As I’ve discussed in previous posts, awareness is the first step towards any kind of change in behavior or thinking. One of the most significant advances in my own development has been an increased awareness of my tendency to “all-or-nothing” thinking.  It seems to me that nearly every week, my therapist is pointing out some situation in which I’m considering only the two most extreme options. It must be this or that. It’s black or white. I’ve performed the task perfectly, or I’m a total failure. I’ve had one bad thought, so I must be a rotten person.

I’m sure that there are factors in my upbringing that contributed to my all-or-nothing thinking pattern.  Over time, I have come to realize that in many areas of life, there are multiple shades of gray and numerous possibilities.  Recently, I’ve been training myself on a new approach. When I feel stuck and it seems as if there are only two options, I ask myself: are these really the only two possibilities? Are there any other options? How else can I approach this question? Training yourself on a new way of thinking takes time, of course, and I sometimes find myself slipping back into the old black-and-white thinking.

This subject is very relevant for those who are seeking to increase their income and start a business. You’ve probably often read a headline like “Quit Your Job and Do What You Love!” Reading this kind of headline may give you the impression that your only alternatives are to do what you love—and struggle financially—or to work at a job that doesn’t appeal to you very much.

Let’s clear up a misconception. Starting a business is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t have to quit your day job in order to start a business. Why not start something small on the side and let your venture grow before you take the leap? To be sure, this approach will mean extra hours and hard work, but you’ll be free to develop your new venture at your own pace. In this way, you’ll own your business rather than having your business own you.

As you think about breaking free of your paycheck addiction, consider how you can become involved in more than one activity at once.  For example, I recently met a man who works in my field—education—by day and maintains a side business as a musician.  The side venture generates some income and also allows him to pursue something he loves: making music.  When describing his band, he said with a smile, “It doesn’t have to be either/or.”

Like my acquaintance, you may be able to work at a steady job during the day and pursue another activity in your free time. Over time, that activity may generate some income for you.  Perhaps that activity is a kind of work that you do, a craft or piece of art that you sell, or perhaps your side activity is to be an investor.

There are, no doubt, numerous ways in which you could start a new venture.  Consider some of these ideas to change your thinking pattern from an“either-or” thinking pattern to a “both-and” one.

  • Start consulting in your current field (if there are no non-compete issues with your current employer).
  • Create an Etsy shop to monetize your creative hobby.
  • Do some freelance work—copywriting, graphic design, programming, photography, etc.
  • Explore investment options such as short term trading/investing.
  • Purchase an existing small business.

Besides the “either-or” question we’ve just discussed, there may be other ways in which “all-or-nothing” thinking is preventing you from moving ahead with your new venture. Let’s take a look at some other areas in which your current thought pattern may be holding you back.

  • Mental preparedness. I’m not ready. I don’t know anything–or enough–about…X.   You could spend years researching a potential product or opportunity and end up missing your chance to be successful.  Prepare, yes, but know that at some point you have to stop researching and training and take the plunge.
  • Financial readiness.  I don’t have enough money to start a business. Starting a business doesn’t necessarily require an enormous amount of capital. Did you know that you can start a business for $100?
  • Time constraints.  I don’t have enough time to start a business. This is a common limiting belief. We tend to make time for the things that are important, and activities fill available time.  For starters, consider ways to free up some of your time. You may be able to swap some of those non-productive TV and Facebook hours for time spent on a new venture.
  • Home or relationship status. I don’t own a house or an apartment. I’m not married–or--I don’t have children–yet. You needn’t have “arrived” in these areas to start a business; that kind of all-or-nothing thinking will keep you trapped in your job. If you wait for the perfect time, you will spend the rest of your time waiting…and your new venture will never get off the ground.

There may be other limiting beliefs that are holding you back. Are you setting up a false dichotomy: that your choices are to work in cubicle nation and be financially stable, or just to scrape by while doing what you love?

The most important thing in starting a business is…starting. Take a close look at your thoughts. How is all-or-nothing thinking limiting you? Share with us your creative ideas about adding new sources of income to break your paycheck addiction.