After earning a Master’s Degree from the University of Georgia, Adrienne Dorison started working in supply chain management for a Fortune 500 company. At first, she was excited to begin her career at a prestigious company, but it didn’t take long for her realize that the corporate world might not have been the best fit for her.
Compared to most of her peers who had also recently entered the workforce, Adrienne was earning a decent salary, but the job itself was not very fulfilling. “My day-to-day was not very fulfilling,” she admits, “I felt like I wasn’t really using all of my strengths.” Despite her frustration, she still worked hard and did her best to be a valuable asset to the company, but soon her itch to find a creative outlet of some kind needed to be scratched.
Adrienne’s desire to do something creative led her to start blogging. She had a passion for personal development, business, and leadership, so in her spare time she wrote articles about those topics and published them on her blog. Her intention was not to monetize her blog; it was simply to share her insights on topics she was interested in but couldn’t necessarily discuss with her colleagues at work.
After blogging consistently for several months, it became clear to Adrienne that monetizing her blog might actually be a possibility. Throughout 2014, she received several inquiries from people who had found her blog and asked if she offered coaching services. At the time she didn’t, but receiving those inquiries on a regular basis got her thinking that maybe she should.
In the beginning of 2015 Adrienne decided to shift her focus from blogging to building her own business. She was tired of working in the corporate world, and the idea of building a business on the side that could potentially replace her existing income was very appealing to her. Adrienne also had a substantial amount of student loan debt (over $45,000 at the time), which she was aggressively trying to pay off. Any additional income that she earned outside of her job could therefore be used to help pay off her debt faster.
Out of all of the different types of businesses she could have started, a coaching business seemed like the most viable option. From a young age, Adrienne has always loved helping people. She once worked as a fitness instructor, and she also had experience coaching athletics, so helping people achieve their goals was something that came naturally to her and that she knew she would enjoy.
As a new coach, Adrienne didn’t have enough confidence to charge for her services, so she decided to help a few people for free first. She wanted to prove to herself that she actually could help someone before she started charging them. “At first I had very little confidence in the fact that someone would pay me”, she explains. “I wanted to be able to get real results for people before I asked anyone to pay me.” Fortunately for Adrienne, the people she coached for free had a great experience, and she was able to collect some positive testimonials from them in the process.
Once Adrienne had the confidence to charge people for her coaching services, it didn’t take long for her to get her first paying clients. Over the next 6 months, she coached clients in the evenings and on weekends while still working full-time at her job, and she continued to publish articles on her blog to help build her personal brand. She also created a course which she sold online, creating an additional stream of revenue for her business. By the summer of 2015, Adrienne had managed to pay off all of her student loan debt, at which point she quit her job, took the leap and became a full-time entrepreneur.
To some people, 6 months may not seem like a lot of time to build a business, but the reality is Adrienne worked extremely hard during that period. One of the biggest challenges she faced during that process was learning to manage her energy. “A lot of energy goes into your day job”, she says. “But when you get home, you have to work on your business if you want your business to eventually be your day job.”
Adrienne learned the hard way that when you’re trying to build a business on the side, while still working a full-time job, it’s important not to burn the candle at both ends. You need to save some of your energy for the business you’re building. “I had to calm it down at my day job”, she says. “I would still meet my commitments there, but I didn’t have to be the top dog over-achiever, get everything done, stay late at work, and bring my computer home on weekends. I didn’t have to be that person at work because I was trying to be that person in my side business.”
There are many factors that have contributed to Adrienne’s success, but the ones that stand out the most are her habits. When Adrienne set the goal to build her business, pay off her debts and quit her job, she intentionally incorporated specific habits into her daily routine that would make the achievement of those goals inevitable. In fact, helping people create habits that make their success inevitable is one of her specialties, so it comes as no surprise that she sets the example in this area.
According to Adrienne, the first step to creating habits that support your success is to develop a clear understanding of what your most important values are. Once you are clear on your most important values, you can then adopt specific habits into your daily routine that allow you to live a lifestyle that is congruent with your values. The mistake that most people make is allowing their daily routines to be dictated by their feelings instead of by their values. This can be problematic because, as you can probably relate, we don’t always feel like doing the things we need to be doing in order to achieve our goals. Unless a specific behavior is habitual, we must constantly decide whether or not we feel like doing it. And when our decisions are based on our feelings in the moment, we are more likely to make the wrong decision. “I’m a huge advocate of habits because they help remove a lot of the decision making process that you have on daily basis”, says Adrienne.
“If your priorities are out of alignment with where you want to be, you have to set up systems to change them.”
For example, when Adrienne was working full-time and building her business on the side, there was very little time left in her schedule for regular exercise. One of her most important values is health, so this created a problem. She could either exercise less (which would have violated one of her values) and use that time to build her business, or she could have devoted less time to her business in order to maintain her exercise schedule (this would have violated another one of her values, which was to have more freedom, and she needed to build a successful business to make that possible). Unwilling to violate either of those values, she created a new habit. During the week, she started waking up at 4:30am so that she could exercise before she went to work. This new routine allowed her to focus on her health in the morning, focus on her job during the day, and then focus on her business in the evening.
As you can imagine, there were plenty of days when Adrienne did not feel like waking up early to exercise, but her daily routine was not driven by her feelings. It was driven by her values. Maintaining her health was important to her, as was growing her business, so she created habits that enabled her to accomplish both objectives. “It’s really important that you understand why you want to create those habits, and what those habits are going to do for you”, she explains. “The easy excuse would be I don’t have enough time for that, but the better approach is to ask: how can I make time for the things that are important to me?”
“There will always be certain times when we don’t feel like doing something. If we make decisions based on our feelings all the time, we won’t get a lot of the results that we want.”
Another major contributor to Adrienne’s success is her morning routine. Like most successful entrepreneurs, Adrienne has a very specific morning routine that she keeps consistent and that helps her begin each day with intention and purpose. She credits the book The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod for helping her to design her morning routine. “My morning routine is definitely one of my best habits”, she says. “I get up really early and I put myself first, every single day. So I’m not getting up and looking at my email. I’m not getting up and going on Facebook. I’m not getting up and doing any business tasks. I’m getting up and putting myself first. I work out. I do visualizations. I’m writing in my journal. I’m writing down my goals for the next 90 days. I’m also writing down what I call my most important mission for the day – the one thing that I have to get done today, if nothing else gets done for my business.”
Adrienne will often accomplish more than just her most important mission for each day, but consistently accomplishing her most important priority on a daily basis has undoubtedly played a key role in the growth of her business. “Consistency over the long haul is what has allowed me to succeed”, she says. “Be consistent with at least one thing every day.”
“A lot of people want to change their results, but they don’t want to change the process to get those results.”
Something that most entrepreneurs struggle with is the inability to create what they would consider to be a well-balanced lifestyle. When you have your own business, you naturally want to do whatever you can to make sure your business is successful. Most entrepreneurs therefore work long hours, evenings, and weekends to grow their business, neglecting other areas of their life in the process. To most entrepreneurs, the idea of a well-balanced lifestyle is just that, an idea.
“I don’t believe in balance. I believe in imbalance,” says Adrienne. “People talk about balance and they want you to believe that it’s possible and then you go and chase this unicorn and feel bad about it because you never find it.” Instead of trying to create perfect balance in your life, Adrienne recommends living your life in seasons. Each season of your life will be dictated by your priorities during that season. For example, if you want to start a business, it is best to think of that period of your life as a specific season. Getting married or having a child is also an example of a specific season in a person’s life. Give yourself permission to be out of balance, so you can focus on your most important priorities during any given season. “Everything cannot be priority number one. It’s just not possible”, she says.
During each season of your life, Adrienne highly recommends communicating your priorities during that season to the people in your life. When she was trying to pay off her student loan debt, for example, she communicated to her friends and family that she would not be going out as much because she wanted to put every dollar she could towards paying off her debt until it was paid off. “It was important for the people around me to know that this was the season I was going through and that it was really important for me to pay off the debt as quickly as I could. So that meant I wasn’t in balance with a lot of things. I wasn’t going out to eat all the time with friends. I wasn’t going on vacation like I wanted to.”
Whenever you feel that your life is out of balance, try not to feel bad about it. In reality, perfect balance is just a myth. It’s a unicorn that so many of us search for but never find. It is better to accept the fact that you will always live in imbalance to some degree. According to Adrienne, the most important thing you can do during each season of your life is to identify your top 3-5 priorities for that season, and then do your best to take care of those priorities. You likely won’t be able to meet all of your priorities at full capacity, but as the seasons of your life change, so will the amount of time you decide to allocate to whichever priorities are most important to you during that season.
“Success means being able to do the things that I love, from wherever I want, with people I want. It’s more about freedom and less about money.”
Hopefully Adrienne’s story has helped to illustrate the impact that your daily habits can have on your life and business. Certain habits can literally make or break your success in the long-run. Remember to create habits that are congruent with your most important values, and keep them consistent over a long period of time. In doing so, your success will become inevitable.
To wrap up our time with Adrienne, we asked her to share some specific action steps that current and aspiring entrepreneurs can take to help them move closer to their goals. Those steps, which we recommend you implement immediately, are listed below:
People choose to become entrepreneurs for a variety of different reasons, but it is important that you understand what those reasons are for you. Your reasons for being an entrepreneur become your internal motivators, and they help you to stay resilient in the face of adversity. Things like money or titles are external motivators, and are seldom strong enough to sustain your motivation during the times when you will most need it. Dig deeper to uncover your real reasons.
Behind every success story lays a specific set of habits that enabled that success. Create habits that support your success, make them a part of your daily routine, and keep them consistent for a long period of time. Entrepreneurship is a marathon not a sprint.
Most people would rather wait until they know everything before they take action, but the reality is you are never going to know everything. Action brings clarity, and progress is more important than perfection. Take imperfect action daily, learn from your results and keep moving forward.
Enter your name and email below to join our growing community of lifestyle entrepreneurs, and receive instant access to our Lifestyle Business Startup Checklist.