How I “keep calm and carry on” in the midst of the chaotic entrepreneurial seas.
Being an entrepreneur, or career minded professional, comes with a whole host of challenges that can turn your life into a chaotic tempest very quickly.
Have you ever run into that ONE project that epitomizes Murphy’s Law; anything that can go wrong, will go wrong? Or, on the other side of things, having the sudden “good fortune” to win a huge deal that will take absolutely everything you have to pull off?
Turning all of my attention to overcoming these challenges used to leave me completely discombobulated trying to catch up with the rest of my life after the crisis was averted. It felt like I was caught on a boat in a terrible storm with waves of opportunities, requests, family milestones, and business commitments crashing over me again and again. There were so many 5-minute tasks to take care of that I lost track of the ones that were urgent and important, like my daughter’s birthday (Kristen turns 26 this week, Happy Birthday!) or an important anniversary (37 years Jim, where did the time go?). The feeling of living in chaos would drain my creativity, furrow my brow, and take the joy out of my life.
Then I found something that changed my perspective, the wheel-of-life. My life coach, Kathy Hill, introduced me to the concept years ago; but it wasn’t until recently that I adopted the practice of using the wheel-of-life to schedule my priorities. Scheduling my priorities in alignment with my personal wheel-of-life, instead of only prioritizing my work schedule, allowed me to feel confident my life could run smoothly through the chaos of running my own business.
There are many versions of the wheel-of-life, but the one I've designed has eight spokes: citizenship, people, management, growth, health, relationships, wealth and joy. It’s amazing everything I do or want to do falls into one of these eight categories.
When you use the wheel-of-life to frame your perspective, you measure the length of each spoke of the “wheel”, based on how well you feel you are doing in that area of your life compared to your “perfect 10” of happiness. Being mindful of each spoke in your wheel-of-life helps you keep on top of the important things that make life roll along smoothly.
I incorporate the wheel-of-life into a daily practice to help me stay calm and keep well-rounded. This practice starts by saying “NO”. Before, I felt that to get ahead as a wife, mother, professional, and friend I had to say “YES” to every opportunity and request. This is a guaranteed way to get a wonky wheel-of-life and become trapped in a storm of chaos. Many entrepreneurs believe that living a frantic life, and feeling stressed out and overwhelmed all the time, equals success; ask any person who has had a long and HAPPY career in business and you will find that is not the case. True success and happiness comes from a life of balance and harmony; not stress, not discombobulation, and certainly not chaos.
There is plenty of information online and in self-help books about managing your priorities, but not so much on “how-to”. I found that the wheel-of-life provides a fantastically simply framework for the “how-to” of creating and managing your priorities. I set aside a little time every day to envision the few things that are truly important in each of the eight spokes of the wheel-of-life that I can work on that day. I share these with my family and friends so they can all stay aligned and engaged in what’s going on in my life, and I in theirs (these can be some of the most authentic and enlightening conversations you have with them!). I repeat this process for my week and for my month, this helps me declutter my schedule and say “NO” to things that don’t align with my priorities. Doing this makes room in my schedule and frees me up to say “YES” to opportunities that align with my priorities and wheel-of-life, instead of wasting time and energy on things that will not help me with my goal of a happy, well-rounded life.
Much like avoiding Random Acts of Entrepreneurship, maintaining a round wheel-of-life is something that you can start doing today that will go a long way towards finding the calm in the midst of your chaotic entrepreneurial seas.
The wheel-of-life practice will not change your life immediately, but over time, you’ll be rolling smoothly through challenges, keep calm and carry on towards your dreams.
You got this!