By this time you may already know I love to talk about personal development. Mainly because as small business owners, we need to stay on top of our game.
If you come from a regular 9-to-5 job and then you are suddenly dropped into the world of being your own boss, the amount of freedom you get can be a backdoor for procrastination and other bad habits to creep in.
I have asked other people about this and they have told me stories about how they had to overcome these bad habits and form new ones that would sustain the way they wanted to see themselves as business owners.
So let me begin with this, it’s ok if you have a ton of bad habits and you procrastinate all the time. Most of us started there, and we had to do “the work” to improve the way we live.
To fuel you throughout this growth, you need to keep one thing in mind: You need to remember why you decided to become a small business owner in the first place. I bet it wasn’t because you wanted to stay in bed watching TV all day, it was because you wanted to create something incredible.
Always keep your “why” close to your heart, because forming new habits can be challenging at times. However, there are ways to make that quest a lot easier for you while you are still working towards your goals. All without going crazy!
In a previous article I talked about the personal development neurosis, but to quickly recap, it’s all the anxiety you may feel because you are trying to fix something you don’t like about yourself.
Remember, there is nothing to fix, you are just creating a better version of yourself. I see it as leveling up in video games. The protagonist or hero of the story levels up through its experiences and gains access to better skills to deal with the challenges ahead. It’s the same concept here.
One of the roots of the idea of fixing yourself is tied to the unreasonable expectation of performing a new skill or habit at the top level. For example, when I tried to form the meditation habit, I wanted to pull crazy meditation session. I’m talking about hour-long meditations.
As you may have already guessed, that was a quick way to feel defeated and to avoid trying to meditate for a long time.
These unreasonable expectations generate unnecessary stress that only makes things harder for you. And the last thing you need is to crank up the difficulty when you are already tackling a challenge. That’s why I propose you to create room for sloppiness.
Wait, what? Aren’t you supposed to be forming a good habit?
Well, yes. And it’s crucial for you to keep an eye on performing that new habit or skill in a proper form, but you also need to remove all the unnecessary expectations to make the road to victory a lot easier.
I’m not taking this idea out of thin air, as author Josh Kauffman says on his book The First 20 Hours, the most significant hurdle to learn a new skill are the first hours where you are sloppy and just suck at what you are trying to achieve.
I know that it sounds discouraging, but just think about when you learned to drive, in the beginning, you had problems controlling the gas pedal and, the steering wheel felt unnatural even when you knew what you were supposed to do.
After a couple of hours of just having no clue and being nervous about it, you learned how to do it. The pedals and the steering wheel felt just like an extension of your own body. And then, after a few months, driving became a natural skill that you can perform well without thinking about it.
When building new habits, the same happens all the time. The first few times you feel like it’s not for you. That’s the valley you need to cross to achieve your goals and integrate this new behavior into your life.
Take into account that there are a lot of myths surrounding the idea of forming habits. The most notorious one being the idea that you can build a new habit every 21 days. As far as I know, there is no research that backs that up, but my friend Sandi Amorim pointed me to research that showed the opposite.
According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take between 18 and 254 days to form a habit. Even if you average those numbers it lands nowhere near the 21-day mark, so do yourself a huge favor a remove that unreasonable expectation from your mind.
With those concepts out of the way, it will be easier to keep your inner perfectionist at bay and make the road to that level up a lot faster.
To make things even easier you can use the concept of target acceptable performance, yeah, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it can help you create momentum whenever you are dealing with new habits or skills.
It’s a tried and true idea on the productivity side of things that if you break something into smaller steps, you will be able to create momentum and in turn finish faster. The same idea applies here.
For example, let’s say you are trying to develop a mindful practice to be able to manage the challenges that you face in your business without so much stress.
As I said before, if you try to go straight for top-level performance, let’s say being able to meditate for 30-minutes every day you will burn out yourself quickly. But what if that’s your long-term goal, and we break it into smaller steps?
Instead of going all out, what if for the first week you are developing the habit, you focus on a 1-minute long session. You may be dismissing the idea right away because that’s too easy and it’s just a cop-out. But in reality, it’s more sustainable to start with 7 minutes of total meditation time in a week than 3.5 hours!
Besides the goal at the beginning of forming a habit is to focus on smaller sessions with good performance. Essentially quality over quantity.
Once you hit that first target performance level, you can then level it up a bit, and you can continue doing this until you achieve your long-term goal. In our example it may be 3-minute sessions for the next week, then 5, then 10 and so on.
It may be a long road, but it’s one that avoids a lot of the stress usually involved when trying to brute force your way into better habits. Besides, forming new habits is not the only thing you have to do during the day, and you only have 24-hours, so it’s better to use that time wisely.
These concepts have helped me to develop better habits that help me keep growing my business avoiding most of the pitfalls related to working more. In fact, I have learned that applying these concepts alongside my sustainable growth mindset for my business is increasing my revenue without driving me crazy.
So, devote time to yourself to improve and level up your habits. It’s an investment that will pay for itself many times over. You can do it!