A client of mine named Ed spent years completely focused on his business. He invested all his
time, effort and energy into building the business, sacrificing family time, personal relationships and outside interests. One day, Ed received an unsolicited offer for his business that he could not refuse; tens of millions of dollars. Ed sold the business – how could he pass it up? He had achieved the American Dream! He now had more money than he had ever dreamed he would have! He could buy anything he wanted, join any club he chose, travel to exotic places.
Eighteen months later, Ed was miserable. How could this have happened? It wasn’t about money. It was about failure to plan! Ed was like so many business owners who define themselves as their businesses. Beyond the business, they have no idea who they are.
While Ed was living his business, his wife pursued interests that gave her purpose and made her happy. She developed hobbies, volunteers, took a part-time job. Ed and his wife shared the joys and responsibilities of caring for their three children, but beyond that they had little in common.
Plus, although he would never admit it, Ed was scared. Who was he beyond the powerful owner of his company? Where would he get that sense of accomplishment and pride he had gotten from his business? Would people still respect him? Would they like him? What would he talk about? And what was he supposed to do with all this free time? What options did he have? Most important, what did he want to do?
How can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?
You need to create your vision for your life beyond business. This begins by establishing a habit to envision your life beyond business. Every day — when you’re in the shower, working out, driving to work, lying in bed, or wherever you can decompress and think clearly — remind yourself, “I have a life beyond business.” Then ask yourself:
- Why am I here?
- What is the top purpose for my life?
- What fulfills me above all other things?
- What do I want my life to look like today and five, 10, 15 years from now?
Make this a daily ritual. For the first week or two, this may seem awkward and forced. But if you do this for about 21 days, you will establish the habit.
Avoid the temptation to limit your vision. Don’t tell yourself, “I can’t afford this” or “I don’t have time to do that.” You have far more power than you may think to achieve your vision for life beyond business. You can focus on how to get there after you define there.
If Ed had done this while running his business, he would not have been a wreck after selling his business. But this is not exercise only to prepare for life after business. You should envision and achieve life beyond business whileyou’re in your business. That’s why you must ask, “What do I want my life to look like today?”
You cannot achieve a fulfilling life beyond business until you envision the life you want. After you envision where you want to go, you can plan how to get there.
FYI: Fortunately, Ed and his wife had a strong relationship and were able to work things out. Better late than never, Ed and his wife defined their vision together and are enjoying living it!
Take Action Now
- Commit to define your vision for life beyond business. Even if you think you have a decent business-life balance, commit to enhance your life beyond business.
- Create an affirmative statement — something like “I have a life beyond business” — and repeat it every day, multiple times, until it’s a habit.
- Begin to make a list of things beyond your business that you want to do and things you want to be — things that enhance your sense of purpose, that you find fulfilling, and that you can see yourself doing into the future.
Dave Driscoll is President of Metro Business Advisors, a business brokerage, valuation and exit planning firm helping owners of companies with revenue from $2 million to $15 million sell their most valuable asset. Reach Dave at DDriscoll@MetroBusinessAdvisors.com or (314) 303-5600.