As you learn more about business, you might find your focus becoming more strategic. How do I get more sales? Maximize my time? Expand my network? Meet the goals I set?
While there are benefits to asking these questions, there are also huge benefits to coming from a non-strategic state of mind. You ask different questions, like:
- What am I drawn to? What feels exciting? Where is my energy wanting to go?
- What is needed here? What is wanted here?
- What would be fun?
One could argue that these are still strategic questions, but the difference to me is that they focus on the process, not the outcome. A second difference is that the answers will change based on the moment. They are living questions.
Process-questions keep you in touch with why you are in business in the first place. They get at the heart of why you are alive. What do you love? What do you want to create today?
For me, the answers to these questions change from week to week, month to month, and year to year. If I don’t keep asking, I could get stuck in trying to strategically optimize something I don’t really care about anymore. And that’s a waste of life energy.
You could get strategic about this. You could write on your calendar, “Every Friday, ask myself if I’m having fun”. That might be helpful, but I encourage you to internalize these questions so they become a part of how you live every day.
It’s not enough to occasionally check in with your passion. You make dozens of small decisions about how you spend your time every day. I think all these decisions should be informed by awareness of your basic aliveness.
Notice your energy and follow it. Humans change moment to moment. Our needs change, our desires change–and if you keep in touch with them, you can respond and stay in sync with your ever-changing self. You might not create a record revenue streak this way, but you will create happiness and creative fulfillment.
There is a place for pure strategic thinking. There are two places I use it: 1) when it’s really about the basic necessities of creating a sustainable income that supports me, and 2) when strategic thinking is fun. Otherwise, I go with what I enjoy and love and am interested in.
If you have a hard time letting yourself get away from outcomes, think of it this way. What is your ultimate outcome for the planet? For me, it’s a world where everyone is supported and encouraged to do exactly what they love and are interested in. I believe in that vision, and I believe that living it is the best way for me to contribute to it. So in a sense, all this process-living is a strategic way of contributing to my ultimate goal of happiness for myself and every person. Since I know that my highest contribution will also be the thing that makes me happiest, I freely support myself to do what I love as much of the time as possible.
I don’t follow most business planning advice I’ve seen. For big companies in large markets, long-term forecasts and strategic planning is very important. But for most of us small-timers, our success will be defined more in terms of personal happiness and fulfillment than on projected revenue and market share. So consider business advice and planning with an eye toward what your own goals are. There is no right way to be in business, and very few business articles are written with the idea that “What makes you happy?” is the point.
Don’t worry unduly about what is ahead. Imagine if you were handed a biography of your life when you were born, and it was all in there. Every hardship, every triumph, every relationship, every realization. Whatever it said, it would certainly dampen your enthusiasm about your brand-new life.
We need new experiences to thrive. We need to learn, and grow, and be challenged. We need to encounter the unknown. We need our life to have un-planned areas in it.
I’m happy when I know that in 5 years, my life could look completely different. That doesn’t mean my life is unstable or that I can’t commit to things, it just means that I know in my heart that I’m fundamentally open to where life takes me. I’m excited about new interests and hobbies and businesses I might come up with in the future. I know I have a creative mind, creative friends, and live in a creative city–anything could happen. I think that’s a good place to be. I like it, anyway.
Magic is always in the unexpected. If you want a magical life, you need to make room in your life for unexpected things to show up. Even in your business. Especially in your business–because your business is probably one of the biggest, most creative, challenging endeavors in your life. This is not the place to skimp on inviting magic and cultivating happiness.
Let yourself be a beginner. Over and over. Some people get overwhelmed when trying to learn new things. I think that there is an art to beginning. You have to just find some small steps to focus on. If you think of the entire potential field of your new thing, or how good others are at it, you’ll be demoralized.
I recently decided to learn sewing. I am taking it one project at a time. It makes it accessible. I am letting myself be a beginner. I’m having a blast.
If you want (or need) to make money, be strategic. Learn how to do it. Have fun with it.
If you want to be happy, get in touch with your moment-by-moment desire to have fun and create new things and learn and explore and grow.