Flexibility is a necessary entrepreneurial trait. While flexibility is very necessary when your business is taking unexpected twists and turns; I think that flexibility, in general, is a wise trait for entrepreneurs to cultivate, even in times where things are feeling certain and going well.
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a few days, borne, as my ideas often are, by interacting and observing my clients. (I’m a psychologist by training, I can’t help it!)
Tied to this has been an awareness of just how much information is out there, and how many apparently urgent ideas are clamoring for our attention, time, money and energy. In any given day, we’re exposed to hundreds of offers and invitations which each require at least some evaluation and consideration, even if just to determine we’re not interested.
An increase in the sophistication of technology and technological resources is taxing us, too. More of my clients desire to take advantage of the advances in marketing measurement and technology, but most of them are already stretched a bit thin, and don’t have time to really learn whatever it is they want to use.
And with the sense of needing to achieve, combined with demands on our resources, combined with greater complexity, we can start to feel a sense of overload and overwhelm. I’m not sure if it’s due to the hot weather, but I’m noticing that my clients are, in general, feeling more irritable and more annoyed more quickly.
When this starts to show up for them, I know it’s a good time to revisit the idea of flexibility. To my way of thinking, it’s vitally important to have seven kinds of flexibility in your life in order to be a more successful entrepreneur.
The first kind of flexibility is physical flexibility. Can you handle the physical stress of the work you do? If you sit at a desk most of the day, do you have a fitness or exercise regimen that enables you to get some movement in each day? I’ve been working a lot lately with some new physical therapist clients and they are always reminding me that I need to get up and move for at least 15 minutes each hour, in order to keep my hip flexors from tightening up.
The second kind of flexibility is cognitive flexibility. This refers to having a way to consider all kinds of ideas and various possibilities in an open-minded, curious way. The more cognitive flexibility you have, the easier it will be for you to find solutions to problems, and workarounds for problems which have no apparent solution. Cognitive flexibility is supported by exercise, as well as exposure to new ideas, and to new skills and hobbies. I know, for instance, that since I’ve been developing my skills in jewelry making and digital photography, my cognitive flexibility has increased. I’m able to pull in new ideas and new ways of seeing things, and to bring new thought processes to the strategic consultations I do. If you don’t have a way of stretching your brain on a regular basis, I’d suggest finding one.
The third type of flexibility is financial flexibility. Financial flexibility means that you manage your income and expenses appropriately, so you have some financial reserve available when you need it. Financial reserve (i.e. money in the bank), means you can take vacations with your family, take time off when you’re sick and need to rest, and it means you can confidently turn down clients or projects which aren’t a fit for you.
The fourth type of flexibility is time flexibility. Time flexibility means that you have some autonomy and independence in how you set your schedule and in how you structure your days. There will be days you work more, and days you work less, and having a business model that enables this will make you a happier entrepreneur.
The fifth type of flexibility is environmental flexibility. This means that, at least sometimes, you want to have the opportunity to work in a new location. Many of my entrepreneurial colleagues work from their screened-in porches in the summer, and others work occasionally from cowork spaces and coffee shops. If you are a home based entrepreneur, shifting away from home can create some new connections and insights.
The sixth type of flexibility is emotional flexibility. I think of this as being related to how resilient we are, and to how we move through the world as a business owner. Emotional flexibility means that we allow ourselves a full range of feelings, and that we take the basic steps we need to keep ourselves as emotionally intact and healthy as possible. This may mean making work-life balance a priority, or setting boundaries with clients who are needy or entitled, or being able to take on just enough responsibility- but not too much.
The seventh, and final, type of flexibility is future flexibility. As you look ahead, do you feel confident and excited about the future? Do you feel able to create the outcomes you want? Can you see how the future will be even better than the now? (Even if your now is very, very good?)
Developing flexibility as an entrepreneur reminds me of a saying I was once read that went something like: “The goal is to be flexible enough to bend with the wind without breaking, and strong enough to move with the tide without being swept away.”