At the beginning of this year I outlined some intentions for what I hoped 2016 would be.
Looking back over that post, I feel so grateful that wholehearted was the word and mindset to guide me this year. 2016 has been a wonderful year for me - it’s had it’s highs and lows like all years have, but it’s one I know I’ll always look back on fondly and feel a whole lot of gratitude for.
Today I want to share with some you some of things I’ve discovered and learned in my creative work and life this year; these are the things I’ll be taking with me into the next year and that I’m so thankful I’ve had the space and opportunity to dive deep into in 2016.
1. Your life is going to kick your business’s ass sometimes, and that’s okay
There’s just no doubt about it, life is going to kick our ass sometimes, and therefore kick our business’s ass in the process too. You might get sick - whether with a temporary bug or illness, or with something more chronic that needs more mindful management. You might already have an illness that flares up throughout the year from time to time. A loved one might get sick and you may find yourself taking more trips to the hospital than you ever have before. You may have a personal crisis that you need to focus on - or a loved one may need your support with their own. Anything can happen - whether it’s within our own lives, or in the world around us, and it can stop us in our tracks and force us to slow down or take a step back even if we don’t want to.
I’ve learned this year to not fight it; when life is kicking my business’s ass, that’s okay. It’s my job to face it in a purposeful, professional, and mindful way - but it’s really okay if I slow down for a week, or take an afternoon off, or take a project off the table for a while if I need some breathing room. We’re human, and we will always be capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for, but in our moments of need we need to show ourselves a whole lot of love and patience so we can actually function when it’s time make things happen again.
2. There’s a season to hustle and there’s a season to rest
I’ve shared posts this year on intentional seasons of hustle and navigating seasons of rest when there’s still work to be done and bills to be paid, and more than anything I’ve learned to truly embrace the ebb and flow of creative living along the way. There are times when I’m go-go-go - because I want to, because I’m feeling creatively charged, because there’s a goal I want to meet - and there are times when I’m more restful - when I’m still working, but I’m putting less on my plate so I can recharge, refocus, and live a little more too.
Both have value, and how we navigate between the two is different for each and every one of us. There is no right amount to time to hustle and rest - it’s ultimately up to us along the way to embrace whatever season we want to be in. Even when it feels like a season of hustle or rest is happening to us instead of being something we’ve chosen, we still have the ability to navigate it on our own terms and be intentional with our energy, time, and focus along the way.
3. No other noise will ever serve you better than your own
In many ways, I live, work and exist in my own little bubble and I’m so so grateful that I do. I ignore the majority of the noise around me - I’ve found that listening to my own voice, and intentionally deciding what external noise I will allow in, is how I can stay truly connected to my values, goals, and vision along the way. As a coach, I support my clients to listen to themselves so they can make things happen on their own terms, and I try and practice this every single day in my own work and life too.
When we listen to everything and everyone, and especially only to the noise that is shouting the loudest, we hold ourselves back from really discovering who we are, what we want, and how we’re going to make it happen on our own terms along the way. This isn’t to say I don’t surround myself with the ideas of others - I’m always reading books, listening to podcasts, watching TED Talks, and keeping up to date with the thinkers, thought leaders, and creatives whose work and ideas really resonates with me, really challenges me, and really pushes me to be the best I can be. But there’s a also a whole lot of noise that I ignore too - not because it’s bad, but because it just can’t serve me in my journey right now.
4. Honing your craft is your number one job
I truly believe that even with all the best marketing, PR, and metrics in the world, if you’re not actually showing up, delivering what you say you’re going to deliver, and growing in your craft along the way, you’ll never actually do the work you’re aching to do in the world. So I try and honour that in my work and prioritise developing my practice as a coach, my craft as a content creator, and my mindset as a business owner each and every workweek. In 2016 I've doubled my income from 2015, and I wouldn’t say I’ve doubled or even increased my marketing efforts all that much. What I truly believe has made all the difference is that I’ve grown in my craft, developed a stronger and more effective practice as a coach, and become more focused and confident as a business owner too.
As much as I believe in the power of marketing, putting ourselves out there, and making space for the clients and customers we want to be attracting along the way, I never want the external parts of my business to distract me from committing to being the best coach and content creator I can be along the way.
5. It’s okay if it feels easy sometimes, and it’s also okay if it feels hard at times too
Something I’ve noticed both myself and some of my clients struggle with this year is a mindset that if our business feels hard we’re doing something wrong, and if our business feels easy it must mean that sooner or later it’s all going to fall apart. Throughout 2016 I’ve tried to question this mindset and really dig into what fears and limiting self-beliefs are holding me back along the way. So many of us fear ease - we tell ourselves a story that only things that feel hard are worthwhile. And yet when we find things challenging, we worry it means we’re not up to the task.
Here’s what I’m learning this year: sometimes our business feels more “in flow” than other times, and that’s absolutely a-okay. Some days feel like a breeze, other days we feel like we need to dig a little deeper to get through the day. Both are valid experiences - they’re not a commentary on our capabilities. Instead of questioning our self worth, what’s more useful is to explore what it looks like when things feel good, and what it looks like when things feel hard, and how we can learn from that and grow from that as we go.
6. You can stay hungry and feel at peace in your creative work and life at exactly the same time
During a season of rest earlier this year, I started to fear that I’d lost my “hunger” in my business. I wondered if it was possible to embrace a restful and more peaceful mindset as a business owner and still honour my ambitions and my potential along the way. What I discovered this year is that, even though it can feel easier to exist at either extremes, what serves me better is to embrace both at exactly the same time.
I try and honour this mindset every single day in my business - that I am whole, and good enough, and at peace exactly where I am right now, while still hungry, and focused, and committed to my creative potential and the potential of my business. While working hard towards big goals, what I’ve been so grateful for these past few months is that at the heart of everything is a core belief that no matter what happens, I am enough and that I have enough exactly as I am right now. It’s not a way to disengage from my goals, but instead it supports me to intentionally and proactively pursue them without feeling desperate, overwhelmed, or like my self-worth is connected to them coming to fruition.
7. Work and life will always be a marathon, not a sprint
We can’t have everything we want straight away - and that’s a good thing, because if we did what would we have to work towards? Embracing that this journey is a marathon not a sprint, and that it’s what I do in the next 5 years, not just the next 5 months, that truly matters and that will truly improve and change my life is how I stay focused on the bigger picture as I go.
This year I’ve become more comfortable thinking about the bigger picture of my business when making day to day decisions, and thinking about the bigger picture of my life too. This doesn’t mean that I’m not living in the present, but instead I’m feeling more content and focused in the here and now because I feel fully committed to the whole of this journey that’s ahead of me. Whenever I’m making decisions in work and life, I always try and ask myself: Is this sowing seeds for the future, or is this just for instant gratification and will it maybe even have consequence in the long run?
It all goes back to a mindset that says: I am enough exactly as I am. I can embrace joy in this season of my life even though life is never perfect and there is so much more left I’d like to do and make happen. I’m in this for a long haul and I’m going to show up wholeheartedly every single step of the way.
8. Running in the direction of a life and a business that feels most meaningful to you is the definition of success (or at least, it is for me)
I’ve shared a few times in my Weekly Letters this year that I just don’t care about being “successful” as a business owner. Of course I want to make a good living, and of course I want to feel proud of the work I do, but what’s most important to me is that I feel good about the life I’m living, that I enjoy my day-to-day life, that I have freedom to live my life on my own terms, that I’m doing good work in the world that I feel passionate about, and that I’m showing up wholeheartedly every step of the way. A profitable thriving business is just a tool to make all of this possible - but being a “successful business owner” in itself will never truly feed my soul along the way.
I’ve said it so many times this year but I’ll say it again: I just want to run in the direction of a life and a business that feels most meaningful to me.
9. Surround yourself with things that feed you, not that drain you
Whether it’s people, or technology, or books, or clients, or projects, or experiences - what we surround ourselves with shapes our lives and our work in so many ways. Whenever I’m feeling burnt out, exhausted, or disconnected I always ask myself: what am I giving my time, energy and focus to right now? And does it feed me, or does it drain me?
Learning to set (and honour) boundaries has been huge for me this year - but even though it’s hard at times to draw a line in the sand, I know it’s essential for a wholehearted life.
10. Your life is your own; don’t live it for anyone else’s approval
No one said living a wholehearted life on your own terms was going to be easy. Being brave enough to build a life that feels meaningful to you may spark discomfort in others - they may not understand your choices, they may question them, criticise them, and even try to change them. Even well-meaning loved ones may say things that make you feel like you need to question your core vision for your life. I’m learning to hold steady when it comes to the choices in my life, and I’m trying to no longer apologise when it may go against the grain or not be a choice that others find comfortable with their own vision for their life.
Find your centre, stay connected to it, and be brave enough to live the life you want to life. Because the people who matter will be happy for you, and you may even inspire them to run in the direction of a life that feels most meaningful to them too.
11. Your life shapes your business, and your business shapes your life
This is probably one of my favourite things about being a creative business owner - the blurred lines and the ways my life and my work have shaped each other along the way. So much of who I am and my journey so far is fused into my business - and the more I grow and discover in my life, the more I grow and discover in my work too.
And to say my business has changed my life would be an understatement. Not only has it brought me financial independence and stability, but it’s also made me braver, more focused, more creative, and has truly helped me to build a life that makes me excited to get out of bed every single day.
My life and my business are like two partners in crime and I really can’t wait to see what they do together next.
12. Showing up, doing your best every single day, and never giving up or making excuses for yourself while still showing yourself unconditional grace and kindness is how you keep moving forward
That’s all there is really - we just have to show up and do our best every single day, and it’s a-okay that our “best” looks different at times. Never feeling entitled, never making excuses, but always showing myself unconditional grace and kindness is something I try and practice every single day - I try and hold myself to high personal standards without letting those standards crush me along the way. It’s okay if I mess up, or if I don’t tick everything off my to-do list one day - I don’t make excuses, but I do show myself grace and encourage myself to keep on going even when it’s hard.
The secret, for myself at least, is just to keep moving forward. To show up, to be here, with a whole heart, ready to learn, and grow, and discover along the way.