Using ACT to connect to your values and create a kick-butt business plan.
As an experienced and passionate Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) therapist and coach, I’m often asked about this evidence-based and psychologically flexible approach. For those of you unfamiliar, ACT is an empirically-based form of psychology that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to help people be present with what is while taking committed action to live in alignment with their values and move toward what is most important to them in their relationships, family, work and overall life at any given time. Over the years, I’ve found ACT to be highly effective when working with clients. It’s also an approach that I have drawn from to build a successful private practice and use daily in all aspects of my life.
At the kick off to 2018, many small business owners, including therapists in private practice and budding entrepreneurs, are sitting down at their desks to put together their yearly business plan . Creating and then implementing an effective professional development plan is no small feat and is with the help of a trusted mentor. But, there are a few ACT-based practices and exercises you can engage in that can help you get clear on where you are, what is most important to you and where you’d like to be when 2018 comes to its close.
As you think about what it is that you want to accomplish professionally this year, it’s best practice to start by thinking about what, where and who you are now.How can you get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re starting from, right?It’s also important to consider what is meaningful for you—both personally and professionally—and to consider how, when and where your personal and professional values intersect (or don’t).
The following three tips can help you begin the preliminary stages of writing a meaningful, comprehensive and value-based business strategy and plan.
What’s Your Niche?
Get Clear On What You Know And What You Don’t Know
When creating, building or refining your business, it’s critical to truly understand your calling and your strengths, as well as those aspects of your profession that might be better outsourced. For example, as therapists, the healing arts is our calling; however, for many—if not most—mental health professionals, the logistics of running a private practice, such as accounting and marketing, may not be in the repertoire of talents.
I’ve seen many highly talented and passionate therapists and coaches over the years try to do it all and then experience frustration burnout when their attempts to tackle all aspects of the business failed or, even more common, fell to the bottom of the to-do list and went undone.
What’s important at this stage of planning is to get clear on what you’re good at and identify what you’re not so good at. When it comes to running a business, the more you know about what you don’t know, the more able you’ll be to outsource tasks that are not in your skill set so you can spend more time doing what you love and are best at.
Also, within your field, what are you especially passionate about? For instance, if you’re in the healing arts, is there an aspect of therapy or coaching, such as women’s counseling or weight loss coaching, that you find particularly exciting, inspiring, interesting or gratifying?
Maybe you have personal experience that informs this passion, which could help you better connect with your ideal clients. Oftentimes, we broaden our practice or business so much that it becomes watered down and/or a constant struggle to manage many moving pieces.
In short, figure out what you love, what you’re good at and what holds authentic meaning for you, and build a business off of that.
Using Values To Build A Business
The second thing I often advise on is getting really clear on both personal and professional values.
- What is it that you do that makes you feel great at the end of the day?
- Is what you’re doing with your life and business coming from your heart or are you in a specific career or starting a certain business because it’s what you feel like you should do?
- Are you naturally skilled in your field or does every day and every task feel like a struggle?
- Do you feel inspired and excited by your work?
The above questions come down to values, and gaining clarity on what is important to you can help you create a business strategy and plan that is sustainable, effective and comes from the heart. Take some time to get really clear on your values. Even if you think you know what holds true meaning for you, take some concentrated time to make sure the values you once defined as important still are. Values are dynamic, and what was very important at one stage of your life may not hold the same level of importance years or even months later. And, what’s important to us in our careers may be very different than what’s important to us in our intimate relationship, for example.
There are many exercises that can help you determine your top 1, 3, 5, 10, etc. values, including Creating Your Beyond Value Cards, which can be purchased through my website.
Play To Your Strengths
If you’re burnt out at the end of everyday and constantly trying too hard, it may be time to rethink what you’re doing. While I am an advocate of action and practice, we all have weaknesses, which is totally okay. There are just some things that no matter how hard we try and how often we practice, that will never come easily for us. Let’s face it, if you struggle with hand-eye coordination, you’re unlikely to hit a homerun, which is also totally okay. And, here’s the thing: We tend to enjoy doing things that we have a natural talent or inclination for. We all have gifts; however, sometimes we become so focused on doing a certain thing, even if it’s not our true calling, and turn a blind eye to our innate talents.
If you’re at a crossroads and really struggling in your current career or in your business, it may be time to slow down and take personal inventory.There are all sorts of personality tests, such as Myers Briggs and Enneagram, that are fun ways to self-explore, connect with values and figure out what it is that you really want to do when you grow up, even if you’re 45 plus.
An experienced business coach or mentor can also be a helpful resource when you come to these types of crossroads. A solid, trusted coach can help you clarify strengths, values and goals. Together, you can devise actionable steps that you can take to live in alignment with what has meaning for you as you move toward both personal and professional milestones.
Percolate: Effective Business Planning Takes Time
When living in a go-go-go culture like ours, it can be tempting—even engrained—to want to create and implement a new business strategy and plan as quickly as possible.
But, developing a business strategy is a creative process, and creative processes generally take time. I invite you to ask me questions in the comment section, as well as spend the next couple of weeks reflecting on the information and questions offered above. Spend time thinking about your personal and professional values.
I would love to hear what has meaning for you. Tell me what brings you joy and fulfillment. I am interested in what you are really good at. How can I help?
Stay tuned for my next blog, Creative Processes To Build A Business – Part II, in which we’ll explore shaping your values into vision, mission statements and the importance of building effective, sustainable and enjoyable professional relationships in Creative Part III. Do you have questions?