Do you flex or do you just cave in?

 

Too much of anything is toxic.

Sun, self-control, cats, cholesterol…anything, no matter how enjoyable, helpful, or even essential it may be in appropriate quantities, can turn and bite you on the behind if you get too much of it.

A case in point for entrepreneurs is flexibility.

When one is flexible, one is “willing or disposed to yield; pliable.” While this could apply to The right amount of flexibility aids success.your hamstrings, in the business sense it refers more to an attitude or willingness to accept feedback and adjust plans accordingly, in order to enjoy better results. And when one’s plans are flexible, they are “susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptable.”

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But what happens if you and your plans are too flexible?

Flexibility, taken to an extreme, becomes giving up, or what I usually call “caving in.” It will result in you being easily persuaded to drop one activity and move on to something else – whether or not you have a good reason to do so.

So why do otherwise smart entrepreneurs sometimes cave in? In my experience, there are three main reasons:

Lack of clear criteria

If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, nor how you’ll know when or if you do accomplish it, it’s easy to think your current activity “just isn’t working”. But the multi-part question then becomes, Is it not working at all, or is it not working yet, or is it just not working the way you want, or is it working on something else entirely because you don’t really know what the heck it’s supposed to be doing for you?

Lack of patience and/or commitment

You may be all in favor of instant gratification; after all, it’s so….gratifying. In your more rational moments, though, you’re probably willing to admit that this is not the norm in business.

Lack of patience often goes hand in hand with a lack of strong commitment to the outcome. This is often a Bad Thing, since you risk abandoning a fabulous idea before it has a chance to pay off.

You’ve probably heard the story told by Napoleon Hill in his classic book, Think And Grow Rich, about the erstwhile gold miners who stopped digging for gold just three feet from where their vein of ore had taken a zigzag along a fault line. I’m guessing you don’t want to emulate their not-so-happy ending.

Lack of commitment also exacerbates the last contributor to caving in:

Lack of courage

Growth of any sort pretty much requires dealing with the discomfort of the unfamiliar. If you lack a firm commitment to achieving your goal – if the big “why” that powers your business turns out to be not so big after all – the present discomfort of moving forward will likely overpower the future satisfaction of goal achievement.

It takes courage to willingly step into the unknown. If your reserves of courage are on the skimpy side, you’re likely to find yourself scurrying back to familiar ways of doing things, even if they haven’t produced the results you want.

 

Success requires flexibility, commitment, and courage.

 

So how do you protect yourself against the danger of cave-ins?

Take time to get clear on what you want to accomplish.

Lewis Carroll observed, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Since you’re probably not in business to just cruise around and enjoy the scenery of all those different roads, you need to know what you want to accomplish. That’s the first, crucial step to figuring out which activities are worth the investment of your time, money, and energy.

A very effective (although potentially excruciating) process for figuring this out is to repeatedly ask yourself “why” and “what” questions.

You get the idea.

This is not necessarily an easy process, but it can be enormously helpful when it’s time for you to decide what business-building activities you’re going to act on.

Define your criteria in advance.

This second tool builds on the first. When you know what you want to accomplish, what that accomplishment will look like, and why you believe a given action will get you there, you’re in a position to identify performance standards for your activities – and to be more motivated to hang tough and give your efforts a chance to pay off. In other words, you’ll have a much better sense of when you’re appropriately flexing and when you’re, instead, caving in.

For example, if your research indicates that a particular marketing strategy is not likely to yield desired results for six to twelve months, you have more incentive to keep implementing that strategy, even if you’ve gone four whole weeks without an obvious payoff.

Get the support you need to stay the course.

There are many forms this support can take. Which one(s) you try depend on your style and goals. Any of the following can keep you from caving in.

Get an accountability buddy on your team.

The best person for the job is someone who wants so much to see you succeed that she’ll be ruthlessly compassionate in holding you accountable to do the important but uncomfortable tasks that will accompany business growth.

Keep your eyes on the prize.

I think Henry Ford had it right when he said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

Whether you use a 3 X 5 index card, a vision board, or an app for your smartphone, you’ll be much more motivated to move past fear and discomfort if you keep in mind just what you want to accomplish and how fabulous you’ll feel when you do.

Invest in help.

If you’re huffing and puffing to maintain your clarity, commitment, and courage, maybe it’s time to bring in some paid help in the form of a business consultant or coach.

When you find the right person to work with, she’ll provide insights, resources, butt-kicking, and support that will make it easier for you to keep moving toward your goal by flexing without caving in.

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So how do you manage to incorporate just the right amount of flexibility into your journey to success? Have you found any particularly useful criteria to apply that help you decide when to keep forging ahead and when to say “enough is enough”?

Or are you so caught up in jumping from one activity to another that the concept of strategic decision making is just a pipe dream? If that’s the case, I have some tools that can help.

One type of entrepreneur I specialize in working with are those who are flying off in so many different directions that they’re not getting the results they want. I show them how to focus and clarify their goals, then develop and implement action plans to get them there.

While this is something I do well, I know that I’m not a fit for everyone – nor is everyone a fit for me. But I also know that, if you’re at the point where it’s time to call in some big guns to get you moving in the right directions, we can easily figure out if you and I would work well together. All it takes is a get-acquainted phone call.

By asking and answering some questions, we’ll both be able to confidently decide if our chemistry is good and if my solutions are a good match for your challenges. If it is and they are – woohoo! We’ll be on our way. Otherwise, we’ll wish each other well and part company.

I have no idea which way it might go, but I’m curious to find out. If you are, too, just call me at 319-270-1214 or email me with “I’m facing a cave-in!” in the subject line. We’ll set up our get-acquainted call and see what’s in both our best interests.

(BTW, thanks to Canon in 2D for posting the image of the yoga instructor in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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