This episode is about letting go
This is the perfect time of year to make plans. It’s also the best time of year to let go of things that no longer serve you in your business. We know that 20% of our efforts generate 80% of our results. It totally makes sense to let go of some things, but it can be much more challenging than you think! Today we’ll talk about why it’s important to let go, what the obstacles are, and how to examine and evaluate your business, then execute your decisions without guilt or scarcity, and with full clarity, confidence and certainty that you’re making the right decision.
The Pareto Principle – Why Letting Go Makes Sense
Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? Named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, it states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.
The principle was derived from the imbalance of land ownership in Italy, and it’s often used to demonstrate that not things are equal, and the minority owns the majority.
In this episode, I’ll talk about
* The Pareto Principle – Why Letting Go Makes Sense
* What Do You Need to Let Go of in Your Business?
* Why It’s Hard to Let Go
* How to Let Go and Feel Good About It
This principle is very relevant in business. In teams, it tends to be a small group of people who generate the majority of outputs. In your business, if you look at all your income-generating activities, you’ll find that 20% of your services generate 80% of your revenue.
This is why letting go makes sense.
Imagine all of the little things you are doing to earn money as a solopreneur, and how much time and energy it takes to offer all of those things. Is it worth it?
What if you chose to focus on doing fewer things better? You might have less variety, but you’d also have greater depth, probably make more money, and be able to do it in less time as you’d be streamlining things.
Translate that into this moment, when you are looking at the year ahead. Most of us end up planning next year to continue as the last, or to not do any planning at all.
Without planning, you might end up doing the same old things next year including all the stuff that takes time and energy for little return (which could be money, meaning, fulfilment etc). If you are hanging onto things that don’t serve you, it can become unfulfilling and draining.
It can breed discontent, resentment and dissatisfaction.
By letting go of what’s not working, what’s outdated, or what’s downright uninspiring, you have an opportunity to change course, tighten things up, improve, plan a better year and create more fulfilment in your business and therefore your life.
For me, any sense of resistance in my business, and any sense of deep fulfilment and meaning, is a trigger for me to evaluate what’s going on.
So instead of just planning, I explore my feelings first and then create my plan.
What Do You Need to Let Go of in Your Business?
I’m going to talk you through a three-step process of examining and evaluating what you might need to let go of and executing decisions.
Before jumping into planning, examine what you of the past year. I discussed this my previous article, which talked about checking in with how you felt about the year, what worked, what didn’t, what felt irritating, and what your achievements were.
In other words, you’re finding out what’s most important and meaningful for you to continue and identifying anything that might be holding you back from those things.
Next, I recommend doing an evaluation of where your income is coming from.
If you use an accounting system like Xero, you can generate a report showing a breakdown of everything you sold and how much revenue you earned in each area, so you can evaluate that.
If you don’t use an accounting software, you could do the same sort of thing in Excel, or with your client booking system if you use Acuity Scheduling or Calendly or Google calendar.
If you book your appointments using standard session names, it’s easy to open your digital calendar and search for each of these session types, and it will bring up a log of what you sold over the year.
Then, having checked in with your own feelings about what you enjoyed and disliked doing, your financial data, and your session logs, you can clearly see where your 20% of joyful and productive work sits.
Do this work with compassion for yourself. Understand that sentimentality aside, we are all growing, improving, and sometimes outgrowing things in our lives. Our priorities and values change with experience and wisdom, so it makes sense to let go of anything that no longer fits.
Imagine how liberating it is to know you are working in alignment with your values and priorities! When you examine and evaluate everything from this lens, you become fully informed and have the clarity you need to make decisions about the next year – then execute on those decisions!
It sounds simple – but at the same time, you might find it hard to let go.
Why It’s Hard to Let Go
You might be aware of things that aren’t sitting right, so why aren’t you taking action? Why aren’t you executing on your decision?
Probably because your wonderful brain might be making ‘yes, but’ thoughts in your head like:
- Yes, but if I don’t deliver that service, I am letting down those four clients who have loyally been coming for years!
- Yes, but that program really has potential, and if I stop doing it, I might lose an opportunity!
- Yes, but if I stop doing those things, I won’t have as much variety!
- Yes, but if I stop offering those services, people will think my business is in trouble!
- Yes, but what if I’m no longer the go-to person for….?
Your brain loves the safe, comfortable and familiar. Stepping away from that into the unknown can bring up fear. Your brain is trying to protect you by getting you to hang onto things – all things – and that’s why you’re conjuring up all those reasons to keep doing those things that no longer serve you.
All of your emotional reasons start to come up.
There’s the sense of letting others down which leads to a feeling of obligation or guilt.
There’s the sense of having wasted all that effort of what you’ve previously built – the attachment and sentimentality.
There’s fear of the space left behind – the scarcity mindset, the uncertainty about the future including income.
But there are also things that may not align with your values, and which generate a general sense of discomfort.
There’s the sense of ‘who will I be if I stop doing that?’
If you are feeling any of these things very viscerally, ask yourself – are they serving you and your business?
Are they good enough reasons to hang on?
What is the cost of hanging on versus letting go?
These are some important questions to ask yourself or to work through with your coach if you have one. I encourage you to be kind and gentle with yourself, to be compassionate, and reflective.
Right now, think of all the other times in your life when you held onto things that didn’t serve you. The relationships that were unhealthy, the job that was unsatisfying, the tasks that you felt obliged to do.
What happened when you let those go? When you closed that door, which door opened for you?
What were the lessons learned?
I would like to share a little story about this.
When I moved from Perth to Mossy Point, I started out as a Personal Trainer and Bellydance teacher in my local area. I didn’t want big boot camps, I wanted small, intimate classes where we could focus on technique. I ran three classes per week, and a couple more in the busier summer months.
After 3 years of this, I didn’t have enough clients for a full-time income, and I realised that juggling a business coaching/consulting role with these PT and dance classes was pulling me in different directions and sapping my energy. I was spread thin, and not bringing enough energy to anything, consequently, I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job at anything.
BUT I had these loyal PT and dance clients! But we had a wonderful connection! But it was giving them value! But I was serving the community! But it was fun! But it was giving me exercise too! But what if I couldn’t make up that bit of income! (And let’s face it – it was only a bit of income). Who will I be if I’m no longer the belly dance teacher?
As you can see there was a surprising amount of emotion tied up in this. I had a strong urge to let this go to pave the way for better opportunities, but a fear of letting go. There was a sense of losing my identity in the community.
But deep down I knew that my future was in another direction. I knew that the existing way of being didn’t align with my passions, my vision and my values.
My indecision and hanging onto what was no longer serving me was becoming an ongoing, low-level stress that was eroding my energy, enthusiasm and creativity.
One of my strongest values was showing up with energy and delivering an exceptional service.
Think about that for a moment – you can only really show up like that if you are fully invested in what you’re doing. I was feeling very inauthentic because I couldn’t show up, and that was actually my tipping point.
In other words, my decision was about two key things – living in alignment with my purpose and delivering exceptional customer service.
It was much easier then, to let the classes go. When I did this, everything changed. Relief rushed in to fill the space, and I felt inspired again. I was flooded with insights, creativity and energy for my next venture, which ended up becoming a 6-figure coaching business.
Hindsight is a fabulous thing. I can see now that if I’d been let go earlier, I would have still had that short period of uncertainty and fear, but I would have reached my goals sooner and felt more fulfilled and less anxious about money.
I wish I had used a process to examine and evaluate my business, and then execute my decision with full clarity and confidence, like the one I’m describing here.
This is why stepping out of the emotional stuff and looking at the facts, as I described earlier, is so important.
It gives you the chance to explore all of your logical and emotional reasons for your current activities and decide how you will go forward, consciously and intentionally.
How to Let Go and Feel Good About It
If you decide to let go of things in your business, how can you do that and feel good about it?
Firstly, you can examine your fears or other obstacles and ask yourself – is this real? Is it true?
And if so, what are all the things you can do about it?
How can you approach it?
What are the values that sit behind your decision?
What I recommend is that you write down all the reasons why you’ve decided to let something go, just so you’re clear on this for yourself.
Then, you have gotten your story straight in your own mind and it’s easier to communicate it honestly and authentically with others.
Here’s how I stepped away graciously from my PT and dance classes.
I worked out how much income I would lose. As it turns out, it wasn’t as much as I thought. Who knew! Knowing this meant I was able to figure out if I could survive without that income, and also make a plan to recoup that amount in other ways.
I did this first as financial security was a concern, so I needed to calm down my brain and help it to be rational and realistic about the money side of things.
Next, I worked out how to talk to my wonderful, loyal clients who had stuck with me for so long.
I decided to be honest and say something like this:
“You’ve been wonderfully loyal and supportive, but I have made the difficult decision to close these classes as of the end of this month (it happened to be December).
I’ve realised that I want to consolidate what I’m doing and move in a new direction. If I continue like this, I won’t be able to show up at my best, and that is really important to me.
I want to thank you for supporting my business, showing up to class even on the coldest, and darkest nights, and becoming my friends. You’re all wonderful people, and I’d love to finish our time together with an end-of-year party. Bring your friends and family so we can celebrate our achievements and our valuable time together!”
This came from the heart, and it worked just fine. Your version might be different, but the sentiment will be the same.
It is borne in gratitude, authenticity, honesty, and celebration.
Today we talked about letting go of things that no longer serve you in your business.
Thinking logically, we know that roughly 20% of our efforts generate 80% of our results. That’s the Pareto Principle. And while it logically makes sense, emotionally, you might end up holding yourself captive to activities that are draining your energy and affecting your business.
It can be hard to let go, for lots of reasons – guilt, fear, scarcity and identity.
But we can more easily let go by checking values, being compassionate, and by working out what matters most.
The three-step process I discussed is to examine the past to work out what’s important to you (previous episode), evaluating what you might need to let go of and why, then executing your decisions without guilt or scarcity, and with full clarity, confidence and certainty that you’re making the right decision.
Hopefully, you feel equipped to do this for yourself.
But if this feels challenging and you’d like some coaching, get in touch to enquire about my 2023 private client intake, or to get a referral to another business coach who can help you.
Investopedia, 2022. The Pareto Principle. Investopedia website, accessed 8/12/2022.
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