Over more than three decades as a wealth advisor, business owner and coach, I’ve talked a lot about the value of saying “no.” That’s because the ability to say no to time wasters and activities that distract from your core purpose, or things that are not aligned with your values, helps to open doors to the things that do advance your goals.
“No” is a powerful word. However, it’s one that many business owners fear. What if you say no to the wrong things? After all, opportunity only knocks once, right?
Not necessarily. In many ways, opportunity never stops knocking. (Just do a quick check your voicemail or email inbox if you don’t believe me.) However, there’s a big difference between chasing random opportunities and capturing the right opportunities for you or your business. That’s a concept that billionaire CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway
“Almost” is the key word here. Closing the door to all opportunities produces essentially the same result as aimlessly chasing every opportunity that comes your way. You can’t move forward because have no clear path to follow. So how do you create a path to the future you desire?
Find your purpose
Recently, as I was sorting through some old folders, I came across a handwritten note from 25 years ago. At the top of the page, I had written the following formula:
· Mission + Vision = Purpose
· Purpose + Confidence ignites a burning desire, which leads to focus.
· Focus eliminates random decision making.
Random decision making occurs when you don’t know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re headed, any path can take you there—or nowhere at all. When that happens you really don’t get anything accomplished because you never gain any traction. So eliminating random decision making is critical. Gaining focus is what allows you to move forward and avoid unproductive distractions.
You also need that burning desire. If you’re just floating through life or have given up on your dreams after experiencing setbacks, you either need to get your mojo back or find something else that excites you. Maybe you’ve made business or personal decisions in the past that resulted in missed opportunities, investment losses or taking on significant debt. While we’re quick to label our setbacks as personal failures, past decisions can only define our future if we allow them to. Many decisions that result in setbacks are simply misguided. Misguided decision-making happens when we make important life, business or financial choices with limited information, on a purely emotional basis, or without taking the time to consider if our choices are truly aligned with our goals. That’s why it’s important to periodically stop and reevaluate your goals and priorities.
Envision your future
Start by envisioning every single day in the future being better than any day in your past. No matter how great yesterday was, we always want to believe that tomorrow is going to be better. What do you see yourself doing? How is your day unfolding? How are you spending your time and who are you spending it with? How does that make you feel—physically, mentally and emotionally?
Having a strong mission and vision is key to making each tomorrow better than your best yesterday. Whether it’s your personal or business mission statement, I firmly believe that if your “why” doesn’t make you cry, you need a new why.
Embrace your why
Whether you’re making choices about your family, money, career or business, your goals are your “why.” To hit the long-term goals you set for yourself, they need to be clearly defined and paint a detailed picture of your future. Begin by thinking about the milestones that are meaningful to you and where you see yourself or your business in 1, 5, 10 and 20 years from now. Write that information down so you have something to track your progress against.
In business and in life, nothing will render your goals obsolete faster than complacency. That means you need to plan proactively with a clear understanding of the changes that are necessary to reach your next level. As business owner, that may mean getting ahead of industry trends or adopting new technologies or ways of delivering value to your clients. As an individual, it means analyzing how today’s spending and savings decisions may impact tomorrow’s goals. Do you spend this year’s bonus or tax refund on a well-deserved family vacation? Or save all or a part of it for a child’s college education or your own retirement? Your goals will provide the answers you seek.
Finally, saying no can also means saying yes to more, specifically, more of the things that make you healthy, happy and productive on a daily basis. These are also part of your “why.” That’s because you can’t be valuable to the people that count on you without first taking care of yourself. Exercise regularly, eat healthy, and you’ll make strides in being a more effective leader, colleague, parent, spouse, etc.
Remember, life is too short to not live yours to its fullest potential. That burning desire that lives within each of us is the essence of life. So if you don’t have a mission and vision statement, I encourage you to put one in place for the new year. It can change the trajectory of your business and your life. While the formula outlined above worked well for me, anything that gets you closer to discovering and embracing your “why” will work.
To learn more about planning for business success, download our complimentary guide, From Tax Efficiency to Retirement: Financial Planning for Small Business Owners.