On a cold Thursday morning a few weeks ago, I was sitting in my car, sobbing.
I had just gotten out of my first barre fitness class (like a mashup of Pilates, yoga, ballet, and aerobics). On the way out, the 25-year-old instructor (a svelte dancer who had just gotten engaged) tried to cheer me up by telling me not to be “discouraged.”
It took all my self control not to roll my eyes at her.
Of course I was discouraged.
My 40-year-old body had betrayed me. I couldn’t keep up; I felt weak and stiff and totally out of place. The things I was capable of doing just a few short years ago now seemed impossible. I felt like an old, lame mom.
I spent a few days in a funk about this. Then I went to a second class at the studio with the simple goal of not crying this time. I didn’t cry — but I did pull a muscle in my neck.
This whole exercise thing wasn’t making me feel better. It was making me feel much, much worse. I knew I could “push through” and if I really committed to this thing, there’s no doubt I would get stronger.
But at what cost? Self-hatred? Injury? Not to mention hundreds of dollars in class fees.
So I took a break. I talked about it with friends. And through those conversations, I pieced together a set of standards that could help me decide what kind of fitness path I wanted.
Incremental — Instead of going from couch to barre class, what’s a gentler interim step (or series of steps) I could take?
Enjoyable — What do I actually like doing? Because if I don’t enjoy it, I’ll find every excuse in the world to skip it.
Respectful — What activities are respectful of my body, where it is now? Instead of punishing it into submission, how can I nurture it?
Enough — What am I actually trying to accomplish with exercise, and what’s the most approachable way for me to achieve those goals?
For me, the thing that fits all of these requirements is walking. So that’s what I’ve started doing 5 mornings a week — walking around my neighborhood at a brisk pace for 45 minutes, listening to a podcast, enjoying being outside, getting my heart rate up, and stretching afterwards.
This probably won’t feel like “enough” forever, but it’s just perfect for now. And it feels GREAT.
The reason I’m sharing this story is not because I think you’re particularly interested in my fitness journey. But because it relates SO MUCH to running and marketing a business.
In both fitness and business, it can feel like anything less than EXTREME is a cop-out.
If you’re not dead-lifting truck tires at 5:00 in the morning (that’s what they do at CrossFit, right?) or 10X-ing your revenue/followers every 30 days, you might as well quit everything and go live in a van down by the river, because you, sir/madam, are a sad, slobbering loser.
But think about it…
If you look at the entrepreneurs you respect, the ones with staying power, haven’t they built their businesses incrementally, over time, by putting one foot in front of the other?
If you look at the people in your life who’ve had long, healthy lives, didn’t they stay active in moderate, consistent ways?
So now, my challenge to you and to myself is:
How can we take the 4 standards above and apply them to our businesses?
Incremental — What’s the next small improvement you could make to your messaging, marketing, or processes that would make your business run better?
Enjoyable — Which parts of delivering your service (or which marketing tactics) do you enjoy the most? Can you commit more strongly to those, and simply stop doing the un-enjoyable ones?
Respectful — Instead of berating yourself and your business for not measuring up to some arbitrary ideal, what actions can you take that appreciate where you are now and all that you’ve accomplished already? How can you nurture yourself and your business?
Enough — Get clear about what you’re actually trying to accomplish with your business. Then, revise any extreme goals (like getting 10 new clients this month, or quadrupling your revenue in one year) so they’re more in line with what is enough. (It doesn’t mean this will be enough forever; just what’s enough right now.)
The thing is, in both fitness and business, there’s a push and pull between being ambitious and being overwhelmed. Especially when you work for yourself, your business goals, self-worth, confidence, etc. all get tied up together.
But as solo entrepreneurs, we have to be kind to ourselves. We have to remind each other that we are each only one person and only have so many hours in the day.
And killing ourselves trying to get our business to grow, grow, grow is not only counterproductive — it’s also totally not the point of working for ourselves.