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Want a better business? Find what lights you up

Oh no . . . This is my life.

Diana and her two partners had a business that served the skateboarding community. When they first began coaching with me, the wheels were starting to come off for Diana. She was on the verge of quitting. “I want out,” she said, “of all of it. Everything feels like it comes down to me. I’m pulled in too many directions.”

Partnerships are challenging even when there aren’t other relationship dynamics thrown into the mix. In their case, Diana and Mark were married with two children, and Stan, the third partner, was a longtime friend. Also, most of their employees had been coming into their skateboard shops since they were kids. “We’re like a family,” Diana would say. “And it’s wearing me out being everyone’s mother!”

As much as she loved the skateboard culture and community their business served (predominantly young men), between her business partners, employees, two young sons, and the majority of their customer base, she felt like a totally overworked mama hen. Given that Diana’s default position was to always try to make things better, employees routinely brought their issues to her attention. And seeing so much that needed fixing, she was pulled in multiple directions all the time.

“Whenever I walk into one of our three stores, I immediately see what needs to be done that isn’t,” she told me during one of our early sessions. She was frustrated that there wasn’t more progress and efficiency because unlike many frazzled business owners, she already had a healthy appreciation for systems. “I’m great at creating checklists and forms,” she said, “but no one seems to pay much attention to them. Instead, they keep asking the same questions and bringing me the same problems over and over again!” She shook her head. “I just keep thinking—oh no, this is my life.”

“As you know,” I said, “one of EMyth’s core principles has to do with taking back your life.”

Diana asked what I meant by that; take her life back from what? “The automatic routine and day-to-day focus on activities and goals that leave you feeling not just empty, but drained,” I said.

Who Are You Really, and What Do You Want?

At first, as we explored the path that had led to her feeling so burdened, Diana was concerned that maybe she was motivated by a need to be needed. She wondered if, as she’d gotten older, she’d naturally moved from being an adolescent girl drawn to the male-dominated sport to more of a maternal role with her staff and customers.

Her self-analysis sounded good on paper. But as we kept talking, she saw that wasn’t it. She remembered the instances throughout her life when she’d felt most alive, and realized that in each one she was championing and supporting others. She’d never made the connection before.

“I think I’ve discovered something!” Diana said. “Being caring and loving feels good to me. It always has. It’s not about needing to be needed. It’s that I see what’s missing and want to do things that make a difference. That’s what fulfills my heart.”

Diana looked back into her past as we talked and recaptured the passion and dedication she’d experienced as a young woman and in the years since. She’d loved the challenge of working through the civic red tape, and had been unstoppable in leading fundraising campaigns to create skate parks where young skaters could safely practice and develop their skills.

We jotted down key words as Diana talked about dedicating nearly half her life to expanding public recognition and acceptance of skateboarding, a black sheep in the sports world (now on the verge of becoming a mainstream, Olympic event). Taking care of the skateboarders gave her joy. Playing around with the words, Diana put together a statement that expressed the essence of all that:

Passionate, committed, and unstoppable, I am alive and free!

Because of that work, Diana abandoned the idea of ever quitting the business she loves. Instead, she and her partners opened a fourth location and are more dedicated than ever to the sport, the community, and the next generation of skaters. Plus, Diana’s found a way to keep herself from doing too much or getting lost in the details.

Now, whenever Diana feels herself drained, she uses her statement like a compass. It points her in the direction of her “true north,” her heart’s desire, and she’s able to either realign her actions or recognize that it’s time to stop and change direction.

Tips for Identifying and Using Your Own Compass

What lights you up? Imagine a symbol, an image, or a few words that recharge you when the day-to-day challenges of running a business start to drain you. If your intention is to take back your life, you’ve got to start with some self-reflection.

  1. Think about things you’ve done, experiences you’ve had, and find a moment in your life when you felt truly alive.
  2. When you picture that moment, what are you aware of? What feelings, thoughts, or words come to mind? Who (or what) were you then?
  3. Think of words that describe the “you” in your memory. For example: adventurous, inventive, dedicated, spontaneous, loving, free, natural, etc.
  4. See if you can identify an emotion connected to that experience. Were you exhilarated, passionate, creative?
  5. Recall a few more experiences where you felt that same spirit, and identify a common thread.
  6. Write a short statement in active, present tense that describes and directs that energy:

I thrive on challenge, adventure, and change.
Creative and connected, I make a difference.

By the way, this is not about some fantasy that you want or long for but have never experienced. You’re looking for a strong memory of a thing or event that is familiar to you. When you think about it, that way of being is probably at the heart of every enlivening experience you’ve ever had.

Create a practice, physical or mental, of checking in and using your statement as a compass to guide you from one activity to the next throughout your day. Staying connected to what lights you up will power both your business and you like nothing else can.

To get started on finding your compass, check out our quiz: "Does Your Business Leave Room for Your Life?"—you'll see how well the vision you have for your business aligns with your own goals.

Judith Lerner

Written by Judith Lerner

Judith is an EMyth Coach. She brings knowledge, refined insights, and heart-felt support to business owners ready to focus on self-awareness and acceptance of personal accountability in service of taking their business to the next level. With good humor and full attention, her empowering approach inspires curiosity, discovery, and action. Learn more about Judith or schedule a free session with her here.