goal is to book 4 new clients in the next month and you are in the process of responding to 6 inquiries per week, why would someone having 500 more followers on IG make you feel lousy?
- If your goal is work four days out of the week in order to spend more time with your family and you are currently doing that and feeling comfortable with your workload, why would someone traveling all over the country speaking at workshops and conferences make you feel like you can't ever keep up?
- If your goal is to make $35k this year and your are currently on track to do exactly that, why does someone's perfectly curated Instagram feed make you want to throw in the towel?
- If your goal is to cultivate one on one relationships with new business owners in order to help them grow and feel not as alone then why does that announcement of another 20 attendee workshop launching make you feel like a total failure? (<----I'm being vulnerable with you guys right here...)
My point is this: Writing down your goals frees you of the comparison and allows you to refocus on yourself. But you also have to make sure the goals have an end purpose. A goal of 1000 Instagram followers does nothing for you unless that translates into a bigger purpose for your business.
It is fantastic to push yourself and dream big dreams, but if you don't attach something tangible to those dreams to monitor your progress, you will either constantly feel like you are failing or you will flounder around from one thing to the next wondering why none of it is working.
My challenge for you today is to write down two goals that you want to achieve in the next month. Make those goals SMART. If you are feeling brave, leave them in the comments. ;-)
I'll give you mine as an example:
Goals for November:
Launch new service for photographers
- S: I have the specifics already planned and more info is coming soon!
- M: Having everything prepared prior to launch
- A: In-Crowd announcement, Blog Post announcement, Social Media campaign
- R: YES! I am able to achieve this!
- T: I have a deadline of Nov 18th for launch
Blog 3 times per week
- S: I will post educational, client showcase or personal blog posts 3 times a week, M, T, W.
- M: A total of 12 posts for the month of November
- A: I will pre-plan and research content, I will track ideas in Trello, I will block time on my schedule to create content for at least two hours per day M-T. I will not work on blog content on the weekends.
- R: Yes
- T: Deadline is the end of the month
I would love to know your thoughts on goals, success and comparison. Let me know in the comments and if you need any help crafting your goals please feel free to shoot me an email!