6 Ways to stop Comparisonitis (in your Small Business or Side-Hustle)

How often do you compare yourself to all the other people running small businesses or in the same industry as yours?

It's the summer holidays here in the UK and we are getting stuck into the summer holidays. With the summer break comes a whole host of "Instructions for Living" on our social media platforms:

  • take the whole of August off;
  • use as much childcare as possible;
  • use this time to develop your business; 
  • use this time to take stock and reflect;
  • use this time to get organised for Christmas;

None of these are right, or wrong. They are simply opinions. But it doesn't always feel like that, does it.

Do you find yourself thinking "how are they managing it all?" Or "should I do it like they do it?" Or even "I'll never be able to do it as well as they do AND _____-" (make money/ have a good work-life balance/ see my family/ insert your response here)

You know you're not alone if you do this, don't you?

This can happen so frequently, and there are so many things that can provoke it: from spending too long doom-scrolling, to avoiding tackling a tricky project, to procrastinating over a particularly exciting (but scary) goal.

The term "one track mind" isn't always a popular one, but it's one it's definitely worth adopting when you're working on or in your business. Activate your one track mind. This doesn't mind working endlessly on your business at the expense of everything else. But it does mean becoming absorbed with the wonderful work you're exploring so that you're able to enjoy your creations without making space for other people and their ideas.

Of course other people might be doing similar work to you - if you're a product business owner creating gift cards, there are likely to be countless others creating products that people can gift to their friends. If you're in a service based industry such as creating websites for others, providing creative coaching or mentoring there are bound to be many people your potential client can choose from. If you're an artist, singer, producer, maker, there are always going to be other people who - on the surface at least - offer similar things to do.

How do we therefore avoid comparisonitis and imposter syndrome? Here's the most important thing to remember: your work is unique, and the way you offer your services is what makes them so special. This might send a bit like something you put on the front of a card (and lovely it would be too) but it's about more than that: all the endless tiny details you bring to your work, the creative touches, the story, mission and values all are bound together to create something gloriously new and wonderfully relevant to your ideal client. Here are six things you may find helpful for cultivating a one-track mind:

 

1. Make your work part of you and your life, not an add-on (but don't feel you have to be defined only by it)

The wonderful Holly Tucker of NOTHS fame talks a lot about living a Good Life, where you do what you love, and are led by passion, purpose to create a wonderful business that is part of who you are. This doesn't mean that you aren't living unless you're working - far from it - but rather that your work is led by such joy and passion that it is part of your glorious, varied and rich life. This means sharing it with those who will celebrate it (and keep it preciously secret from those who'll drain the joy), making space for work rather than apologising for it and trying to squeeze it into the gaps, and accepting that if work is to be part of your life it can't be the only thing in your life for it to be sustainable.

2. Make it personal

Remind yourself why you are doing what you're doing by grounding yourself with some work on your vision, values, story, skills, experiences and dreams. Keep these things at the heart of your decision making - it can help to have them written out on a vision or pin board, at the start of a daily journal prompt, in your notebook, on post-its. Keep returning to them and remember that this is what makes your business so special. Stuck with your vision and values? We have a free resource to help you with this on our resources page.

3. Be enthusiastic about the work you do and the vision guiding your business 

Never underestimate the power of enthusiasm, of the energy it can bring to our work. The more obsessed you can be with your own journey the less you will be distracted by everyone else’s. Have a vision for your work that feels so grounded in what matters most to you that you aren’t intimidated by other people’s enthusiasm for their own but instead just inspired by the intention they’re bringing to their own path. 

4. Be obsessively proud about the work you've done

We don't value perfect over the expense of good here, but we do love the experience of creating work as much as the outcome. Be proud of every part of the work you've done, from the way you tackled a tricky situation and the thought-process you used to resolve it, to the beautiful final product or service you sell to multiple people. Make a folder of "things nice people say" in your email, and reflect on these when you're having a wobble.

5. When you're feeling creative, go for it!

We strongly believe in seasonal living at The Key to it All (working with your energy, not against it) - this doesn't just mean prioritising rest when we need to (check out The Key Cards for more information or this blog post), though we love to do this and think we need to talk about it more. It also means that when we have that wonderful, creative, tingly energy we need to harness it and produce our most exciting work.

 

If you're able to plan around your energy to the extent that you can carve out more space for it when you know you're going to be on "top form" then do it - give that one track mind a chance. If it's a little trickier to do this then have a list of strategies to help you with that creative focus - e.g. delete all social media apps, use an hour in the morning or an hour in the evening solely for idea generation, out-source administrative tasks during those times, delegate and share household and "life" admin.

6. A one-track mind doesn't have to mean no cheerleaders

...it means getting rid of the drainers, or anyone who makes you feel lesser (even if they're awesome and it's not their fault). It means having aspirational role models - sure - but not at the expense of you and your originality. Sometimes our biggest comparisonitis comes about via initial research into our heroes' work, or other people just that bit ahead of us. Their outcomes may subconsciously help you form your decisions, so be careful. Do your research by all means, but do your own idea generation in the first place. This doesn't have to come from seeing how "other people ddo it". Go for a walk, read a piece of fiction, watch an amazing drama, play with your kids, people-watch at a fabulous brunch and allow yourself to be inspired. And those cheerleaders? Keep them close, let them tell you how are amazing you are (but know that your own ideas are just as brilliant as theirs).

Remember that prioritising rest, creative space and work all matter, and that the time you spend on each of these may need to be examined to really help you move away from comparison. Reflect back on your beautiful work, delete those social media apps for a bit, feel the air on your skin, and know that your work is needed. Use HALT - am I a) hungry, b) angry, c) lonely, d) tired and see if this helps. Thank you for your work - now go make it!

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

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