The Seven Year Business Itch

Can you renew the passion, or it is time for a major change?

by Dean Long

In 1955, Billy Wilder co-wrote and directed a film entitled The Seven Year Itch, starring Marilyn Monroe, based on the play of the same name by George Axelrod. The film includes the famous subway grate scene, in which Ms. Monroe’s dress is blown up above her knees by a wind gust created by a passing train. In the movie and the play, the “seven year itch” refers to a declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage.

As a business owner have you ever felt a seven-year itch: restlessness, boredom, disengagement or a lack of passion? Have you ever thought that you were ready for—or yearned for—a change, but didn’t know what it was? Perhaps you’ve felt it before, in a previous job. It may even be what led you into business ownership. The difference now, as a business owner, is that there are likely many more people depending on you for consistency and stability.

Assess Your Need for Change

Are you having thoughts of selling your business and moving to an island paradise? Starting a new company? Or, simply toying with the idea of jumping into a new market or industry?

A simple test when deciding whether or not you’re ready for a major change is: Do you feel energized when you wake up each work day? Do you look forward to the challenges that lie ahead? Do you feel as if you’re forcing yourself to go to work or enter your place of business? If you answer, “no,” “no” and “yes” to those questions, then you need to make a change—period.

Before deciding upon a fundamental change in your business life, however, do some soul-searching and self-reflection, along with an objective evaluation of where you’ve been. Focus on what’s working and what’s not. What are your long-standing passions and interests? Think as far back as your pre-teen years: What were your interests then? What topics pulled you, when you seemed unaware of the passing time? What observations did parents, teachers and friends share with you about your strengths and personality?

The greater your self-awareness, the more likely you’ll make an accurate accounting of what aspects of your business life you need to carry with you, and what to leave behind. The respected behavioral scientist and author Daniel Coleman cited self-awareness as a key characteristic of emotional intelligence, of which successful people tend to have a high degree.

Ask Yourself Questions

In uncovering the root cause of your dissatisfaction, or in answering, “Why do I feel this way?” first ask yourself the following questions:

  • When did I last feel energized about coming into work?
  • What has changed since I had those feelings?
  • Did I have any expectations, or impressions about this company that have proved otherwise?
  • What has changed about my business?
  • What changes have occurred in my industry, for the better or worse?
  • What aspects of my personal life might be contributing to these feelings? And, am I projecting those feelings onto my business life?
  • Do I need to, and do I have an interest in, furthering my training or education in order to alleviate these negative thoughts and feelings about my company?
  • When did I last take a career assessment or interest inventory (e.g. Meyers-Briggs, Strong-Campbell, DISC)? Is it time to review, or retake one?

Passions ebb and flow, so it’s important that you invest time and thought into assessing your true feelings. Are you truly ready to move on to new endeavors, or are your feelings a response to temporary conditions or circumstances that may change?

Be pragmatic. Remember the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Know that in any business, or job, there will be elements that you don’t like and cannot change. Start with small changes in your business to revitalize the passion you felt as a new entrepreneur. And if a major change is what’s needed, have courage and wisdom as you take the first step on that new journey.

About Dean Long

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