One of the truly great books I’ve read in my life is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. If I could make every small business owner in the world read one book, it would be this one. For many years, I re-read this book every year. Now, after thirty years, I re-read it every other year.
This is not a review of the book. I only mention it as a taking-off place.
One of the important lessons of the book (Okay: The most important lesson of the book) is that a business owner needs to take time to stop working IN the business and instead work ON the business. The most successful businesses have a well-documented business model and written goals. That doesn’t happen by accident.
As we close in on the end of another year, I encourage you to apply this same philosophy to your personal life. After all, a successful, happy life doesn’t happen by accident either. Sometimes, you have to stop working IN your life and take the time to work ON your life.
What does that mean?
One of my rules for life is, “Slow Down, Get More Done.” One manifestation of this is to stop the busy-ness of life and take time to do some planning. But it goes beyond that. You should also take time for introspection and self-examination.
In other words, truly assess your life. Once you take this seriously. I’m not talking about a light-hearted fifteen minute break to meditate.
It can be an emotionally draing exercise to examine your life. Are you where you wanted to be at this age/stage? Do you like the life you live? Are your friends the friends you would choose if you could start over? Do you love your job? Your house? Yourself?
Most of us are very happy with most pieces of our lives – or we would be doing something to change. At the same time, most of us have some important things they want to change or improve. But few of us have a plan to make that change.
In other words, we want to change; we know we want to change; we even know how we want to change. But we don’t take action to make that change a reality. And, for the most part, we don’t have a good reason to not make the change. We just don’t do it.
So, how do you begin working ON your life rather than just living IN it? I think a little old-fashioned goal-setting goes a long ways. But even before you get to goal-setting, you need to make a simple commitment: I want to change. Or, perhaps, I wan to improve.
Write that down.
Next, I highly recommend that you consider a two-step process to begin your change. First, set aside some quiet time each morning to just sit and think about your life. I meditate or pray. You might do that or call it something else. The important part is to unplug. No headphones. No radio. No external stimulous. Just you and your thoughts.
If you set the simple agenda of sitting in a chair quietly for 10-15 minutes per day, it will improve your life within thirty days. I promise. You’ll find that your brain will start working on your “life” in the background while you do other things all day long. You’ll begin to start havng ideas about how to make things better. And, with luck, you’ll start implementing them.
The second action you can take is to engage other people to help you. Oddly enough, this might be easier during quaratine than in normal times. Simply ask a friend to set up a regular Zoom meeting.
I have several regularly-scheduled meetings with people who help me work on my business or personal lives. Amidst the pandemic, these have all become Zoom meetings. Some are one-on-one; others are group meetings.
One final note about self-work. I have discovered, after many years of doing this, that it helps a great deal to be self-critical without being self-judging. In other words, you should be abel to see where you need improvement, but not beat yourself up about it. Self-awareness makes improvement possible. Lack judgment makes it easier to accept the criticism – even when it comes from within.
You may have other ways of working ON your personal life. If so, I would love to hear them. Drop a note in the comments.
As humans, there’s no limit to how much we can improve. We just have to make it a priority and get started.