Being self employed is tough.
This may not be everyone’s experience, apparently there are people “just like me” who have made seven figures in a week with the flick of a switch, this “super simple marketing formula” and this “make money while you sleep sales funnel”, who are currently working from the deck of their Caribbean-moored yacht – but that’s not me, (yet!). In my experience, especially the last couple of weeks, being self employed is tough. It doesn’t seem to matter how focused, organised and strategic I am in my business, it doesn’t seem to matter how many hours I work, it doesn’t seem to matter how many people I reach out to, it doesn’t seem to matter how much I engage with social media – I NEVER feel as though I am on top of it all.
Herein lies the problem. Even though past experience has indicated strongly to the contrary, even though there is not one shred of evidence to suggest it is possible, for some completely obscure reason only comprehended by my brain – I seem to think that I should be able to do it all. What’s more when I can’t, I label it as bad, a failure, and I pick up a big critical stick and start beating myself with it. What is that all about?
We create busyness.
I have a few working theories on why. You won’t like any of them, I don’t! I think that some of us have created an association between busyness and status (importance) and are consequently running a slightly concerning, self perpetuating programme where busyness has become inextricably linked to feeling worthy and of value – I do, therefore I am. We wear busyness like a badge of honour, the more we can pack into a day the better we must be doing at this thing called life because we are beating the unbeatable – time.
My second theory, just as terrifying as the first, echoes the thoughts of the 19th Century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard – busyness is the sign of an unhappy person. Kierkegaard saw busyness as a means of distraction from the truly important questions – who am I and what is life for? Busy people fill up their time, always find things to do – everything is important but nothing is important, because actually there is a numbness attached to living in this way. Kierkegaard’s concerns about busyness are also connected with his view of time, and the importance of living in the present. “The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself,” he wrote. In other words, obsessing over future goals, and keeping frenetically busy with an eye to some far-off date, is a way of distracting oneself from present reality. (NB. There is a difference between an active life and a busy life).
My third theory, and this is my final one because thinking about this has become vaguely depressing, is that we are unconsciously busy. We are busy because everyone else is. Its like a bad rumour or a viral trend – one person started it, as a joke, and it took on a life of its own and has spread globally, becoming a societal norm. Human beings have a tendency to copy others. We copy unconsciously, seeing others engage in a certain behaviour and directly linking this to our own behaviour and sometimes we choose to copy others because we’re uncertain about the best course of action and believe that others must know better than we do, or just simply because we want to fit in. We always search for role models so that we can emulate them – maybe we are emulating their busy behaviour without giving real thought as to why and how it is serving us.
What would happen if we slowed down and started to reflect?
I hit that point this morning. I had to stop. My busyness had taken over and I had disconnected from what was important. I didn’t realise how far down the rabbit hole I had gone but I sensed that something was not right because I was thinking in terms of what was wrong, lacking, missing and absent which is not my usual way of processing information. I was back listening to that inner critic, the one that uses “should’ve”, “could’ve”, would’ve” language. The “what if” and “I told you so” voice that picks holes in e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g and for whom nothing is ever good enough.
Well enough is enough.
And now, here I am – I walked all the way along the cliff path to sit on a beach, completely alone. No one in the world knows exactly where I am right now.
This behaviour may seem a little extreme but I am an all-or-nothing kind of operator! It has been a really tough couple of weeks rife with disappointment, client cancellations, a cancelled event, my retreat venue fell through and scuppered my marketing strategy sending me back to the drawing board with only 2 marketing months before Christmas, plus a stinking cold (my first in 14 years) and a few other niggly little annoyances – things were feeling grim and I was downward-spiraling. I got to “that point” – you know the one. I woke up, thought about the day ahead, fought back tears, put my head in my hands and asked “that question” – What am I doing? Such a dangerous question. There is only one possible answer – I don’t know – and where do you go from there? If you don’t know WHAT you are doing and you don’t know WHY you are doing it the only place to go next is “What’s the point?”
A negative downward spiral of disempowering questions.
Very hard to come back from, and in my experience only one way out – CHANGE YOUR STATE (Tony Robbins would be proud). If you don’t know what you are doing or why you are doing it – do something different until you do! So that is exactly what I did. Now you can just go for a walk, or to the gym, or bake a cake, or have coffee with a friend – anything that takes you out of one headspace and into another, but I knew that I needed something big this time. I needed to remind myself WHY. Why am I self employed? Why am I doing what I am doing? So I got in the car and drove three hours and here I sit.
On a beach.
On a Friday afternoon.
Breathing in the salty sea air, with the sun on my face.
Bum in the sand and the waves are getting closer and closer to my trainers!
Here I feel alive again. Here I know why I do what I do. It’s Friday and most people are still at work or stuck in commuter traffic and I just walked out of my job, for today, because I could, because I am not going to fire myself! The beauty of being self employed – it will all still be there tomorrow, and that’s now okay as well. As I sat here I wrote myself a list – straight off the top of my head, no looking at my phone, no signal anyway. A list of how many people I had helped so far in 2017, actually helped, not made smile or greeted – actually made a difference to their business or their life because they said so in some way, shape or form. I counted 163 names, off the top of my head, 163 – and there it was, right there, in messy pencil writing – my compelling reason WHY.
You have to have one. Gavin Preston calls it a Compelling Purpose Indicator. Yes we need targets. They focus our attention and our actions – “what gets measured gets done” – but sometimes these targets leave us uninspired and a little dead inside, especially when we “fail” to meet them. He suggests that in addition to the key performance indicators in your business: revenue targets, sales targets, growth percentages, spending budgets, marketing statistics, and individual task goals, you need a target or a measure that excites, engages and compels you to achieve it no matter the setbacks. You have to know why you get up in the morning, and you have to remind yourself of it regularly. Your compelling reason has the most powerful and profound effect as it gives the work you do more meaning, it gives you greater purpose. It is so much bigger than that even – it makes a difference to others, it is in service to others, you are joining the movement of people making a positive difference through doing good things for others.
So as I watch the sun set on this rather reflective, insightful and inspiring day, that is my wish for you. That you create or connect with your compelling reason because, without it, I have absolutely no answer for you, to the question “What is the point?”