When you work for someone else, as I did for many years before starting my own small business, there is typically some pre-defined idea of what it means to be successful. There’s one way to climb the corporate ladder. One way to get a promotion. A set number of months or years before you’re eligible for the next position. No matter the job or corporation or enterprise, there are certain markers that must be met in order to move forward.
As an entrepreneur, however, you have the luxury of thinking differently about prosperity. While there are many things about being an entrepreneur that are challenging (weathering extreme business ups and downs, spearheading projects that others doubt, figuring out how to make a sustainable revenue, to name a few), the freedom to define prosperity in your own, individualized way is really something to savor.
In this spirit, I want to share three simple ways to define, take charge of, and enjoy your own prosperity, starting today.
1. Define Prosperity Up Front
As part of your business model or plan, articulate a clear definition of what it means to you to be prosperous. Do you value making money? Having free time? The ability to travel? A flexible work schedule? I am involved in various small business communities and have seen my colleagues feel successful and fulfilled when their work allows them to spend time with friends and family, when they can work from home, and when they are making decent passive income. In my work, as someone who helps others with presentation and communication skills, prosperity is reflected in the confidence and success my clients feel after giving a speech or sharing their voice with others.
Whatever your definition, the important thing is to identify it up front so that you have clarity about what it is you are working toward. Without a clear, personalized definition of success, you risk subjecting yourself to arbitrary ideas of what it means to be prosperous—not to mention failing to recognize prosperity once you achieve it. (More on that later.)
2. Allow For Adjustments
While the step of defining prosperity upfront is imperative, there is some element of flexibility that has to accompany this. Your definition of prosperity should allow for adjustments here and there to ensure you are moving forward toward your larger visions of success and happiness at a reasonable pace.
For example, your vision of prosperity may include making the same salary you were making before you began working as an entrepreneur. While this is an excellent goal, it is likely not going to happen overnight. In the meantime, you will face challenges, a potentially significant salary decrease, budgeting restrictions, and many days where it does not feel worth it to continue. Still, you must continue. You must work hard. And you must do so even if you are not yet at the financial level you had hoped to reach. These short-term adjustments (the salary decrease or budgeting restrictions, as examples) will ensure that, in the long term, your vision of prosperity is actually feasible.
3. Honor Your Definition of Prosperity
Finally, it’s important to honor your own definition of prosperity. It’s easy to lose sight of this, particularly when you begin comparing yourself with others. If possible, avoid focusing on what everyone else is doing—I guarantee that it’s hardly relevant to your work. As a quick anecdote, on the same day I launched my business, an acquaintance launched an iPhone app that received instant recognition. I spent a lot of energy comparing and feeling envy over the success of her launch. Months later, she abandoned the project—but no matter her fate, it occurred to me that I wasted a lot of energy focusing on something that had absolutely no bearing on the success or failure of my own business. The truth is, in business, there is room at the table for everyone.
We also tend to lose sight of our own definition of prosperity as things get busy and as our businesses ramp up. It’s not uncommon to push forward without taking time to recognize our own hard work and accomplishments. What seems like a dream milestone early on is viewed as a simple fact by the time it arrives, and we’re on to the next thing, just like that. I recently heard a highly successful entrepreneur speak on this very topic: She mentioned that early on in her online business, she was delighted when one person bought one of her programs. Now, she catches herself taking for granted that hundreds of people are buying her programs daily. The more people buy, the less she celebrates.
You want to avoid this. In order to settle into your prosperity, and in order to feel great about the work you are doing, you have to be present. You have to be generous with yourself. You have to honor the definition of prosperity you’ve set forth. This is the best way to ensure a healthy relationship with your work as you move forward.
As an entrepreneur, there is a lot of value in having that driven, motivated, unstopping personality. Still, it is incredibly important to acknowledge what prosperity really means to you. This way, not only will you have achieved what you set out for yourself and for your business, but you’ll have the pleasure of savoring it, as well.