I ran into a major struggle in my business a few years ago. It didn’t have to do with the money or economic struggles that were forcing me out of business. The core of the problem was inside me.
It went like this:
- I believed that my client deserved my best and nothing less. I had no boss pulling me away from the work that mattered, so I had no excuse not to bring my best work to them.
- My real business didn’t reflect my beliefs. I was exchanging my time for money by teaching endless skype lessons, and had to work more. That resulted in fatigue, loss of focus and motivation. I was not bringing my best work to my client.
I exhausted google looking for solutions to this moral dilemma. How do you remain true to yourself and run a service-based business where supposedly “a client is always right”?
How do you keep your motivation up so you continue producing your best work, not just the average scraps that force clients into bargaining?
I could have either continued “limping” by numbing my conscience and telling myself the sweet lie that “everyone is doing so,” or change something.
The first one would be the easiest, the second one would require courage, discomfort and time.
The solution didn’t come from the how-to tips. As much as I wanted to find a new set of useful tools and tactics, the change had to come from the inside. Also for the record, it didn’t happen overnight.
All this explains my firm belief in writing your business manifesto (here’s mine). Money will never give you the satisfaction of a job well done until the way you earn your income resonates with your core values.
The moral dilemma of doing the things you don’t believe in, day in day out, despite being your own boss, leads to moral injuries, burnout and apathy.
So in this post I’m walking you through a series of short exercises to help you find the core of your business, write it down in a succinct manifesto and begin the journey of aligning what you do with who you are.
It will be painful, and you can always default to the easy way. But the easy way isn’t fulfilling in the long run, so if you’re in it for the long haul, buckle up.
#1: What are your eulogy virtues?
In his TED talk, David Brooks points out the difference between our eulogy virtues and our resume virtues. Now look at your business and take note of how much time you have spent recently writing your manifesto vs. solving some technical issues or recording our achievements.
We tend to assess our business by the number of products and services we provide and we get pre-occupied with the how-tos, but our business value isn’t just its revenue. Do we only want to be remembered for our income reports?
Do we want to be remembered by our #incomereports? Focus on values and align them with practices.Click To Tweet
Think of 5 virtues that you would like to be remembered by. Take off your business hat. Think deeper.
This exercise was inspired by Holstee Integrity Guide.
#2: What current industry patterns evoke your righteous indignation?
This is one of the examples where ranting is helpful. How else can you change the world if your world is already “perfect?” Most businesses began because of some dissatisfaction and the burning desire to do something about it, not just complain.
My big rants that led to smart online teaching message were:
- Why are people giving a lopsided view of online teaching? Why is nobody talking about burnout from being “booked out?”
- Why aren’t people emphasizing creativity in business? Why are folks so obsessed with just “making it?”
- Why aren’t people trying to find solutions to help overbooked coaches and online teachers work less and make more? Wouldn’t people want to reduce their load and still make the same or even more?
Think of 3 things in your industry that drive you nuts. Write them down and think how your programs/services/products address these things:
Discover your business values through journaling. Get our free digital Opted Out journal when you purchase the book.
#3: How can people start the journey towards living out their eulogy virtues today?
When I discovered that I would love to help overbooked online coaches and teachers rekindle their passion for teaching, cut down their hours and keep (or increase the pay), and practice their creativity, I began developing the what is now known smart online teaching.
But the change didn’t come overnight. There wasn’t a revolution or a major overhaul. It all began with small and consistent changes: enroll into a training program; work with a coach; work through an online course; say “no” to a couple of clients; say “no” to working certain hours, etc.
Elfin Waters is one of my clients who’s shared on this blog about taking small and smart steps towards her goal. Her story will inspire you — read it here.
Take small steps towards aligning your #business values with your practices. Learn how.Click To Tweet
#4: But what about everyone else?
Have you ever told yourself, “I hate doing this in my business but so-and-so is doing it, and it seems to be working for him, so I need to just do it.”
One of the typical examples is the use of pop-up forms on your site. “But they convert!” “But your list will grow!” “But you’ll capture so many people!”
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection Brené Brown writes about letting go of comparison and embracing creativity. We can’t see what will work in our business when we’re constantly comparing and imitating. Hence our solutions are bland and useless.
We should instead focus on fostering our creativity, which will help us see what nobody else sees.
Think of 3 business practices that you feel icky about that seem to work for “successful” people and tempt you to try them out. Decide today that you’re not going to do that.
Your action steps
- Read through this blog post again, download Align your vision with your practices workbook and complete the exercises. You’ll be amazed at the results.
- In the comments below, share how you solve your moral dilemmas of “letting go of what you’re supposed to be and embracing who you are?”
- If you found this guide helpful, please share it on your favorite social media, in groups/forums or via email. It takes less than a minute but can change someone’s life. Thank you <3
The post was updated in October 2022.