This week marks one year since I left my "big corporate job." I put that in quotes because I tend to talk about it like an ex-boyfriend or Voldemort. Don't get me wrong - I learned so much from my time working for a large, multinational corporation and met so many great people. But I also learned that it just wasn't for me. As I think back on my reasons for leaving and the ups and downs of starting my own business, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the thing I credit my success to: Gratitude.
For some people, gratitude might be a very personal thing, not necessarily intrinsically tied to success as a small business owner. For me, these things have always been intimately linked. I am a helper by nature: a people-pleaser who strives to do whatever I can to make other's lives easier. People like that can get swallowed whole in what I like to call a "what's next culture." Surrounded by other employees who were always trying to claw their way to the top, to the next promotion, to the bigger office, I got swept up. Taking on projects to help someone else, killing myself in positions I didn't like so that I could finally get that promotion and repeat the cycle.... it was exhausting. It wasn't until I stopped, took a step back and really asked myself what I was working towards that I got it: If you can't appreciate the things you are working for, why are you doing them?
I first tapped into my gratitude for professional reasons. After I quit my job in hopes of finding more fulfillment in my work, I was forced to face the reality of what that would mean: Gratitude. I needed to learn to be grateful for the things I had instead of always looking for "what's next." Recognizing that was like opening the flood gates and I discovered I was grateful for so many things. My fiance who encourages me to grow and challenge myself daily, my dog who thinks I'm a superhero, the comfort and peacefulness of our home, my core group of family and friends.... What started as a professional quest turned into a personal victory.
These last few months, living through COVID-19, have been beyond difficult for so many small business owners. Nobody ever started their own business because they thought it would be a piece of cake. And these unprecedented times can test the patience and gratitude of any sane person. And that is precisely why gratitude is so important right now.
Sale numbers not where you assumed they would be this quarter? Store traffic down? Unable to fill POs? Unable to keep support staff on? These are very real problems that can quickly feel overwhelming. My advice here is not to ignore these issues, but to not let them define you either.
Maybe success doesn't have to mean growing your business 25% this year. Think about what happy success looks like to you, what drove you to start this endeavor. Maybe it's having more time with your kids, getting all your work done so that you can enjoy a walk on the beach. Maybe it's saving up for a future vacation. Maybe it's taking the time to get more involved in your community and connecting with other businesses. Take a moment every day and appreciate the progress you are making and the people you are helping.
In the end, personal gratitude and professional success are connected, probably even more so for small business owners. And perhaps in order to not lose faith in the latter, we all need to spend a bit more time focusing on the former.