The Key to Thriving In 2021: Focus on What You Can Control

We're heading into an unpredictable year. Focus on growing your business, and don't obsess over what's out of your hands.
The Key to Thriving In 2021: Focus on What You Can Control
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Magazine Contributor
Founder of Pen Name Consulting
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: How can I make plans and prepare my business for the future when the future is so unclear? — Sara, Chicago

First, know this: You were made for exactly this problem. The entire entrepreneurial journey is built on chance, adaptation, and risk, and you have always operated with against-all-odds hurdles. Forget the craziness of the pandemic, and of a year we’re all eager to leave behind. All you’ve ever needed is opportunity, then and now. It’s time to make it.

Related: How to Make Big Decisions When Facing an Unpredictable Future

Part of thriving through a crisis is being able to outlast stressful scenarios and have enough capital or inventory to counterpunch and create leverage. Going into 2021, don’t think about survival. Instead, think about controlling the controllable. That begins by asking yourself four questions:

1. Where am I most inefficient with my spending?

2. What is my greatest opportunity to save cash without severely limiting my business?

3. What favors can I reasonably ask for?

4. How does the uncertainty of the world create an opportunity for my business to be part of a solution that makes life better for others?

Then, take chances! Is your rent killing you? Work with your landlord to see what kind of agreement you may be able to come to. If you’re in retail, consider energy-saving opportunities — I know a gym that saved nearly 40 percent on energy costs by changing to more-efficient lights. Ask vendors to shift payment terms from net-30 to net-90. The worst that can happen is that you’ll be told “No.” That’s just not a good enough reason to avoid these conversations. 

Related: Why Any Business Should Keep Growing Digitally, Even After the Pandemic

From there, you’ll be able to dictate your own future, rather than waiting for it to happen to you.

This is something I’ve learned from nearly 15 years of running our online fitness coaching business, Born Fitness. We’ve helped tens of thousands of people transform their bodies through the lens of behavioral change. That means we identify barriers standing in the client’s way and help them see that, often, they spend most of their time fighting the wrong battle. 

Growing a successful business depends on a similar process. I recommend making a list of all of the things causing you stress, and then identifying whether or not each stressor is within your control. For example, you can’t control economic shutdowns. But you can control the ways you are prepared to reach customers in case your primary method, like a retail storefront, is shut off.

Related: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Thriving as the World Reopens

You’ll find that the majority of your stressors are outside your control. If you keep putting time and effort into variables determined by external factors, that investment will have limited impact — and you’ll be left at the mercy of the unknown.

Instead, double down on the shorter list of stressors within your control. The future may feel murky, but the present is filled with problems you can solve. That should feel familiar, because it’s where you started. If you can narrow your focus, you’ll be surprised by how much control you have — and that mindset will always pay off, no matter what comes next. 

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