How I found myself in a most unlikely position…

I suppose some of you might be like this.

You set a goal.
You make a plan.
You implement the plan.
You reach the goal.
You set another goal.

 Nice and steady. Straight ahead. Unwavering. Always on target.

Yeah. Not me.

I set a goal.
I make a plan.
I implement the plan.
I hit a few curves in the road.
I find a new goal I like even better.
I make a new plan.
I stumble into a stop sign.
I take a detour.
I may or may not make it back to my plan.
I may or may not make a new plan.
I reach my goal.
Or change it to another goal entirely.

I keep moving forward.

It’s messy – and for some of you, this may sound completely crazy.

But it works.

On the Q&A call with my Small Business Success Circle this month, one of my clients talked about this.

“You’re proud of the way your career has evolved over time. You just exude that – and it’s so nice and light! I’ve always felt like I had to do things one way and keep doing them that way no matter what…”

So we talked about fear, and how so many women allow fear to hold us back in the way we run our lives, or our businesses. Fear of breaking some invisible, unspoken rule. Fear of disappointing others and whatever they expect of us. Fear of losing (too much) money. Fear of making a mistake or not getting something just right.

But “life is what happens while you’re making other plans,” as it says in an old John Lennon song.

And when we are willing to follow the curves and detours that come our way, we can find ourselves in some of the most unlikely – and interesting – places.

Sometimes, the discoveries we make are life-changing.

For instance, I never, ever, in a million years, expected to own a business. I used to feel so sorry for my business-major friends back when I was in college.

Marketing? Ugh.
Sales? Yuck.
Profit and loss? Ick.
Corporate structure? Shoot me now.

So after college, armed with degrees in psychology and social work, fascinated with the human condition and ready to contribute to the world, I built a career in helping people. I worked in agencies and hospitals. I moved quickly into management and sharpened my clinical skills, doing good work that was challenging, important and fulfilling.

I loved what I did. (Still do.)

Then, we brought home an 18 month old brown-eyed bundle of love, and I suddenly wanted to be home a lot more. I looked for a clinical job that would allow me to work part time, but there was nothing to be found.

So I took a detour.

And found myself in a most unlikely position. :)

More from desperation (or determination) than anything else, I started a private practice. It was my first experiment at running a business.

I did my research, of course, then I hung out a shingle, and waited. I started awkwardly asking for referrals. I learned, stumbled, learned some more. But according to everything I read, I was entirely the wrong kind of person to be doing this.

I was not terribly disciplined, or organized, or outgoing, or a self starter. I was an introvert who was quite happy to stay holed up in her office all day. I hated going to networking events. And I didn’t care about numbers at all. I didn’t even want to talk about money.

But some amazing things happened
on my way to becoming an entrepreneur. :)

  • I was “at cause” in my work.  If I made it, it was up to me. If I didn’t, that was up to me too. No matter what, in the end, the whole thing was my responsibility. Totally to my surprise, I discovered that I liked that.
  • I loved my clients. Turned out that those I didn’t love, didn’t love me either. :) That meant that eventually, I had entire days of working only with people I genuinely enjoyed, and knew I could help. I liked that.
  • My time was my own. If I wanted to take a day off for a field trip, I could. If I wanted to work on a holiday, I could do that too. I didn’t need anyone’s permission to change my hours or take a day off. I liked that. A lot.
  • I could try anything I wanted to try. When I wanted to try a support group for adolescent girls, I could. When I wanted to try a column for the paper, I could. When I wanted to start a networking luncheon for colleagues, I could. When something worked, I kept it up. When it didn’t, I tried something else. I liked that.
  • My income was up to me. My ability to earn an income – great or small, efficiently or inefficiently – was also up to me. Though I didn’t always feel like it, the truth was that the only income ceiling I had was limited by my imagination, creativity, persistence and willingness to try new ideas. I liked that too. :)

Over time, that practice evolved into the premier counseling service in my community, with a staff of ten, top-notch clinicians providing outstanding service to a wide range of folks on a whole host of issues. I’m proud of that.

And along the way, I grew too, as an individual, and as an entrepreneur. I’m proud of that, too.   Curves Ahead - Sherry Ezhuthachan

Christine Kane says that the best thing about being a business owner is not running a business itself, but about who you become as that process unfolds.

I agree.

Because I’ve become not only a business owner, but someone who loves running a business, and being a business owner.

How about you? Talk to me in the comments below. Who do you want to become, as your own life, and business, unfolds?

Photo Credits: Horia Varlan, Theory of Sherry E., Flickr

Getting Unstuck: How to get off the platform of your (psychological) zip-line

On Belay!Today’s the day.

Today’s the day that one of my coaching clients will be zip-lining for the first time in her life, riding no less than nine different zip-lines to get down the mountain at a top-notch program near here.

In fact, she’s taking a whole group of women friends and making a day of it in celebration of her 50th birthday. That’s a wonderful way to celebrate, don’t you think?

And I don’t know the friends who are going, but I’ll bet there’s a mix of feelings in the group about what to expect.

Some will be thrilled. Excited. Eager. First in line.

Others will hang back a little. They’ll be troopers; they will give big smiles and say they’re happy to be there, but they may be scared to death inside.

And isn’t that exactly the way most of us feel before making a big leap in our lives? Ending an unhealthy relationship. Moving to a new city. Going back to college. Getting serious about your health.

Starting a business.

All big stuff. All exciting. Exhilarating even. And scary.

You have this Big Idea, a big dream, a goal with an Attitude, and it’s perfect. Suddenly, you can see exactly where it is that you want to go, exactly what it is that you’re supposed to be doing.

You’ve got your first steps figured out. You’ve got the name of your practice, the clients you want to serve, one or two programs or products in mind that you’re ready to develop. You’ve even got your eye on an office in town.

You’re ready to put up a website, create a Facebook page, and tell the world that you’re Open for Business.

But just before hitting “Send” on that first batch of emails, or “Publish” on that first, rough-draft website, you pause.

You hold your breath.

Think about it for a second.
Go get a cup of coffee.
Come back to the computer.
Make a few more tweaks in the copy.
Get ready to go.

Then you pause again.
Think about it for another second.
Go get another cup of coffee.
Come back to the computer.
Make a few more tweaks in the copy.
Get ready to hit ‘send’.

And again…

You’re stuck.

I’ve seen this happen many times on zip-lines (or when someone’s gearing up to do a rappel down a cliff – but I’ll save that story for another day).

Everything’s ready. All the safety mechanisms have been checked and rechecked. All the right support is in place. You know what to do, and you know everything will be fine. You’ve watched other people do exactly this, for heaven’t sake – and THEY made it!  

But you stand there, staring out at the line that stretches into your future, and you’re terrified to jump.

You don’t trust the cables. You don’t trust the harness. You don’t trust yourself. You worry about whether you’ll “do it right”; worry that you’ll do a spectacular crash landing on the other side.

You’re stuck on the zipline platform in your mind.

See – one of the hardest things about doing a zip-line for the first time is just stepping off the dang platform.

And one of the hardest things about launching a business is, well, launching the business.

At some point, you have to tell other people about what you’re doing. You have to invite them to engage with you. And you have to share – with confidence – your enthusiasm, and expertise, and your belief that you are someone they should do business with. :)

But launching a business means stepping off that old familiar platform of security, and letting go of a lot of things.

  • It means letting go of (the illusion) of financial security, as you become powerfully responsible for your own income.
  • It means letting go of blaming your boss, as you become happily responsible for your own success.
  • It means letting go of perfection, because running any business is a messy, imperfect, unfolding process.
  •  It means letting go of hiding, because you have to step out in to the world and allow yourself to be seen.
  • It means letting go of playing small, because you have to believe in your own value so that others will believe in it as well.
  • It means letting go of mediocrity, since you have just declared to the world that you intend to create something More.

No wonder you hesitate. :)

But here’s the good news.

When you DO step off that platform, you are in for the most powerful, thrilling ride of your life. Of course It’s scary. But it’s fun, too.

And you won’t believe where it will take you.

I never had ANY intention of owning my own business, much less three or four different businesses! But today, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So if you’re all strapped in, ready to fly – but find yourself frozen on the platform, feet firmly clinging to familiar territory, it’s okay. Take a deep breath. Do what you have to do to make sure all your safety and support systems are in place. If you need to, ask someone to help you get off the platform.

(An extra hug can help!)

And then…jump.

Seriously. Don’t take too long – because the longer you wait, the harder it gets.

I’ve jumped off a lot of platforms in my own life. If it would help, I’d be happy to do a quick 30 minute call with you to help you check your harness, before you make your own leap. Maybe a little coaching could help. Click here if you’d like to set that up.

And just know this.

You won’t fall.

You’ll fly.

I’m sure of it. :)

Photo Credit: Justin Jensen on Flickr

What to Do When Your Mind is (Too) Full

Porch Sitting

Empty.

That was it. That was the word my coach used to describe what she called a critical first step towards greater productivity as a business owner.

“First, you have to empty your mind,” she said. Capture all those thought fragments, need-to’s and should-do’s, have-to’s and to-do’s, someday’s and one-day’s on a giant flip chart or a blank page in your planner first. Dump it out on paper, so you don’t have to carry it in your head for another second. Then move on from there.

And I get that.

I’m a business owner, a multi-business owner, in fact. And like every entrepreneur I know, my head, too, tends to be full of noise – sheer energetic clutter as my thoughts zoom from the client I forgot to call yesterday to the Secret Adventure I need to promote for next week to the program I want to launch next month.

There are days when I push through one event after another, one deadline after another, by sheer force of will. You don’t even want to know what time of night – or morning – I sometimes finish these posts. :)

And at the end of a day – or a month – of constant, charged intensity, I have to crash.

I have to just stop for a minute.

I have a deep need to create “empty” space in my mind.  

It’s not just a tool for better planning. It’s a self care skill that is critical to managing our lives, and to thriving as an business owner.

In fact, I preach this to my clients all the time.

You need a vacation.

At MINIMUM: Two weeks at a time.

Every year.

Every. Year.

And in between vacations, you need daily doses of empty time.

Empty time.

Creative time. Quiet time. Open time.

Empty time creates space in your spirit for new thoughts, new ideas, new awarenesses to emerge.

Empty time is rest.

Renewal.

Restoration.

Space.

It’s sooooo easy to seek this out unconsciously.  Our bodies crave it. Our brains need it. So we gorge on junk food and mindless TV or scroll blankly through Facebook while having a 3rd slice of Meat Lovers Pizza.

“I deserve a little downtime”, we tell ourselves.

And that’s true.
 
But there are healthier ways to meet this need, this ebb and flow in our energy that is as natural as the waxing and waning of the moon.

When I spent time in California earlier this year, I was delighted to stumble on a local tradition where I stayed just north of San Francisco. All the neighbors on this particular stretch of beach come down to the shore at sunset, every night. They bring a glass of wine or hot tea or whatever the beverage of the moment is. They sit on benches and chairs, walk a little in the surf, catch up with each other.

IMG_3720And wait. :)

When the big orange ball in the sky drops below the rim of the Pacific, everyone heads back in to start their evening.

Empty time.

Here at home, sometimes, I’ll just drop what I’m doing, stand up and stretch, and go for a fast walk that feels as good to my body as it does to my mind.

Sometimes, I listen to a super-quick TED Talk on something whimsical, that is, anything that strikes my fancy.

Sometimes I set my timer, stretch out on my couch and take a 15 minute power nap. (And yes – that does help.)

But my very, very favorite thing to do is to pick a porch that fits my mood (I have several). Leave my phone in the house. Turn off the TV or radio. Grab a little fan if it’s hot, or a shawl if it’s cool.

I pour myself something good to drink, choose a spot, put my feet up, lean back with a sigh…

…and wait.

I wait for the clouds to drift across that patch of sky. I wait for the sun to come up over the mountain. I wait for the moon to rise past that one patch of trees. I wait for the bunny I just got a glimpse of to come back out of the brush pile. I wait for the bluebird sitting on my clothesline to flutter off to the tulip poplar nearby.

I wait for the noise in my head to quiet down.

Just a little.

I took the photo above from my open porch a few nights ago. I’d finished a long, full day of meaningful work, guiding clients and witnessing triumphs, teaching and talking and writing and reading and, well, running a business. :)

Then, at the end of the day, I took a glass of wine and headed out to a spot where I could see the open sky. I needed Big Blue Space. I needed fluffy white clouds that crept so slowly across the sky I could barely tell they were moving at all. I needed to breathe for a little while.

I know that you, too, are pulled in (too) many directions. Every woman I know is stretched thin – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

You will be far more effective, whatever you do, if you create space in each day for some Empty time.

So what about you?

Do you take time like that? What do you do? And how does it help?

 

How to Go After Your Big Idea

Have a Chair - or 100...

So you have this idea.

And it’s a doozy.
But there’s something really important you want to do.

It may be a big change you want to make in your personal life. It may be a bucket-list goal that you’ve suddenly decided to go after.  It may be an idea for a business you want to start or a non-profit you want to launch.

Whatever it is – it’s important. It matters. The timing is perfect, and you know it. Everything in you tells you that this is exactly what you are supposed to be doing at exactly this moment in your life.

In fact, now that you see it, the decision is remarkably easy.

And with that decision, there is an incredible rush of emotion. Your purpose and passion come together in a moment of clarity that takes your breath away. Suddenly, it’s as if all the questions have been answered, all the doubts have been erased. All roads, you now see, have been leading you to Now, to precisely this moment.

You take a deep breath and clap your hands, happy, energized, excited.

And then it hits.

The Fear.

The first wave washes over you like the feeling in your belly as your car rolls over a small rise in the road. It’s brief, and sharp. You take a deep breath. Try to regain your balance.

But the doubts come back with a vengeance.

Don’t worry – this, too, shall pass. :))

“Anything I’ve ever done that was worth doing,
initially scared me to death.”
-Betty Bender

Whenever you’re ready to move up in your life in some way, to take a bigger stand, play a bigger part, build a bigger dream – there’s going to be fear.

In fact, I would say that if not, your idea, your goal, probably isn’t big enough. :)

But that fear can be paralyzing sometimes.

So here’s how to keep your balance while taking those first wobbly steps in this brand new Adventure.

1. Accept your lovely, imperfect Self.

You are exactly who and where you need to be in this moment. You have come to this place and time with a set of skills and a level of understanding that is just as it should be. Extend love and acceptance to the being that you are, just as you would to anyone else who found themselves in a similar place. Know that you’ll learn what you need to learn to do what you want to do. Honor the imperfections that remind you of this opportunity to learn and grow even more.

2. Seek out wisdom.

“When the student is ready, the master will appear.” Know that the help you need is all around you, just waiting for you to ask for it. In fact, once you are open to receiving it, you’ll be amazed at the way you’ll get exactly what you need. A good friend knows exactly how to do something you really need, but you never knew it. A stranger shows up with exactly the information, skills, or experience, to show you what to do next. Help will appear in the most unlikely places.

Look for it. Accept it. Appreciate it.

3. Hold the vision.

Create in your mind a clear image of what you desire. Here. Now. Use journaling, scripting, or meditation to craft a picture of exactly what your desired outcome looks like, feels like.

Imagine it as if it were already true, and hold that vision in your awareness as much as you can.

4. Trust the process.

Know that growth is a messy and unpredictable process, and that it rarely proceeds in a straight line. Instead, it evolves in your life in a winding, curvy way – more like a spiral – as you circle back around to learn a little more, discover a little more, create a little more. There will be curve balls and distractions, dead ends and u-turns, but relax.

It’s all part of the learning.

5. Release the outcome.

Care about what you do. Care about how you do it. But let go of the any attachment you have to the specific outcome. Whatever happens, happens. You can only control how you show up in the world, how you contribute to the work… after that, it’s out of your hands. So be prepared to do your absolute best, and to be okay with how things turn out – however they turn out.

There’s peace (and power) in that.

6. Embrace the joy.

Knowing that you’ve had the Courage to go after something so very important is something to be proud of.

Knowing that you’ve done everything you can to bring this to life, is something else to be proud of.

And when it all comes together (and it will, one way or another, in whatever way it is meant to be), celebrate the success. Appreciate the lessons. Allow yourself to feel the pride of a job well done, and effort well made.

And embrace the joy!

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If you have an Idea but aren’t sure where to start in bringing it to life, there may be a way that coaching can help. Click here and tell me if you’d like to set up a 30 minute strategy call to see if coaching would be a good fit for you. I’d love to hear from you!

Photo Credit: Ebelien on Flickr