by Andrea Liebross, author of “She Thinks Big: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Moving Past the Messy Middle and into the Extraordinary“
When you run your own business, you can create your own freedoms, and when you’re free, you can live up to your potential. When you work for somebody else, you’re not free to choose what you do, when you do it, and why you do it. Entrepreneurs often choose their path because they want what they consider freedom in four main categories: Time, money, relationships, and brain power — our four most valuable resources.
But these freedoms are more about how a person manages their mind than how they manage the resource itself. First, even the notion you have to be a business owner to have those freedoms isn’t true. You can have them at any time. When I work with clients, they usually say they are seeking those kinds of freedoms, but I find the freedoms they believe they crave at the beginning of doing this work aren’t the kinds they experience in the end.
To examine our thinking, we need to realize there are two sets of ideas going on: Having more of a resource(s) versus having freedom in relation to the resources. Let’s look in more depth at those concepts.
Freedom of Time
As a business owner and entrepreneur, you constantly juggle time constraints. You may have once fantasized about having freedom to do whatever you wanted with your time, but now, you may feel like that was an impossible dream.
However, that’s all in your thinking. You can manage people who demand your time, and you can choose how much free time you have and what you do with it. If you think you should be available all the time to clients, staff, and family, that’s not a problem with time but a problem with your thoughts about time.
Successful entrepreneurs manage time demands by managing their own minds. To manage your time, you have to free yourself from reacting to how you think you should be spending your time and start choosing where to spend your time. You choose your boundaries with time. Past You thought being available 24/7 created job security. Future You knows that’s not true; those people will still be there when you’re ready.
Freedom of Money
When I talk to my clients about money, most just tell me they want to make more. I ask, “How much more?” But they don’t know. They don’t even give themselves permission to establish a number. Setting a number is scary. What if they don’t achieve it?
But is the real goal with money having piles of it or just not having to worry about it? Olivant says most people would choose the second option.
When my clients run their businesses well, they make money. How much depends on how they set prices, profit margins, and a number of other things. All those things are up to them. Think of Arianna, who made all her decisions about money with a specific goal in mind. She knows her market and how to appeal to them, and she is achieving her monetary goals. If you have what others want, and you know how to market yourself and run your business — if you know your own worth in dollars and sense — you’ll make money.
Being free of worry about money is a whole different thing. It goes back to managing your mind. Anxiety over money doesn’t stop just because you reach a certain amount or restrict your spending. Believing you have enough funds to do what you want, right here and now, without money being an obstacle, is freedom.
Freedom of Relationship
Whom do you want to do business with? Who do you want on your team? You get to choose these people because you own your own business. Not only that, you get to choose how you want to think about and interact with those people. How to have a relationship is often far more important than whether to have it. We can learn and grow a great deal just by working through difficult situations with people.
By now, you know I am all about having the right people in the right seats. We think that “when we have the right people in place,” everything will be a lot easier. But as your capacity to Think Bigger expands, you’ll realize relationships with others are just a bunch of thoughts about how we interact with them and who we think they are. Those thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to actions, which lead to results. Sometimes you do need to let a team member go because they don’t have the skills you need. But sometimes, before jumping to letting them go, consider whether you can help them learn things while you also gain skills in coaching performance better. This benefits both you and the other person.
We can have freedom in a relationship right now. We get to choose how we want to think about the angry client or the disgruntled team member. This goes for personal relationships, too.
Exercising this freedom is important for your well-being. You want to spend more and more of your time surrounded just by people you click with, who you appreciate and who appreciate you, but realistically, you can’t manage your life to include only those people. Freedom comes from changing your expectations around others’ actions. Just as you love your kids though you don’t always approve of their behavior, you can appreciate difficult people for what they do and deal with the issues without losing your peace of mind. Obviously, this doesn’t mean tolerating abuse — but it does mean refusing to allow the behavior of another to control your own actions or thoughts. You get to choose how to respond emotionally and whether or not to be trapped in those emotions.
Even Positive Relationships Can Be Restricting
Women who inherit businesses often deal with the problem of trying to honor their family legacy while also finding their own way of doing things. Their loyalty to their parent(s) or the person from whom they inherited the business conflicts with the need to make their own decisions. This is an example of why managing thoughts around relationships is crucial.
Jenna became a young female CEO of her family-owned business and sat at the head of the table where men filled most of the other seats inside her organization and in the industry. Her father had created a successful and profitable business and had an established way of doing things. But Jenna needed more freedom in the business moving forward.
At first, Jenna worried about what the employees would think if she changed things. She hesitated to make too many waves in the male-dominated company and field. However, she soon realized that if she didn’t just stop worrying about what others thought, she would be trapped in a suffocating and deflating situation.
If you’ve inherited a business, or you’re in a situation where you fear letting go of “the old way of doing things” (even if you’re the one who created them!) because others are accustomed to it, give yourself permission to ruffle as many feathers as it takes to move forward into a fresh new vision and completely new territory. It will be exciting, maybe a little scary, but far more fulfilling and freeing than doing the same old thing just because that’s “how it’s always been done.”
Freedom of Brain Power
This is the ultimate freedom. No one gets to tell you what to think, what opinions to have, or how to feel. You get to think about what you want right now and direct your energy and brain power toward what you choose. And ultimately, you get to feel free right now — that feeling is only a choice away.
How you use your brain is your most important freedom because it shapes everything else. When you’re choosing how to think and feel about things instead of just reacting, you’ll be unstoppable.
Andrea Liebross, a certified business and life coach, empowers female entrepreneurs to adopt a CEO mindset, transcending drama and achieving business success. Author of “She Thinks Big: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Moving Past the Messy Middle and into the Extraordinary“, Andrea excels in implementing strategies for sustainable success and shares her expertise as a dynamic speaker and podcast host.