Why You Can’t Build a Business If You’re Broken


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.

This Fall….

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.



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  • Jessica Alma
    February 10, 2017 at 4:09 am

    I love that you are so honest in this post, it’s so good to see that you are able to see why and how all these things happened in your life now. And, it’s so good to hear evidence that the hustle isn’t always what makes us successful! Can’t wait to see how the biz skyrockets this year as a result!

    • Lauren Bowling
      February 13, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Jessica loved when you said – “the hustle isn’t always what makes us successful!!” Thanks for the thoughtful comment <3

  • Taylor K. Gordon
    January 25, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    I love this post Lauren! I relate to you in a lot of ways especially in A/B testing things, feeling stagnant, and then having to look within. I’m a complete head case sometimes and I need to come to terms with it. Can’t wait to follow this series!

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 26, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you Taylor! Testing is so frustrating because I know I think …simply because I’m making the effort to test something *should* work. I’ve also been thinking a lot on how it’s okay to fail when it comes to these tests and what to do afterward.

  • Lisa
    January 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    I love how real this is. And I completely agree – when you don’t take care of your entire well-being, it affects practically everything, even your business. Rooting for you always!

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 26, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks Lisa. I’m glad to have blog friends like you!

  • Alyssa
    January 12, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    I love everything about this.

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 16, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks Alyssa! It was really hard to share and the positive encouragement means a lot.

  • Peter White
    January 12, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Thanks so much for sharing, Lauren. I think it’s become the norm to put all of the personal/professional parts of your life into silos and to believe that they won’t impact each other. But you’re totally right that everything is connected and that your emotional health and state of mind is at the core of absolutely everything. Looking forward to following your journey as the emotional entrepreneur.

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 12, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Well said. Thanks Peter!

  • Jessica @ TheBudgetSavvyBride
    January 12, 2017 at 7:51 am

    Self care is something I’m also planning to prioritize in 2017! Loved this post!

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 12, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Thanks Jessica! Self care is so important. I’m going to the gym every day and that’s my small start.

  • Stefanie OConnell
    January 11, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    I think it’s awesome that you were able to pivot to a more passive income model without a significant earnings drop. This is something I’m working on in 2017. Self care is also a HUGE priority. I take about 3-4 hours in the middle of every day to work out, cook and relax.

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 12, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Thanks honey! I had higher expectations, but I do try to remind myself that I was pivoting when I get down about it 🙂

  • eemusings (NZMuse)
    January 11, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    TRUTH. Hell, you can’t even sort out your finances if you are super broken. Ask me how I know… I’m not an entrepreneur but my money life has been in havoc the past few years and for so much of it I wasn’t in a position to do much.

    I’m all about the emotional side of money (hence the blog tagline I chucked up last year on a whim: ‘Oversharing about feelings and finances’). I also had serious issues in late 2015 ish that rocked my core and made me question who I was, who I wanted to be, the decisions I had made in my life, just everything. Until you can get that work done and that healing done on your own, I really feel there’s no point trying to focus on more external things.

    In short – I would read the hell out of your emotional entrepreneur series.

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 12, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Agreed. There isn’t a point on focusing on the external, but it’s so difficult to feel a level of acceptance with “maintaining.” I have felt so much guilt the last few weeks with my decision to pull back and focus on myself rather than work.

  • Dear Debt
    January 11, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    I feel ya! I had a few instances in 2016 that were frustrating, heartbreaking and really shook the core of my foundation. Similar to what you were talking about where I questioned everything, myself, my biz, my life. It was SO hard. I am finally healing from all that and while I had a successful year, I could have done more if I didn’t let things affect me so much. It’s a balance of realizing I am an emotional person and have feelings, but also setting boundaries. Other people/things/circumstances out of my control can’t ruin my day, my life, or my career. So hard though!

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 12, 2017 at 11:47 am

      I get what you’re saying. Completely. My hope with this new series is that we can reinvent the concept of boundaries in personal/professional lives and maybe even come up with a new way to manage it all.

  • Emma
    January 11, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I love that you are talking about this. What a brave and helpful thing to do. I hope it resonates with others like it is with me.

    • Lauren Bowling
      January 12, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Thanks Emma! I’ve put self care on the back burner for so long.