I started The Living Business Project in late 2020 with the aim of creating a community focused on more positive entrepreneurship. I feel passionately that it’s time we move away from celebrating working to the point of burnout. It’s time to create a way of approaching entrepreneurship and self-employment that is more sustainable, and more fun, than the ‘24–7 hustle mindset’ that is often engrained in us as the only way to achieve success.
Ironically, speaking of success, this project actually came about mostly as a result of two businesses of mine failing (thank you Covid!). However, this was following a decade of stress, anxiety and working myself to the point of burn-out in the pursuit of ‘success’. What I’ve come to realise in the months that have passed since, and what I would have realised sooner, had I given myself the freedom to step back and assess my life for me alone, is that we are programmed to think of success as a particular set of situations that line up in a particular way. And these situations or parameters can be different for all of us. But when our lives, or experiences, or the situations we find ourselves in, fall outside of that, or our life doesn’t go the way we have been programmed to believe that it should, it can feel like we’re failing.
The change in our lifestyles on a global level over the past year, has definitely given me cause for reflection, and I am sure I am not alone in that! I have come to realise that the failures that I have gone through, were because I was pushing and forcing myself on a supposed route to success, that I thought I should be travelling. In actuality, this ‘road to success’ was making me nothing but unhappy.
‘Success’ is absolutely not the same for everyone. It’s a picture that should be celebrated as being individual to each person. Driving ourselves towards society’s definition of success and not our own, will ultimately lead to unhappiness — and I speak from experience here. And happiness is the absolute key to bringing your version of success into your life.
‘Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success’ — Albert Schweitzer
When we fail at something we have put our all into, like a business venture, it is undoubtedly traumatic. At the same time though, it helps to shape us. It helps us to get better at recognising when we are in situations that aren’t serving us, and it pushes us to remove ourselves from those situations. I read an article recently by journalist and entrepreneur Bill Murphy Jr, around this topic, which really resonated with me. He said ‘Though trauma itself can be negative, the experience of coping with it can lead to better personal relationships, self-confidence, gratitude and spiritual development.’ Failure and trauma definitely don’t feel good at the time, and this is due to the fact that they actually alter the way the brain functions. Trauma affects the thinking center of the brain, the emotion regulation center and the fear center. And generally in a brain that has undergone a traumatic time, the thinking center and the emotion regulation center are both underactivated, and the fear center is overactivated. And this can lead to things like chronic stress, anxiety, insomnia and difficulty controlling emotions in general!
And so while exploring this whole area, I started to look at my own feelings about failure and also look at why it’s a part of the picture for every successful entrepreneurial venture. I wanted to share what I did as a quick exercise because it gave me a lot of clarity and motivation to move forward.
Take five minutes to think about a time when you felt like you failed in your life. Write down what that felt like. Then write down what that led you to. What did you learn about yourself or your situation at the time through that experience? What positive shift in mindset, new path, opportunity or connection came out of it?
Once you have done that, shift your focus to success. Write down what authentic success will look and feel like to you. What will you be doing, how will you be feeling, who is there with you? If you’re not sure where to start with this part, consider when you felt most alive, energised and happy over the past year. When did you feel most like ‘you’? When did you feel most excited about what you were doing, or about the thought of doing something?
I found this exercise really helpful and I hope you will too. The whole ethos of The Living Business Project is about helping entrepreneurs around the world to create businesses that are more authentically theirs. A business that suits your life, your personality and your passions. A business that you can give life to in a joyful way, and that in return works to help you to live your best life. Creating and growing your business should be something that feels like living, rather than working. And if we adopt that ethos and shift our focus to the pursuit of joy and happiness, success will undoubtedly follow.
Download our workshop on Creating Your Own Living Business here, to start mapping out what success looks like to you and to help keep you on track on days when you find yourself slipping back into old habits, feeling stressed, unmotivated or confused about your journey.