Every entrepreneur should have a long-term plan, but focusing on that above all else will only ensure you never reach it. Sometimes it’s necessary to hone in on the problems or initiatives that will help with your immediate position, rather than your potential position down the line. Starting a new business is a balancing act, and it’s equally important to both plan for the future and be present in the here and now, lest you lose out on tomorrow.
This may sound counterintuitive. After all, if you’re not driving your company toward its ultimate destination, who will? But entrepreneurs shouldn’t lose sight of the journey, either. Staying present can equate to the following benefits for business owners:
When you are relishing in the journey, not simply the destination, you’re able to embrace the uncertainty inherent in starting a business. This enables you to take more calculated risks, and respond to changing conditions accordingly. Starting and growing a business always involves trying different strategies and making adjustments based on what’s been learned, gained, or lost. Sometimes a pivot is even in order. Looking forward all the time may cause you to miss some important signals, or even detours, that would result in more exciting destinations than you initially imagined. Staying engaged and nimble is crucial.
It may sound like a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, but it’s not: appropriately balancing your work life with your personal life is actually a key to lasting success. A recent survey noted that 58 percent of entrepreneurs felt that spending time with their families in the evenings was necessary for their effective leadership, and 55 percent felt it was important to keep their weekends free for friends and loved ones. Staying in the present helps you keep your perspective and your life balanced. Studies are now showing a positive correlation between engagement and performance in the workplace, and a negative correlation between workaholism and performance. Balance keeps burnout at bay, allowing your inspiration and passion to drive you, and enabling you to better collaborate with and empower others.
If you’re always focused on a tenuous goal that is years away, you lose steam. Each setback or hurdle seems more dire and disheartening than it should be. Staying in the present and enjoying the process of starting and growing your enterprise keeps you positive and eager to overcome even the most intimidating challenges. The key to successful entrepreneurship is endurance. It’s a long-distance run, not a sprint, so it’s essential to dig deep, find your grit, and keep the faith that if you stay engaged today, it will pay off tomorrow.
Entrepreneurs too focused on the future tend to prematurely pursue growth and scalability initiatives, or offer too many different solutions to too many target audiences at the same time. Startups are typically better served focusing on doing one thing well for one type of client first. Trying to be too many things to too many people results in you and your company doing everything poorly. With few resources, the best way to beat the competition is to focus. Delight existing customers by doing what you do really, really well. Once you begin to experience traction in your chosen niche, then consider branching out. In the beginning, however, stay in the now and make it the best it can possibly be.
Mindfulness is an important leadership skill that keeps us better rooted in the present. Mindful leaders enjoy the journey, create an atmosphere of engagement and innovation, and are more resilient. They make better decisions because they do so from a place of clarity, regardless of external pressures. Mindfulness encourages leaders to slow down. Rushed decision-making or execution is rarely destined for greatness. Take your time, listen to others, and make informed decisions collaboratively.
Planning may seem like a future-facing activity, but the best plans transpire in the here and now. Keeping our minds grounded in the present helps us better execute our work, enabling us to take steps that will ultimately create a more fruitful future. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted and miss all of the opportunities that are unfolding for you today.