This article appears in Huffpost.
Let’s be honest. Change is hard.
Transformation can make the best of us feel uneasy. A good majority of entrepreneurs have a hard time initiating or following through with their desire to change – myself included. However, I made up my mind a long time ago to embrace change.
It’s a simple fact that change is essential to success. Yet it requires a consistent commitment to hard things. The hardest among them is closing the gap: moving from your current state to a desired reality. Closing this gap often requires an unconventional, intentional and fresh approach.
Real and lasting change is possible. As you step into the new year, consider these 5 approaches to transform your life and business.
1. Old ways aren’t guaranteed to open new doors
Tomasz Tungz, venture capitalist at Redpoint, mentioned in a recent blog post that, “There’s a crisis in the scientific academic world. It’s called the Replication Crisis. Scientists have found that they cannot replicate the results published by many scientific studies. The same thing is happening in the world of business.”
Simply put, yesterday’s ways aren’t guaranteed to produce tomorrows results. You can counter this in a few ways: a) cultivate a mind that is open to change, b) make incremental decisions, c) measure results and d) optimize and pivot when necessary.
“To start the year with a fresh mind, that the world is different, meaningfully different than it was last year, […] means jettisoning the assumptions of the past – until the assumption can be reproduced consistently.”
2. Unleash the power of small wins and slow gains
We all love to win big. Yet, there is tremendous power in small wins and slow gains. “It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis. Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.” Perhaps, instead we should focus on marginal gains.
In startup culture, we espouse the ideology of moving fast, but to a fault, overlook the power of winning slow. Successful entrepreneurs win at the long game. The key to longevity is to commit to the long game, through highs and lows, even as you adapt in the short-term through test-and-learn tactics.
3. Clear the clutter
Clutter takes a toll on your mental health, and subsequently your performance. You don’t have to wait until Spring to organize your life and business – start today.
What you build externally is a result of what’s going on internally. Disorder on the outside reflects disorder on the inside. Declutter your home, your office, your car, your inbox—and your mind. The result is a happier, stress-free and more efficient life, which undoubtedly can create an uptick in creativity and your bottom line.
4. Become the architect of your life and business
There’s a time to plan and a time to build. If you overlook either phase, you can easily find yourself stuck in a rut. At Fortune’s 2017 Most Powerful Women Summit, American singer-songwriter Jewel Kilcher suggested, “You can be the architect of your life, not the victim of it.” In essence—lifestyle design can take you from victim to victor.
Consider that design is simply a plan. Behind every building is an architect that first draws up a plan. Construction is then tasked with following the directions of the plan while the architect closely supervises. In a similar way, you can design your life and your business.
Draw up a plan, collaborate and build with other “builders” and supervise the work. Consider that architecture is art and science. A building should be pleasant to look at, pleasant to work in and strong enough to stand the test of time. The same could be said for your life and business.
5. Say ‘no’ more often
It’s quite trendy these days to say “yes to everything.” It sells books, but is it practical? Not necessarily. In fact, most successful people understand the importance of saying ‘no’.
Saying ‘yes’ to everything doesn’t make you impressive, it makes you busy. “No one will be impressed: being too busy simply proves you are not good enough at saying no.”
When you say ‘yes’ to everything, you become highly ineffective. What good is it to be a mile wide and an inch deep?
I’ve learned how empowering a ‘no’ can be. Harvard Business Review contributor Ed Batista suggests that learning to say ‘no’ is part of success: “As we succeed, a key challenge becomes prioritizing the many opportunities that present themselves.” A key element of prioritization involves saying no. Subsequently, the right no’s will make room for the most important yes.
Transformation is powerful
Transformation is powerful. Often, it is applied loosely—too loosely—to any form of change, however minor or routine. These approaches provide a framework designed to positively impact your success.
Close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Change is hard and messy, but it is worth it. The right approach and corresponding action can produce extraordinary and sustainable results.
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