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Articles - The Entrepreneurial Personality

The New Year is full of Opportunities

Thursday, January 01, 1998

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Let January Pass Unnoticed.

With the holiday rush behind you, you may be wondering what lies ahead in the new year. I hope that your holidays were warm and comfortable, but for many of you, they were a stressful time. Remember good stress is as draining as bad stress. January can be a time to recoup and restore your energy and peace of mind. January is also a time to build a foundation for the goals you want to accomplish this year. It’s a long cold spell until our Spring arrives in the Northwest. Use this time to rest, reflect and plan, but don’t be too busy. Time enough for that come April.

In fact, I heard that the Romans originally had a ten month calendar, before our current twelve month model was designed. The months of January and February didn’t even exist. There were no celebrations during this time, no holidays honoring any gods, no new projects of any kind undertaken. The Romans felt that this time of year was so non-descript that they should let it pass quietly and unobtrusively, while they rested and prepared for the rest of the year. Like so many inventions and ideas of the Romans, I think this one is worth keeping. Focus on what you want; not on what you don’t have.

Entrepreneurs are usually not ones to take this advice however. With the distraction of the holidays behind them, they quickly launch into new projects come January first. Entrepreneurs are good at accomplishing goals, but not all that good at establishing healthy goals. Before you launch into your typical January behavior, however, I’d like you to finish reading this column and gain a better understanding of how to make New Year’s Resolutions that actually stick this year.

Several years ago a fifteen year old young woman was sitting in my office for the first time. She was the daughter of a successful entrepreneurial couple and her short life had been consumed by the business growth. Although she had benefited in many ways from her parent’s hard work, she was facing adolescence without a sense of identity or direction. Although her mother had filled me in on her concerns, I asked the young woman what brought her to my office. She seemed quite distressed and wringing her hands, yet she could not tell me what the problem was. Nevertheless, I waited patiently for the young woman to tell her own story.

Eventually, she asked for help. "I don’t know where to begin," she said. "Where should I start?"

Because I like to start on a positive note and begin the process of building reachable goals, I suggested, "Why don’t you just tell me what you want?"

At this request the young woman burst into tears and wept uncontrollably. For several minutes she couldn’t speak at all. Again I waited patiently for her to tell me her story. Finally, she spoke through her tears and the lump in her throat.

"No one has ever asked me what I wanted before."

For years this young woman had watched her parents sacrifice their lives for the business, and ultimately sacrifice hers too. Believe it or not this problem is not restricted to this teenager alone. Many people walk around with feelings of fear and unworthiness. They are afraid to ask for what they want and therefore continue lives of failure, loneliness and desperation.

Entrepreneurs fall victim to this mentality too. You may think that entrepreneurs represent the epitome of going for what they want. However, often what drives an entrepreneur to success is a deep seated fear of inadequacy, or a desire to impress others. With many entrepreneurs, as with this teenager, the focus is on what they don’t have, not on what they do have. I have had many a self-made millionaire tell me they wished they could do their life over and have different priorities. Those different priorities would include true understanding of the self and planning a life to maximize deeply held values and beliefs.

Let the New Year bring self acceptance.

Since January first brings us the opportunity to make New Year’s Resolutions, I think it is about time to start a new tradition, that of appreciating ourselves for who we are. As one bumper sticker proclaims, "God doesn’t make junk." Let your New Year’s Resolution this year be "I will accept myself totally and unconditionally and be the best I can be this year."

If you can appreciate who you are, that each and every day you are making a valuable contribution to your community by just doing your everyday thing (not overachieving), then you will have a much more prosperous new year. You will notice your talents more and strengthen them. You will notice your flaws more too, but you can build a plan to correct them. Those opportunities that always come to others, will finally come to you. The opportunities have always been there, but your tendency to focus on losses and inadequacies prevents you from seeing the obvious and taking advantage of it to make your life work even better. If you have been successful accomplishing other people’s goals, think how much you can really accomplish if you lead your own life.

Change your paradigm.

OK so it is hard to shake off years of self imposed negativity or a belief that if you are not perfect or the best, you have failed. And you have failed at all previous New Year’s Resolutions, so why should this time be any different? This time, however, you have a new paradigm to work with. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in your life, you are going to pay attention to what is right. These tips will help you get started.

100% of the people in the world have problems, serious problems at some time in their lives and usually regularly. You are not alone in this.

  1. You are not broken just because you are hurt (or angry, or ignorant, or misinformed, or make a mistake). Remember that being hurt is a symptom of something that needs changing.
  2. Bad things do happen to good people. Being good is not the goal. Maturing is.
  3. You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. If you continue to brood over the past, maybe it’s because you haven’t learned from it what you need. Search for the lesson.
  4. Not everything in life can be changed, nor should it be. Accept the things you cannot change.
  5. Trust that you have the resources within yourself to make the changes you need and want to make. You may not know what those resources are, but trust that they will come to you one way or another.

Self acceptance turns crisis into opportunity.

OK, so now that your paradigm has shifted, do you notice anything different? Are the colors a little brighter? Is there a bounce in your walk? Are you making more money? Do you feel love all around? No? Well that’s because, you still have work to do. Just because you think differently doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to do. Now the hard work of change is necessary. But at least you have the right attitude to get you to your goals.

If you recognize that life is a complex and problem-filled arena designed to assist you on your quest toward wisdom and maturity (just as it is for everyone else), then when you have a problem you’ll face it squarely with full self acceptance. You’ll dig in, assess, diagnose and search out the meaning. You will use all the strengths at your disposal to create workable solutions. At the end you’ll be a little smarter, a little wiser, a little stronger, a little saner.

Long ago I learned that the Kanji for "crisis" is made of two figures. The first is "danger" and the second is "opportunity." With self acceptance securely under your belt, you will be able to wrest the opportunity out of any danger. Although not all problems can be solved necessarily, all problems can produce learning in preparation for the next step in life. Use your New Year’s Resolution of self acceptance to help you live the life you were meant to have and to take you where "no one has gone before" to paraphrase Start Trek. In other words, instead of just accomplishing things, instead of impressing others, instead of striving to be perfect, make your New Year’s Resolution to accomplish those things that really have value to you. Happy New Year!