As we prepare to publish this post, the new year is almost upon us. It’s a time for resolutions and big goals, planning and excitement. It doesn’t have to be a new calendar year, though, to seek out fresh sources of inspiration for your business. The best entrepreneurs are always evolving, finding entrepreneurial inspiration in the everyday and the unfamiliar.
Here are some of the best places to turn to inspire ideas, spark new ways of thinking and break free from the same old routine.
Take Time Off
As we said above, the suggestions in this article are relevant all year long, but this one is particularly timely around the holidays. Take a break!
We do our best work when we’re feeling refreshed and energized, and that can’t happen if we’re grinding until we burn out 365 days a year. The period leading into a new year is the perfect opportunity to take a step back, spend time with loved ones and do activities you enjoy.
Science shows that when we’re continuously “on,” we set off a negative chain-reaction of consequences for our bodies and minds. This includes heightened stress, fatigue, bad moods and lack of focus, according to high-performance experts.
There’s a wealth of research in support of taking time off, particularly when it comes to the benefits for your job performance. Boston College’s Center for Work and Family says taking a “work free” vacation helps increase your focus, promotes personal growth and allows you to gain new perspectives, all key contributors to success as an entrepreneur.
And here’s the kicker—experts say the more time off you can take, the better. Three or four days are better than nothing, but if you can spend a week or more truly disconnected from work, you’ll enjoy even more pronounced benefits.
Turn To Colleagues
You’re only as strong as your network—at least that’s the motto of some of the most prominent business coaches and management professors. If it’s inspiration you’re seeking, turning to your network is the way to find it.
Operational networking, like with peers and direct reports, helps us to better manage current responsibilities within our organizations. Personal networking, like with professional associations and social groups, helps boost personal development. And strategic networking—actively seeking out lateral and vertical business relationships—helps unearth new business opportunities and connect with important stakeholders.
No entrepreneur finds success by doing it all alone. Use the new year to connect with colleagues and peers to exchange ideas.
Study The Competition
We’re big advocates for keeping your eyes on the prize and not getting distracted by what your competitors are doing, but sometimes a little healthy competition can be a good thing.
As you assess the year’s progress and make plans for the year ahead, step back and take a look at what your key competitors are up to. They key here is to take an analytical approach, examining strategy without getting bogged down by comparison.
What is your competition doing right? Where are they beating you? What could you learn from them? Are there any gaps in their business model that you can fill?
Asking these questions can help you identify areas for improvement in your own company. You might even find a new corner on the market.
Even if you’re not dealing with a particular problem, use your mentor to “check in” with where you’re at in your business and where you’d like to go over the next 12 months. Chances are, they’ve been in your shoes, and can provide a few words of wisdom to help make the journey easier and avoid missteps along the way.
Revisit Things You Love
Have you ever heard of the KonMari method? It’s a system for decluttering invented by a woman named Marie Kondo, whose philosophy is based around keeping the things that bring you joy and letting go of everything else.
Clutter aside, it’s a great concept not only for your physical possessions, but the activities you engage in. Doing more of the things you love is one of the best ways to stay inspired and stave off anxiety.
Return to a beloved book you haven’t picked up in years. Revisit your favorite childhood park. Cook a pot up your grandma’s beef stew. The warm fuzzy feelings will put you in a positive headspace that’s primed for creative thinking, while the nostalgia might just remind you why you set out to be an entrepreneur in the first place.
Experience The Unfamiliar
This is one of my favorite kooky yet science-backed ways to spark inspiration: doing something completely out of the ordinary. It might be turning off the highway at a random exit or striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.
This kind of activities put your brain in what’s described as “liminal space”—a place that’s unfamiliar, in transition. It turns out these are also perfect conditions for creative thinking.
If you’ve got a free afternoon, head to a coffee shop you’ve never been to and order something you’ve never had. Then sit down and get to work on the next item on this list.
This tip pulls double duty because it combines two proven ways to get big things done: writing down your goals and thinking way beyond your comfort zone.
In a study by the Dominican University of California, researchers studied five groups of people all tasked with working toward a set of goals. Group 1 was asked to do the least, simply thinking about and ranking their goals, while group 5 was asked to do the most, writing about their goals, establishing action commitments for each one, and checking in regularly with a friend to share progress reports.
It’s no surprise what happened by the end of the study; the bottom group, group 1, accomplished 43 percent of their stated goals. Group 4 accomplished 64 percent, while group 5 saw the most progress with an average 76 percent of their goals accomplished. Writing down your goals influences the brain to work toward them in a highly productive way.
The second part of this exercise is to 20X your goals. What does that mean? Whatever it is you’re thinking of working towards, imagine the goal at 20 times the size. If you’re hoping to grow revenue by 10% this year, think about shooting for 200% growth. If you want to expand to multiple cities within five years, why not think about going international?
The point here isn’t to aim too high. Rather, it’s to get out of your comfort zone. When you stay where you’re comfortable, massive inspiration isn’t likely to occur. It’s only when we push our boundaries that we can truly grow into our full potential.
Look To Great Leaders
Abraham Lincoln. Eleanor Roosevelt. The Dalai Lama. All are vastly different, but all are a wellspring of inspiration for leadership and life.
Pick up a biography or watch a documentary on a leader who has always inspired you to learn the story behind their success. Pro tip: you can find a treasure trove of great leader profiles from all over the world by searching on YouTube.
You can gain plenty of inspiration from things that are totally unrelated to your business. Case in point: reading for pleasure. Reading is a literal workout for your brain that makes you more intelligent, boosts your comprehension and even fights off brain disease.
It doesn’t have to be some heavy topic like philosophy, either. Fiction in particular has been shown to increase neural connectivity and improve brain function. It expands our knowledge of the world and helps us to form mental connections that can spark creative solutions.
Whether your preference leans more toward Shakespeare or Stephen King, picking up something to read just for fun will do your brain good.
Make a Vision Board
It may sound cheesy, but making a vision board is one of my all-time favorite ways to get motivated and push myself into action. Whether it’s losing ten pounds or hiring a stellar team, it’s hard not to work toward your goal when it’s right there in front of your face every day.
A good vision board should uniquely yours, filled with images that capture your eye and resonate with you. For a super easy version, tear off the back cover of a magazine and glue a white piece of paper over it to form a blank canvas. Then grab scissors and a glue stick and go to work using the pages from inside the magazine. Tack up the finished product somewhere you’ll see it regularly, like on your bathroom mirror or above your desk, so your vision is always right there to inspire you.
Where are your favorite places to turn for business inspiration? Share them with us in the comments below!
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