One thing I’ve noticed over the last 16 years is that there are times when I have found myself creating misery in my work without actually realizing it. Like many business people I would start out each month with my legal pad freshly filled with notes containing ideas and goals to be accomplished within a particular time frame. I believed that if I succeeded in accomplishing my goals, I would be happy with my business and my life.
The tragedy is that we set ourselves up from misery when we treat our work like some sort of track meet. We rush along with the purpose of passing the baton at one marker or another, desperately seeking to get the baton to the finish line in as little time as possible. Instead taking a moment to enjoy our victories, we stress ourselves out in preparing for the next step in a journey. If we don’t keep running toward the goal, we feel as though we are kidding ourselves or claiming success prematurely. Tragically, success driven people often reward achieving goals with setting more goals!
Instead, for our mental health, we should take a moment to celebrate our successes. You see, self-employed people often set up a series of markers of success:
income goals are reached,
sales are ‘up’,
recognition by peers, etc.
Even when we achieve a certain amount of success we still find that we are not near our ultimate goal. Frustrated, disappointed, we see ourselves as only being further along than we had previously been, but nowhere where we think we need to be.
To overcome this we need to train our brain to be happy with small accomplishments. We need to train our brain as well our body – sprint in the race, cross the finish line, have a cool drink and take time to recover.
You see, it’s not enough to do the work; you must cultivate a rewards system in your brain that will create work flow that is truly sustainable. There is a simple secret at work here: if you want to be truly successful you need to be happy. The competitive nature of our society has taught us to sell ourselves short, to scramble for the next baton. We begin to believe that the success we’ve had is not enough, that what we have is only attained and surely there must be more; if only we rush a little faster.
When you don’t allow yourself time to celebrate or to take a day off to bask in the simple glow of knowing “I did it,” no matter how small the achievement, you train your brain that accomplishments don’t come with rewards but only with more work. Sometimes reaching a goal IS highly motivating, you feel invigorated and ready to charge onto the next platform. Hitting one goal enables you to reach another that was previously untouchable.
If hitting goals fires you up for round two, great- but seriously, give yourself a reward! Enjoy some family time, read a good book, take a one day mini-vacation. Take a moment to enjoy a bit of celebration and your brain will have the strength it needs for the next ‘sprint’.
Here’s some good news: Danial Pink, in Free Agent Nation, reports several studies of the self-employed. One study of over 500,000 people found that the highest satisfaction levels were reported by people who work for themselves. You CAN enjoy success!