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3 Life Lessons Learned from Being My Own Boss

Photo by Tori Barratt Crane
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. ~Mahatma Gandhi

A few years ago I was walking to the car, about to jump in the passenger’s side so my husband could drop me off at my job on his way to work. Suddenly my stomach was in knots; my esophagus felt like it was on fire.

This had been happening regularly for a few months, but we’d just gotten back from two weeks of blissful vacation, road tripping up the Pacific Northwest coastline. I had sort of forgotten this misery … until I returned to my job.

The cause and effect were so clear to me at that moment. How could I continue working somewhere that caused me physical pain?

It was at that moment I decided I wouldn’t. I would start working full time for myself. And after two years I can say it was the right decision. I haven’t had that feeling in my stomach once since, even when clients have to scale back their budgets or I have six deadlines in a day.

Throughout these past years, I have learned more lessons than I can list here, but many of them have to do with accounting and contracts — useful but a little boring. There have been, however, solid teaching moments that so directly translate from running a company to living a successful life.

Even if I decide to move back into the corporate world, these are things I’m blessed to have discovered, and I’d love to share them with the Think Simple Now community.

1. Be the Authority You’ve Always Wanted

You hear it all the time. One of the perks of being self-employed is being your own boss. But have you ever stopped to consider that you are the CEO of your own life?

You might disagree with this, saying that your responsibilities control your life, whether it be children, credit card debt or a demanding job. But at some point in your life, you chose those things. You may not be able to change your past, but if you want your future to reflect your desires, you must start managing your life.

Most of us have internalized some sort of authority that helped us get through our lives at one point or another. But it may not serve us anymore. It’s important to actively choose the kinds of motivation and structure we want.

Think back to a great teacher you had. Or an excellent coach. A motivating boss. Even a really great babysitter.

What qualities did they have that you admired? How did they bring out the best in you? Write these down and try to embody them in your own life.

Maybe an old coach always expected you to be honest, trusting you implicitly. You didn’t want to take advantage of that, and so you never told him a lie, no matter how tempting it might be to say you finished your laps around the track.

Try doing that to yourself. Trust yourself to do the right thing, and you won’t need to be dishonest with yourself.

We all need authority and structure in our lives; it’s what motivates us to continue when things might get a little tough. It keeps us in check.

When we actively choose to be our own boss, instead of following the whims of our past, our lives will reflect that. We’ll move closer to becoming the people we know we can be.

2. Count On Others

Ask any entrepreneur if they consider themselves independent and they’ll answer with an emphatic “YES!” In fact, this is a skill that is prized above many others, especially in Western culture. What’s amazing is how much easier things would be if we learned to rely on others.

For me, it wasn’t a matter of choice. If I wanted to make this company work, I needed to rely on my husband to pay more of the bills. I had to count on him to go to work every day, or I would never have had had the courage to jump in.

Have you ever considered what dreams you could chase if you relied more on those who are willing to help you? Maybe your sister-in-law could watch your children once a week while you went to your pottery class. Or perhaps your friend would let you use his extra garage space to work on your remote control car.

There is no shame in asking for help in order to thrive in life. What’s beautiful is that we all have something to offer someone else — sometimes it takes little or no effort.

We can’t believe it’s even work for someone else, and we’re happy to help out. Let go of the ego that says you can do it all yourself, and find the voice inside you that will emphatically declare “Yes, I will take your help!”

3. Get Out of the Habit of Habit

We’ve all got our routines. While a lot of them can help us keep healthy, like working out at a certain time or flossing every night, others just make for stagnant living. Working at home made this much more apparent to me. I was going to have to shake things up or stir-craziness would set in.

Variety is the spice of life, so they say, and I think it’s important to pay attention to how our daily habits can shut us off to new and exciting events. Just yesterday, I almost said no to having lunch at a friend’s house because it didn’t fit into my work-week routine.

It took her saying, “You’ve got to eat lunch. Why not take a 10 minute bike ride to my house and eat it here?” to get me to realize what I was doing. Why not? I asked myself. There was no reason other than that it didn’t fit what I normally did.

The next time you find yourself saying no to something different, ask where the impulse is coming from. Saying no is an excellent skill to keep from overextending yourself, but that doesn’t mean it should become habit.

If you’re saying no simply because it seems to break up your everyday routine, ask if there’s a reason you need to maintain the routine. And there are good reasons. Like I said, routine can be very healthy. But if it seems a little flimsy, maybe try breaking out of your habits.

Final Thoughts

Something I’ve been working on for years now is the ability to cross over knowledge from one part of my life to another. Since I was young, I tended to compartmentalize my thoughts on one topic to the next. I had to learn the same lesson over and over again in different areas of my life.

As I’ve worked on crossing over knowledge, I’ve come across things like what I learned in my business. The more I acknowledge their value in other areas, the easier they seem to be to remember.

I encourage everyone not only to use these lessons I’ve learned, but to look at where their own knowledge can bridge gaps in their lives. It can relieve stress and free up room in your brain and space in your heart for more of your dreams.

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About the author

Rebecca is a fierce optimist who believes in the power of making life happen. Magic and creativity are her latest pursuits, along with exploring her new home, Germany. Read her blog, follow her on Facebook and Twitter for her latest enthusiastic (and sometimes witty) remarks. Check out her new book, Change is Easy & Other Novel Concepts: Short Essays on Changing Your Life, One Step at a Time.

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7 thoughts on 3 Life Lessons Learned from Being My Own Boss

  1. counting on others is so crucial,
    I would even say at this point that next to a good business opportunity, your own strength and work ethic the most important factor for sustainable and success with less stress is to have people to balance off your weaknesses, there is plenty of research out there, we are only great at couple of things and if we don’t focus on them and develop them we’ll fall behind.

    another big one, at least for me, has become planning my week and top 3 priorities, I do it every Sunday and it takes not more than 10 minutes.

  2. Isn’t being your own boss wonderful, Rebecca! I did this very thing, decades ago, because in part of a physical reaction like the one you had. I’ve never regretted a day of it!
    And you hit the essence with : “Trust yourself to do the right thing, and you won’t need to be dishonest with yourself.” ‘
    That’s key!

    • That’s awesome Susan. Honestly it’s great to hear someone else say that decades have past without looking back. There are definitely times I wonder what life would look like with a FT job and a steady paycheck, but I don’t think it’s worth the tradeoff in my opinion. Thanks for the comment!

  3. What a motivating article! These are certainly some useful lessons to keep in mind, especially the one about counting on others.

    Most people seem to think that you’re either completely independent or completely dependent – that there is no middle ground! But beyond both of those is Interdependency – that state where you actively CHOOSE to be dependent on others, for mutual benefit.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

  4. Great article Rebecca,

    Most people are afraid to become entrepreneur. I believe their Fears come from their lack of self-confidence. I hope one day, we will have an education system that will teach self-growth principles.

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