The directive to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ is one of the most famous of all Bible quotes. Even people who don’t profess a faith tend to know this one and seek to apply it. I find it interesting because while the emphasis is on loving your neighbour, there’s the implicit teaching that you will also love yourself. Another term for this is ‘self care’, and it’s an important principle for running a successful business.
We all know the phrase, ‘work on your business as much as in your business’. It means that your business itself needs as much attention as the service or product your business provides. I think there’s another dimension to it. We need to be working IN our businesses, ON our businesses, and also ON ourselves.
What does working on ourselves mean? Quite simply, it means loving ourselves, caring for ourselves, and growing in our self-awareness of the things that spin our wheels and replenish the tank when we are feeling burnt out. If we don’t look after ourselves and find the time to learn, to grow, to rest and relax, our businesses will suffer.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to prioritise caring for ourselves. So don’t begin there. Begin with the idea of loving your neighbour, which is a little easier to get your head around. You would assume loving your neighbour involves being generous, for example. You might make a cake for them. You might have a conversation over the fence. Loving your neighbour would also involve valuing them as people, perhaps even sacrificing something for them.
Now, think about how those things apply to loving yourself. If loving your neighbour involves generosity and valuing them as people, how generous are you to yourself? For example, do you invest time and money in the activities that regenerate you, such as sport and exercise, or creative hobbies?
If loving your neighbour involves valuing them as people, how much value do you place on yourself? You’ll know by how much time you give to rest and relaxation, or to social time with friends. Do you beat yourself up all the time or do you take the time to rejuvenate?
For me, an essential element of good self care is continuing to learn, to read, to have good, rich conversations with people. I also take time to ride my bike and go sailing. These are the things that replenish my ‘tank’ so I make sure I factor them into my week. I am also learning to take time off. On Mondays I get into the office around midday, after a sleep-in, a bike ride and a little reading. After making sure I stick to the routine, the guilt is starting to subside. Even the team is encouraging me to keep going with it.
As business owners and operators we need to invest time in ourselves so that we have something to give to our clients and to our team. That goes for the team as well. A critical component of our business is regularly participating in courses so that we can be trained in the latest changes to the laws, for example. We can’t possibly serve our clients well if we’re not up to speed. We invest in ourselves so that we can provide our clients with the best possible service.
One of the things I love to do most is helping people solve their problems. It’s not because I have all the answers, by any means, but I have some tools that are helpful in bringing clarity to people’s thoughts and ideas. When a client tells me I’ve confirmed their gut idea with a solid analytical model, that’s just great. I’ve helped them find clarity. But that’s not possible unless I stay abreast of those tools myself.
I heard recently about a photographer who realised he needed to up his game to be more competitive. He thought about doing some courses, either online or even attending a tertiary college. But in the process he realised he’d never actually given himself the time to sit and read the manual that came with his very complicated camera. The truth was, he was only getting 25% capacity of what essentially was some very expensive gear. So, he gave himself an hour a day over the summer, and studied the capabilities of his equipment so that he could increase his efficiency, take better photos, and maximise the gear’s potential.
That’s what I’m talking about when I say ‘love yourself’. It’s about applying the principles of self care, to ourselves as business owners and operators, but also to the team, in order to maximise our potential, and in the process to better equip ourselves to (I’m paraphrasing the Bible here) ‘love ourselves well’.