I’m about to share with you probably the biggest, most transformational thing I have learned in my four years of entrepreneurship. This is the blog post I wish I could have read when I started that would have spared me so much wasted time and frustration and catapulted me into real growth so much sooner.
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I’m glad you’re here so you can learn from my mistakes and experience the fruit and growth you’re looking for in your own entrepreneurial journey.
First, I’ll tell you the wrong mindset I had around success, and then I’ll share the mindset shift that changed everything for me.
The biggest belief that held me back in my first few years as an entrepreneur is the belief that massive success requires massive action. I believed that if I really wanted to make it, I was going to need these bursts of herculean effort and these incredible floods of creativity to invent new products and systems. I also had this picture in my mind of what it meant to work as an entrepreneur (which is basically me working in a beautifully designed office with a coffee in hand, and all the creative inspiration imaginable). Unless I had that feeling and those surroundings (which wasn’t super often), I felt I couldn’t really make progress in my business. This held me back from so much growth!
Here’s why: I essentially had the belief that I was dependent upon my circumstances to create the environment I needed for inspiration. And unless I had that idealistic feeling and atmosphere, I believed I couldn’t get to the place of inspiration and creativity I needed to write and create new and notable things. This is especially difficult for us as creatives, am I right?! I had a really hard time being able to focus on work when things didn’t feel right.
Here are some of the things I felt were necessary for a successful work time:
A cup of coffee
A beautiful office or work environment
A large chunk of time
Being super organized and on top of all my projects so I wouldn’t be distracted by anything else other than the one project I was working on (hello ADHD)
The belief that I was working on something important and novel and worthy of attention
Feeling excited and inspired about what I was working on or being “in my groove”
Living a lifestyle similar to the entrepreneurs I looked up to (based on their IG and YouTube)
As you can imagine, waiting for my circumstances and feelings to align perfectly and feel inspired to work rarely happened. I spent so much energy trying to get to that place of idealistic perfection. And it was deceiving because sometimes I would find that stride and make amazing content and be intensely productive. So it seemed to work, at least sometimes, which just made me strive for that even more.
Maybe you struggle with this same thing, or maybe your desire for perfectionism in your work looks different. But the mindset shift I’m about to share will help you kill perfectionism in your work, no matter what that looks like for you. Are you ready? Ok.
So about 2 years into my business, I realized that the most lasting and fundamental growth I had experienced came from the tiny, small habits of faithfulness that were super unimpressive. Just showing up and doing a small daily or weekly habit, regardless of how I felt. In other words, consistency.
As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits,
“It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.”
The first chapter of Atomic Habits taught me that real, lasting, sustainable change happens in tiny increments that seem insignificant in the moment. That is the power of habits!
This is the mindset that has given me the ability to keep growing my business ever so slowly (and not give up!) even amidst big life changes like having kids and doing ministry in our home. Building tiny habits is what has helped me develop systems that make it routine and almost automatic to run my business in a way that would have taken 100% of my energy a year ago! Because I built slowly, the effort required was minimal, and the ability to be consistent was maximized.
Here’s what that practically looked like:
About once a month, I would choose one new way of either providing value directly to my clients, or a system I needed in place to help me be consistent. I only added one thing at a time and didn’t add another habit until that one was easy for me to maintain, even in the midst of life being crazy. A few examples are:
Going to a coffee shop to work every Monday (this helped me dedicate time to my business that was focused and uninterrupted). This cornerstone habit was the one I built all my other habits around!)
Sending a Monday Prayer as a voice clip to my online community (this really encouraged them and was something they looked forward to each week)
Sending a weekly text reminder of our discussion questions and announcements to my online community
Getting up early so I can have time with Jesus and a few hours of work time before my baby wakes up in the morning
My next habit will be adding a monthly email designed to serve my people.
Just one thing added at a time, slowly adds up to a whole system that doesn’t break me, and doesn’t take monumental emotional energy. If I had tried to do ALL of the weekly tasks I do for my business today a year ago, it would have taken SO much energy. Instead, I added one thing at a time. Of course, I also work on other things, but my non-negotiable, must-do thing is my habit of faithfulness for the month.
This is especially important as a mompreneur because I only have a very limited time to devote to work. But I wish I had understood this principle back when I was a newlywed and just starting my business. Apart from homemaking, I was a full-time entrepreneur, but I didn’t know how to steward that time well. I wish I had known that sustainable growth would come from small habits. If you’re in a season where you are able to dedicate lots of hours to your business, that’s amazing! My encouragement to you is to make your PRIORITY building those habits and routines that you can sustain (because sometimes our life, or health or energy limits us). Any time you’re able to dedicate to your business beyond that will just speed up the process of growth. But make your priority those habits and routines that will give you the consistency you need.
The principle of small changes is actually a very biblical one. Listen to what Scott Hubbard says in an article called Do Not Despise the Day of Small Beginnings…
"Christians worship a big God with a big mission that will one day reach this whole big world. Yet for all of his bigness, our God has a remarkable love for the small. He sets his eye upon small people in small places during small moments (Psalm 33:18; Matthew 6:4). The Son of God, who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” even became small to save us (Philippians 2:6–8).
Yet some of us, for one reason or another, embrace the bigness of God and his mission without likewise embracing his love for the small. And then, finding ourselves unable to escape the small, we can begin to chafe and mutter. We are big dreamers hemmed in, behind and before, by a small job, small church, small town, small life.
We may need to hear again the word of the prophet Zechariah, spoken to a people captivated with the big: do not despise the day of small things."
The admonition of Zechariah is not to despise the small things; because in our pride, that’s exactly what we do. Our pride says that we have to do something big and impressive to accomplish something that’s worthy of praise. But the truth is, GOD is the one who does the real work of building our business. Not us. We show up and we are faithful. But it’s not about us being impressive, and that’s how it should be!
One of the things God has worked in my heart through my business is shedding the pride I had in being an entrepreneur. I wanted to live the entrepreneurial lifestyle that I saw others living because it was fun and exciting, and I wanted the lifestyle to serve my needs. But slowly God has shifted my heart more to loving and serving the clients God has brought me, and when your focus is on serving others, it’s just easier to do the simple, non-impressive things because our pride isn’t all wrapped up in it. It helps us to wait expectantly for what HE is going to do, and recognize that HE is the one who accomplishes growth and success for us, not our own effort.
Those moments of feeling super focused and productive and really “in your groove” are amazing, and they do come! But they often come as a RESULT of digging in regardless of how we feel.
For example, this morning I woke up at 6:45 am, because that’s a habit that helps me to make consistent growth. If I had been trying to get that idyllic perfect morning feeling, I would have already felt defeated because I woke up feeling under the weather. But I came downstairs and just started doing my routines. The first hour or so of working on the transcript for this episode was not my best writing work ever. But I wasn’t waiting for my writing inspiration to strike. I was just being faithful to work at it.
And that’s one of the glorious things about habits- they aren’t accomplishment-focused like goals tend to be. They are consistency-focused. They aren’t idealistic, they shortcut our perfectionism. After a few hours, I was feeling “in my groove” and so accomplished that I got up early and wrote this episode. I got that dopamine from accomplishment. But accomplishment hadn’t been my goal. Faithfulness has been my goal. It shifts the focus from something outside my control (accomplishment which may or may not happen depending on many variables) to what is in my control (showing up).
As James Clear says in Atomic Habits: “The purpose of goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.”
So to all my fellow entrepreneurs out there, don’t despise small beginnings. It’s the small habits that God uses to grow us in humble faithfulness.
I hope this post has encouraged you to shift your focus from making big accomplishments to focusing on small steps of faithfulness that remind us that God is the one whose work is impressive. I hope that freedom slowly grows your business into a place of sustainable consistency that serves God and others well. If you enjoyed this post, it's also available in podcast format here and a YouTube video here.