Dogged perseverance is often considered the hallmark of any entrepreneur. But pursuing new projects come at a considerable long-term financial, emotional and physical cost. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help evaluate whether your brilliant idea is still worth chasing, or if you’re just chasing your tail.
Have I moved the needle forward?
Perhaps your venture had traction, but that stalled out long ago. Now is the time to ask yourself if you have made real progress, says Sharlyn Lauby, human resources consultant and founder of HR Bartender. If you’ve never created benchmarks for your business’s development, try to do so retroactively. Progress is not only measured in profitability. Think about the proposals you’ve put together and the clients you’ve secured. The network you’ve built and the repeat customers you’ve developed are among the tangible signs your business is growing, despite your doubts.
Is it within my power to achieve my business goals?
Envision the benchmarks you’d aspire to if you continued. Could you reach them? This is not about the power of positive thinking, says Marcia Reynolds, author of Outsmart Your Brain and training director for the Healthcare Coaching Institute, but about resources, the marketplace and the overall economy. Starting a business can often take years and an idea that was viable and potentially profitable at its start might not be viable a year into development. Recessions, tightened credit and dominating competitors can change your company’s prospects. It might be time to pivot.
Am I throwing good money after bad?
Escalation of commitment is very real, says Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, professional coach and founder of Human Capital Integrated. You might have believe that since you’ve put time and money into a project, you should continue until it is successful. Some entrepreneurs borrow extensively, mortgage their homes, and put their personal finances and credit in jeopardy. You should honestly evaluate the additional financial investment your company needs and whether that will further your business or just buy it more time. If you are far from your business goals and money won’t fix your problems, you should stop investing money into the project and spend your time troubleshooting instead.
Am I still excited about this idea?
Entrepreneurs need to be energized by their work to sustain themselves in business and other aspects of their life, says Reynolds. When your personal life and your health begins to suffer, you might feel drained or depressed rather than fulfilled. Take stock of whether you have the passion you used to have for this project and what it might take to get excited again. It might take revaluating the problem you’re solving and growing your business in a new direction.
What opportunities have I missed?
Inevitably, you will have said no to other projects while pursuing a new venture. But if the missed opportunities are more compelling and interesting to you than the opportunity you’re trying to create for yourself, Lauby says that may be a sign that you need to walk through the new doors that are opening in front of you.
Amy S. Choi is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her work has appeared in BusinessWeek, Women’s Wear Daily and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. She is currently working on a book about her travels through the developing world