This is a personal finance site. And while creating a plan to pay off debt, building a better budget, and increasing your income are all amazing ways to live a better life and finance your dreams, you won't live your personal “best life” if you're not a healthy, happy functioning adult. What follows below has nothing really to do with finance (other than interesting musings about my own life and business) so if you're looking for practical money management tips, hit the back button on your browser.
If you'd like to explore more about the emotional side of money and running a business, then keep reading.
Working for myself is the hardest thing I've ever done.
I wrote in my 2016 recap that I didn't hit any of the business goals I set for myself, like any good business owner I took some time off over the holidays to really examine the “why.” Why wasn't I hitting my goals? I'd invested in myself and my business, I'd been taking course after course, and implementing and testing things over and over again. Nothing seemed to “move the needle,” not even in the slightest.
I'm not saying I have all the answers when it comes to building a business, but a big conclusion I came to over the last few weeks is this: you can maintain a business if you're not emotionally whole, but growing a business while you're struggling to overcome a personal obstacle is damn near impossible.
And while I'm certainly still exploring the tactical things I can do to grow a blog to even greater heights, I got to thinking that maybe the answers to these “why not” questions aren't in spreadsheets or online courses. Maybe some of the problems are inside ourselves.
When You're Not Thriving
I know I'm showing my “basic b*tch” card with this one, but I just finished A Magnolia Story, the super cheesy book by Chip & Joanna Gaines. I like them and Fixer Upper a lot, but for whatever reason I did not want to like this book. Yet, lo and behold I found a lot of what they were writing about really resonated with me. I also really dug the fact that they weren't overnight successes and the book details their journey. In fact, it was by tiny, incremental actions along the way that their careers led them to somewhere big. I love that.
In the book Joanna Gaines writes, “Most people think that you start off not thriving. Then you get a TV show or some other amazing opportunity, you get fame, you get fortune and then you thrive……But what's interesting to me is that Chip and I got to a place where we were thriving – as a couple, as a family, as business partners – before any of this new success unfolded.
Which got me to thinking about what it means to thrive in all areas of your life, including your business. It's hard to bloom professionally if you're not thriving in other areas: mentally, emotionally, physically. And even if you do manage to eke out some big successes “in spite of” what may be going on in your personal life, you won't be able to enjoy them. Which honestly, isn't really thriving either.
Here's an Example from my Own Business
I'm no graphics wizard, so here are some lovely ones I generated in Excel. The top is my 2015 income and the bottom is what I made in 2016. No, you can't really see amounts, but the point is that you could lay these two graphs over top of one another, they're basically the same. I actually made less in 2016, and although I did pivot the model of my business from writing to more passive income streams like products and affiliates, there wasn't any growth despite it being my second year in business, when I had the benefit of not being so green.
I looked at these graphs and I asked “why?” and deep down I found a nagging voice inside that knew the answer. It has nothing to do with hustle, the amount of hours I work, or A/B testing links and email newsletters. Why was I failing to climb higher when I was putting so much energy and effort into what I'm “supposed” to be doing?
The answer actually comes from somewhere much deeper.
I don't feel comfortable disclosing to the internet at large exactly what happened, but I will say that in the late summer/Fall of last year something happened that completely changed who I was inside and out. It f*cked with my brain, my belief system, and made me question everything including my own values and the way I was living both my personal and professional life.
I examined it all and realized I'd been living a very unhealthy life for quite some time. It pre-dates my time as a solopreneur, and even pre-dates when I started this blog in 2012, likely with roots in my childhood and adolescence.
That level of brokenness, the inability to be fully happy even during the seasons of joy in my life, raises the biggest “why” question of all. The distraction of all that heartache has kept me from growing the business, but most importantly, it's kept me from living my best life. If 2016 taught me anything, it's that there really is a cap to how high you can go if you're building a business as a broken person.
With all of this in mind, when it came time to set business goals and New Year's resolutions this year, I left the page blank. No business metrics to meet. No wish-list of press outlets to pitch.
I only set one intention and priority for the year ahead – to be the happiest, best version of myself.
While focusing exclusively on this inner work may mean a third year of stagnant earnings, I know that this is the most important work I'll ever do and the best way for me to spend my time over the next twelve months. I also think it will be fun to see if this change in my personal happiness and satisfaction levels leads to greater success.
And if you're (maybe) in the same boat and struggling through some of these feelings, I really want to encourage you to join me every month as I blog it out.
The Action Plan
Unfortunately, taking care of your emotional health isn't something you can outsource the way you do with other parts of your business.
So, I hired a wellness coach. And honestly, some of what she asks me to do makes me roll my eyes, but I'm trying to be a good sport. I have to accept that I don't always know what's best and don't have all the answers. You know what else she encouraged me to do? To write out my feelings.
So, I'm going to take her advice even though the idea of getting really raw on the site where I make my living and have to present a certain image scares the sh*t out of me. I thought about starting another blog, something less-businessy where I could blog anonymously, but then I realized that was the FEAR in me talking.
Why not here? Why not this?
Introduction to the new “Emotional Entrepreneur” Series
While I was noodling on how to start blogging about my feelings again, I realized I already had a log of personal essays where I processed in writing the things I was struggling with at the time. And you know what? Those were some of my most popular posts from the last year. This one on the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship was the #2 most popular post for all of 2016.
I have this idea for a series called “The Emotional Entrepreneur” and I like the idea of a series to keep me accountable to my goal of writing one post a month where I explore these thoughts and feelings. No one wants to think of a business person as “emotional,” because they don't feel there's any room for it in the business world. Particularly in the “online expert” space.I disagree, and fully believe that ignoring our emotional health is a detriment to both ourselves and what we can create/give to the world when we're at our happiest, healthiest selves.
I respectfully disagree, because I fully believe ignoring our emotional health is a detriment to both ourselves and what we can create/give to the world when we're at our happiest, healthiest selves.