Reflection is our secret weapon when building a creative livelihood that is impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable along the way.
Running an intentional business means we have to refuse to run on autopilot; we have to pay attention, feel all the feelings, and face our highs and lows head on. Reflection is tough, it means we have to ask ourselves the tough questions from time to time and be okay with the discomfort of our answers.
Reflection helps us make space for a more meaningful, impactful, and purposeful creative journey. I want to share with you today 10 of the questions I ask both myself and my creative coaching clients when we’re making the space to dig deep, be honest with ourselves, and reach for more in our lives and our work.
1. What is feeling good in your business right now? What isn’t feeling good?
This question is as simple as it sounds. Quietly ask yourself - what is feeling good right now? What isn’t? And don’t be afraid to be completely honest. Sometimes we don’t want to always admit what’s feeling bad, and sometimes we’re too wrapped up in wanting to grow and improve that we forget to be grateful for what’s feeling good right now.
Use your answer to guide where you want to go next; how can you dig deeper and remove or minimise what isn’t feeling good? How can you make more space for what’s feeling good? What can these feelings teach you about your business and its growth so far?
2. Who are 5 of the dreamiest clients you’ve worked with in the past 6-12 months? What marketing tools did you use to attract them?
As purpose-driven creatives, we ache to work with dream clients. We built our brands so we can do our best work with the people we’re here to serve best. Make a note of 5 of the dreamiest clients you’ve worked with recently - the ones who made you know, deep in your gut, that your work matters and that you’re having a positive impact in their life and their journey. Then dig a little deeper - what marketing tools and parts of your brand attracted them? What did they talk about when explaining why they hired you?
This exercise is an interesting one - it shows you which marketing tools are most effective for you when it comes to attracting dream clients. In my own journey, the most interesting thing was that some marketing tools that were effective in bringing in clients didn’t always bring in those dreamy clients, whereas other marketing tools almost always brought in the dreamy ones. You can use these reflections to guide your marketing efforts moving forward so you can cultivate client leads who you can do your best, most meaningful work with.
3. What’s been draining your creative energy and best work recently?
We all have those leaks in our routine, process, and life that leaves us drained, uninspired, and unmotivated along the way. What’s been draining you recently? What’s been holding you back from bringing your highest level of contribution with your work?
Think back over those workdays or weeks when it just didn't feel like you were able to give it 100% - what was getting in the way? Is it bad habits? Less-than-dreamy clients? Work that doesn’t fuel your soul? Personal reasons outside of your control? Your workspace? Once you identify your leaks, that’s when you can start to take control of them and move forward.
4. What do you need to fill up your tank with to be really, really, good at your creative work?
What fuels you creatively? What enables you to do your best, most meaningful, and impactful work? In both your work and your life, what do you need to be able to be the best version of you?
This reflective exercise helps you to realise what you need to practically make space for if you want to move forward and do your best work. Sometimes you need to switch up how you refuel, other times you need to make space for it in the first place. If you’re feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, scattered, or exhausted, make refuelling your number one priority.
5. What impact are you aching to have with your creative work right now?
If you’re a purpose-driven creative like me, building a creative life and business full of impact is probably top of your priority list. It’s way more than just a way to make a living; the work we do is a way to make a difference and an impact too.
The ways we want to show up and leave our mark with our work changes and evolves over time. Ask yourself - what impact am I aching to have right now? Has it evolved since I last got laser-focused on my purpose and my intentions? What impact do I want to prioritise in the work I currently do? Let this fuel and guide you every step of the way.
6. What are your current pain points in your business?
No matter what stage you are in your creative business journey, everyone has pain points. Maybe you’re aching to book more clients. Maybe you’re struggling to break out of feast and famine. Maybe you have no idea how to transition into more passive income. Maybe you’re fed up of being overworked and struggling to raise your prices. Whatever it is, outline the main pain points that are currently affecting you and your work.
Look at each one and ask yourself: what do I need to move past this? Do you need help and expert guidance? Do you need to be more patient? Do you need to just do the work and keep on moving forward? Do you need to invest in something to help you get out of your own way? Do you need to change your mindset? Figure out what you need, and then figure out how to make it happen so you can start to move forward.
7. What do you want from this season in your life?
I’m a big believer in living our creative life in seasons; it’s okay and normal to need different things from our life throughout the months and years ahead to come. Dig deep and ask yourself - what do I want from this current season? To grow? To elevate my brand? To rest and slow done? To pivot and evolve? To explore something new?
Sometimes we have the freedom to be brave enough to ask for what exactly we need from this season in our life. Other times we have to dig deep and make happen in this season in our life what we need from it. Either way, being intentional is how we don’t let the seasons of our lives go to waste.
8. Let’s talk about money for a minute
Even as purpose-driven creatives who are guided more by impact and fulfilment than we are by a paycheque, we still have bills to be paid, retirement to be saved for, and lives to be lived and invested in along the way. Money, whatever our relationship and mindset towards it, can leave us feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and on edge - especially when it’s our job to do the work to pay ourselves each month.
Ask yourself - how am I feeling about my finances right now? Do I feel stable? Am I feeling anxious and on edge? Am I making smart decisions - am I happy with the decisions I’m making? Take an afternoon to work through your finances, both business and personal, and get a clear picture of where you are and where you want to be heading moving forward.
9. What are the core intentions, ideas, and goals guiding the work you do right now?
When you look at this year, this quarter, and this month - what are the core goals, intentions, and ideas that are guiding everything you do? What do you want to be channeling your time and energy into right now?
And then take a look at your output and what you’re currently giving your focus to - is it aligned with those core goals and intentions? Are you giving your best hours and your highest levels of energy to the work and goals that matter to you most? And if not, what’s taking up that energy instead? And how can you refocus it to those core intentions and goals instead?
10. Are you enjoying yourself?
The last - and perhaps most important - exercise: are you enjoying yourself? This is a question I asked myself last year while I was stuck in the middle of burnout and overwhelm - am I actually enjoying myself? I realised that the routine I had built and my approach to work was leaving me far away from the joy and fulfilment I was aching for, and that was the catalyst I needed to embrace some radical change in my work and my life.
Months later, I recently asked myself that question again: am I enjoying myself? And I straight away knew my answer - a big, big, yes. And that answer fuels the gratitude that keeps me focused and joyful every single day, even when I’m tired, overwhelmed, or anxious along the way. So ask yourself - am I enjoying myself? If it’s a no, what do you need to change? If it’s a yes, let that fuel you every step of the way. Never lose sight of the joy, it’s just as important as the growth and the profit.
I know I talk over and over again about being intentional in this journey, but there’s a method to my madness. Being intentional with our creative work gives this journey more depth - it takes us to a place that profit, growth, and the more traditional markers for success alone cannot. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the online business world and making space to reflect keeps me focused and clear along the way; I hope it can do the same for you too.
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