True to Who You Are: A Business Owner’s Guide to Identity
The road to business success is paved with choices: Will you play it smart, or play it safe? Will you take a shortcut to get ahead or remember slow and steady wins the race? One of the more defining choices you will make many different ways and many different times is whether you will chose to make others happy at the cost of your values, or if you’ll stay true to who you are. We can all think of examples of people who sacrificed who they were in order to get ahead and ended up paying the price later. None of us ever want to end up there, but it can be so easy to compromise in little things until we’re farther off track than we realized. From our perspective, here are five things to remember in order to stay true to who you are in business:
Your decisions flow out of your values. By remembering the things you’ve identified as values, you have an automatic litmus test for your actions and decisions. If a product doesn’t meet those standards, you can nix it without hesitation. If a potential client or partner doesn’t align with what’s most important to you, you can stop the relationship before it drags you down.
Questions to ask: What’s important to you? What are you all about? What drives you to do what you do? Is what you’re currently doing consistent with those values?
It’s likely that the only reason you got into what you’re doing is because you had a dream and a goal you wanted to accomplish. It’s amazing how in the midst of life and struggles, we can lose sight of those big-picture dreams we used to have. Keeping those goals in mind will keep you mindful of how your decisions and actions today are building your future so you don’t get distracted by the temporary glitz and glitter of things that would ultimately sidetrack you.
Questions to ask: Where are you going? What are your goals? What’s the big picture of everything you’re working toward?
The two extremes of success and failure have a way of warping the way we think. Keeping our journey in perspective keeps us from thinking too highly or lowly of ourselves. When we encounter success, remembering where we’ve come from will help us continue to value the relationships that have helped us make it so far. When we encounter failure, remember what we’ve already overcome and where we’re headed in the future keeps us from believing the failure is permanent.
Questions to ask: Where have I come from? Who has helped me get here? What have I overcome in the past?
Having honest people around us is another important way to stay grounded when the winds of failure or success try to blow us off course. Staying surrounded by people who genuinely have our best interest at heart is critical to long-term success. We need people who are willing to help us see the silver lining, and also aren’t afraid to give us a kick in the pants once in a while when we start acting inconsistently with our values and identity.
Questions to ask: Is there anyone in my life who is willing to say hard things to me? Have I developed relationships with like-minded people? How well do I maintain those relationships?
After it’s all said and done, remember this: you are not your business! Whatever success, censure, failure, or fame you encounter as a business owner does not actually define who you are as a person. When we allow our identity to get wrapped up in what we do instead of who we are, that misplaced identity will lead us astray every time.
Questions to ask: How invested am I in my business? Have I allowed my identity as a person to be defined by what I do instead of who I am?
Being an entrepreneur and business owner is tough work, but you can do it! Remembering your values and dreams, keeping it all in perspective, surrounding yourself with loyal friends, and keeping your identity in the right place are safety nets to keep you on track and true to who you are.