As entrepreneurs and small business owners we all get stuck sometimes. We get busy, we get complacent, we get frustrated and we feel like giving up. There are several traps that you can easily fall into that can suck the life out of you and your brand. I call these traps because you don’t usually see them until you’re in them. Here are a few of the big ones and some steps you can take to help get you out of them, or help you avoid falling into them in the first place.
5 traps that suck the life out of you and your brand (and how to avoid them)
1. The contentment trap
The contentment trap is deceptive. It’s also one of the easiest traps to let yourself fall into. This happens when you’ve been doing your thing for a while and you’ve experienced some measure of success. It’s easy at this point to think you’re doing everything you can for your business and you’re doing it all perfectly. You get complacent. You can also get caught in the contentment trap on a micro level. You might complete something epic for your business – an instructional video, a book, a complex project, a big event, or a huge order. You worked hard on that project and it took a long time and now it’s finally done. Time to take a break and rest on your laurels, right? Wrong. Now is the time to get out there and promote your new product, get started on the next big project, or document your processes to make it better the next time.
Things you can do to avoid the contentment trap
Keep measuring your success against your goals
Chances are you still have unachieved goals out there. Those goals should be your north star, always pointing you in the right direction. Stay focused on those goals and keep moving toward them.
Contentment breeds mediocrity and you’re not mediocre, you’re awesome! Don’t ever settle for “good enough”. Keep honing your craft, keep streamlining your processes, and make continuous innovation a priority.
Watch for blind spots
When things are going well in our lives we tend not to be as laser-focused on everything. Potential danger can sometimes lurk just out of sight. Avoid brand complacency by getting feedback from people outside of your organization, and really listen to what they have to say. You may find you have some serious work to do in an area you’ve never really thought about.
Keep taking risks
One of the awesome personality traits of successful entrepreneurs is taking risks. The problem however, is that after some success we tend to be a lot less risky. We plod along comfortably, doing the same things over and over, afraid of stepping out of our comfort zone. It’s when we step out of the safety of our comfort zone that we learn, we grow, we expand our reach, and we keep our brand updated and fresh.
2. The comparison trap
Let’s face it, we all compare ourselves to others. She runs her business better than I do, he drives a nicer car, their website is cooler than mine. The funny thing about it though is that we almost never come out on the winning end of the comparison! Why is that? Why is it that when we see greatness in others it makes us think less of ourselves? This kind of thinking is dangerous to our success. It can keep us from being true to ourselves. It can stifle our creativity. It can make us feel like we will never achieve greatness. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and focus instead on ourselves, on being the best we can possibly be.
How to thwart the comparison trap
Be OK with who you are right now
I keep telling you how awesome you are, it’s time for you to start believing it! You have to stop thinking “If I only had X, then I’d be happy” or “Once we make X amount of money we’ll be a success”. Once you start putting parameters on it, it becomes unattainable. You have to be OK with who you are right here and right now.
Don’t compare your inside with their outside
It’s interesting how we tend to see all of our own flaws but only notice the best in others. For example, you may see someone who you think of as a huge success. They drive a nice car, they have a nice home and a beautiful wife, they seem to be at the top of their game. The problem here is that what you see on the outside is never the complete picture. They could be going through tough financial times, their business may be failing, their marriage may be on the rocks. You may not want their so-called perfect life after all.
Keep the focus on yourself
When you start comparing yourself to others try to remember that there’s only one thing in this world that you have complete control over, and that’s yourself. Stop focusing on others and what they might be doing better than you, and keep the focus on yourself. What are doing with your life and your brand that’s totally awesome? What can you do today to improve yourself? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.
Find inspiration in others
Instead of harboring a resentment every time you see someone succeeding in business, be inspired! I check out businesses every day with amazing websites, awesome blogs with huge audiences, and folks just crushing it with their marketing. I could get jealous and resentful, but instead I get super inspired by this. I see what they’re doing right and try to apply some of those same principles to my own business.
3. The I’m not good enough trap
Similar to the comparison trap, the I’m not good enough trap pulls us in with constant thoughts of inferiority. No matter what we do, we don’t feel like we could ever be good enough to succeed. It gets worse when we fail. The truth is that failure is almost never an ending, it’s just a part of the learning process. Try, fail, learn, repeat. Every successful entrepreneur has failed, some have failed quite often, but they don’t give up. Failure doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, it just means you have more to learn.
[Tweet “Failure doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, it just means you have more to learn”]
Tips to help ward off the I’m not good enough trap
Just be yourself
There’s no one in this world that does what you do in the exact same way that you do it. This makes you totally unique, and totally qualified to be an amazing success. Just keep doing it your way, and just be yourself.
Keep moving forward
No matter what negative thoughts might be stirring around inside your head, just keep doing your thing. Keep moving in the direction of your goals. Keep taking the action and your mind will eventually follow.
Keep improving yourself
There’s always something you can do to improve your business and your brand, your well being, or your quality of life. I meet with a group of like-minded people on a regular basis and we discuss ways we can improve our innermost selves. Our group dynamic has helped me to grow immensely and I really cherish our time together.
Celebrate small successes
If you wait for some huge success to come your way before you feel like you can celebrate, you are in for a long and miserable ride. Celebrating small successes puts you in a successful state of mind, and it’s in that state of mind that you do better work. When you do better work you become even more successful. Success breeds success. Celebrate the small stuff.
4. The busy bee trap
This is a sneaky trap because a lot of people equate being crazy busy with success. The problem is that sometimes this super busy life is just an outward projection of what you think success is supposed to look like. In reality, you aren’t really accomplishing a whole lot. You might look busy, you even tell everyone you come in contact with how super busy you are. You are, in fact, constantly frazzled and stressed. You can have a full schedule and let it consume you with stress and craziness, or you can choose to work through it with grace and poise. The schedule doesn’t change, but the way you approach it can. You get to decide how to handle it.
How to avert the busy bee trap
Take a minute, stop what you are doing, close your eyes, and just breathe. This will help calm you and bring you back to the here and now.
Sometimes we get stressed out because we’re unorganized or unprepared. Take a few moments each day and get focused on the tasks ahead. Check your schedule and plan your week accordingly.
Schedule down time
Make sure you schedule some breaks into your day and your week. You just can’t work all the time, you have to walk away from it every now and then or it can feel consuming. Schedule some breaks throughout your day and take a walk or play with your kids. Schedule a day off and don’t work at all, don’t even check your email. Seriously, whatever issues come up can wait until tomorrow.
5. The know-it-all trap
People choose to be entrepreneurs and small business owners because they know a lot and they can do a lot themselves. The most successful ones, however, know there is a limit to what they can know and do themselves. There are a few things you can do if you find yourself stuck in the know-it-all trap.
Ways to evade the know-it-all trap
Make learning a priority
I always get a rush when I learn something new or learn more about something I thought I knew a lot about. Learning doesn’t necessarily mean being in a classroom. You can attend seminars, conferences, take an online course, or read a book. Make it a priority to learn something new about your craft on a regular basis and you and your brand will continue to thrive.
Try a different approach
Sometimes we do things a certain way because that’s just the way we do them. This is a very close-minded approach and can lead to stagnation of your brand. Be open and willing to try a different approach every now and then, the results can be astounding.
Ask for help
For some reason asking for help is perceived as a sign of weakness. We want to be able to do it all ourselves. This is known as the Superman syndrome and will definitely stifle your success. The simple truth is that we are not experts at everything. There are people out there who are far better at some things than we could ever hope to be. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or pay an expert to take on some of your workload. This frees you up to focus on your own strengths and passions.
Teach a newbie
If you consider yourself an expert in your field take some time and teach a new person what you know. It is extremely helpful to the newbie, it brings you back to when you were just starting out, and helps to keep you grounded in reality.
Which of these traps do you find yourself caught in? What can you do to get out of it? Take a quick moment and share your thoughts in the comments. Your experience is super helpful to others!