Balance: Wiring Your Brain to Succeed

This month’s Entrepreneur magazine has an article about willpower that caused me to think about how that personal quality and its twin sister: “perseverance”, are required during the start-up phase of a business.

Willpower is the ability to set a goal and to say “no”, even when it would be easier and sometimes more reasonable to take a detour and not stay the course. It also sometimes requires delaying gratification. We each have our own nemesis: to hit the snooze or get up and work-out, to have one more glass of wine with your friends in the quiet hotel lounge or go upstairs and spend that thirty minutes preparing for the next day; to turn on HBO or think through the approach to removing a barrier that’s impeding progress.

Perseverance is staying the course. It’s staying late until the work is done; it’s taking a deep breath every morning and getting after it again; it’s making sure that at the end of each day you’ve done the best you can do.

Neither means giving up the quality of your life or sacrificing what’s important in your personal life for your professional life. Willpower and perseverance are most effective when you’re not just focused on the long term goal but have broken that goal into short term milestones or tasks so you can make and measure your progress.

When you’re with your family or on your own time, of course the phone will ring and the EMAIL will arrive. Wire your brain to treat it as an interrupt. If you answer the phone or read the EMAIL teach yourself to do what can be done at that moment, then put it away and get back to what you were doing.

When you’re working on your business and your family or personal life needs attention, treat it as an interrupt, take care of the immediate crisis or set the expectation when you’ll be finished, then complete the task or reach the milestone, put it away and enjoy your personal life.

By wiring your brain to be prepared for the interrupts you’ll find you’re prepared when they occur, you don’t resent the important people in your life you sometimes cause them, and you’ll feel more in control of your time.

Published by Leah Ward-Lee

Leah Ward-Lee, the author of "$1,000 Start-Ups", is a serial micro-entrepreneur. She opened her first business at ten after lobbying for and receiving a shoe shine kit for Christmas. She pulled her wagon through the neighborhood, going door-to-door, offering to shine her neighbor’s shoes for twenty-five cents a pair. Once her wagon was full, she took the shoes home and polished them. Unfortunately that business was short-lived. She hadn’t tagged the shoes and couldn’t remember whose shoes were whose, so her dad went with her to retrace the route until every pair was returned. Since then she’s had businesses developing and teaching college courses, instructing aerobic classes, owning half a plane that was rented to a flight and maintenance school, and renting homes. She’s also owned a consignment store, a gift shop, a gift basket business, a consulting firm, hosted The Executive Toolbox (a weekly radio show), and a publishing company. She also spent twenty years in the US Army, served as the Chief Information and Technical Officer for two major insurance companies, and has a second career as a management consultant. Leah resides in Dallas, TX and on Amelia Island with Sammy and Goliath, her two rescue dogs.

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