Here’s the thing: gentle and powerful

This time last year, in January 2018, I was burnt out, emotionally and financially.

The previous year had been tough, mostly because I’d tried to do too many things all at once. It was time for something to change.

When you’re burnt out in business, it can feel like you’re at the bottom of a very deep pit. There’s SO much that needs to change – and that can be totally overwhelming.

So at the beginning of last year, I decided that my theme for January was “step in the right direction”.

I knew we have a tendency as humans to overestimate what we can do in the short term, and underestimate what we can do in the long term. So I didn’t want to put too much pressure on the month of January to turn everything around. (Also, I didn’t have the energy.)

So I used the practices I teach at my Small Creative Business Retreat to figure out my direction, and I simply asked myself to take small steps in that direction every day.

And I got through it. By the end of January, I’d run my retreat, and taken small, consistent steps to improve both my energy and my business. It was the start to the year I needed, and it was both gentle and powerful.

I shared this very story on Instagram recently, and by the end of the day I’d had messages from women with whom the idea of gentle and powerful resonated.

We’re not often taught that gentle is powerful, especially in business. To many of us, selling and marketing our work feels harsh, brash, and almost aggressive. There’s so much out there about setting goals, being productive and getting it done.

But if you’re anything like me, you’re creative, sensitive, and you like to feel a sense of authenticity in your work. And perhaps, like me, you manage depression or anxiety.

In which case, gentle is the most powerful way forward.

Gentle allows us to connect more deeply with the values that are most important to us.

Gentle allows us to go at our own pace, rather than pushing to a speed that throws us off track or bores us to tears.

Gentle reminds us that this life and business stuff is meant to be on our own terms, not dictated by the ideas and demands of others.

When we’re gentle with ourselves, we can really tap into our innate power. I can only write well when I’m well-rested and have the time to work around a piece. If I put pressure on myself to write as much as possible in a given time period because otherwise I won’t be successful, my writing isn’t as good.

So here’s the thing

What would being gentle mean to you as we start 2019? What doors could it open up?

When you feel at your most powerful, in business or while creating, what does that feel like? What helps you to get there?

If you’ve already written goals for 2019, what happens if you put “gently” in front of them? If you’re hoping to grow this year, how could you do it gently?

Will you join me in the pledge of gentle yet powerful this year? Pop on over to Instagram and tell me all about it!

Loving this week: 5th December

In a bid to shine a light on the work of others, I’m hoping to start a new regular instalment on the blog: a summary of things I’m loving each week. Rather than posting at the end of the week, when I tend to write my Here’s the thing posts, I’m going with a mid-week boost of wisdom and loveliness from people I respect.

This week I’m loving:

This post on the early years of self-employment from Tara Mohr. It resonates deeply.

Watching and listening to responses to Lucy Lucraft’s Podmas prompts on Instagram and various podcasts. Take a look at her Instagram highlights and/or the hashtag.

My friend and client Gabrielle Treanor’s upcoming series, The Warm Embrace. January is such a weird time of year, and this certainly brings a breath of fresh air.

Plus some creature comforts:

  • Gluten-free mince pies
  • Betty’s Christmas Tisane
  • Candles. All the candles.

 

Here’s the thing: I am not pretending

I was talking with a friend recently, and we were reflecting on a trap we all fall into from time to time. A mutual connection had been in touch with her to say they were struggling, and then had shown up in a small business Facebook group to talk about how busy they are.

Haven’t we all been there?

It’s really hard to be authentic on social media when things are hard. Even in support groups.

We have so many high expectations of ourselves and the people around us. We believe that the only way people will want to buy from us and connect with us is if we’re already successful. That is a headspin if ever I heard one!

It drives me crazy to see people using up their precious energy putting out a false sense of success. Because something happens, even on the most subtle level, where you try to believe your own hype. You want what you’re saying to be true. And yet you know that it’s not.

That level of dishonesty with yourself is the bit that can really erode your confidence over time. (I speak with experience, here.)

I’m not saying you have to share every single negative thought or experience or fact with the world. You certainly don’t have to make yourself feel over-exposed. That’s not going to help.

I do recommend having an inner circle or a business coach or mentor that you can be completely honest with, even before you’ve managed to process. Someone you can write a panic email or text to, and who’ll sit with you while you figure it out.

Otherwise, with other people and groups, may I suggest that you simply find something to say that’s true?

“It feels really busy, but I’m still worried about finances.”

“Things haven’t gone fully to plan, but I’m optimistic about the coming weeks and months.”

“We’re working really hard to make this year a success.”

Friends, you just don’t need to pretend it’s all amazing. Everyone in the whole world goes through cycles of success and struggle because that is life.

There is no constant uphill straight line of growth and prosperity that everyone else has found, and you haven’t.

Here’s the thing for me

When I wrote the title for this post, I hear the line in Kate Havnevik’s Unlike Me.

In the spirit of not pretending, I thought I’d share my own update.

Right now, as I write, my business is in a stronger position than it has been for two full years. It’s more profitable, more efficient, and more fulfilling.

But it’s not perfect. There’s still plenty to improve and work on and change.

Running retreats is always a little nerve-wracking – they require a lot of upfront work and financial investment, and I still have spaces available. Of course, I’d be way more comfortable if my January retreat had sold out as soon as I opened up the tickets! And so I sit with the discomfort of waiting, and I look for ways to share the experience for what it is: amazing, transformative, and rejuvenating.

And I can’t pretend I don’t doubt my decisions sometimes. It’s inevitable that we will, especially when we’re in new territory. I have some news up my sleeve for the new year, and while I’m pretty much decided on it, I’ll pace around the house pondering the decision until I share it in a couple of weeks.

Friends, business is not always easy. And while I don’t think it has to be impossibly hard to be successful, I am not interested in perpetuating the myth that you become self-employed and ride off into the sunset.

Be true to your experience. Explore what’s actually true. Redefine success for yourself.

We don’t have to be successful by other people’s standards in order to make a living. We do have to be true to ourselves and be honest and authentic with our customers. That’s how connection, respect and support happen.

I feel I could get my soap box out and stand on it all day! But I’ll leave it there for now.

In case you need a trusted ear, I’m available for coaching, and you can join my free Facebook group, The Safe Space.

Until soon,

Jenny x

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