Behind the scenes: my Creative Business Day Retreat

Earlier in May, I hosted a wonderfully nourishing Creative Business Day Retreat at Paus, just outside Cambridge.

Having created and hosted six retreat weekends over the last five years, it felt like high time to offer a day retreat that would inspire, remove challenges, and rejuvenate!

The day started with tea and coffee, and a few introductions. I had a very prompt group (or should that be lots of luck with the traffic!) so we had plenty of time to chat and get to know one another.

My job at any retreat is to listen deeply to the needs of the women who gather and make sure they leave with some insight, clarity and practical suggestions for actions to take. So as I guide everyone through introducing themselves and their businesses, I’m listening out for themes and clues for what they really need.

I use meditation to help us all get really present, and to bypass the monkey minds that keep us stuck in fear and old habits. At my weekend retreats, I lead groups through regular meditations and longer visualisations, but as this day retreat was shorter, I kept things pretty focused!

Another tradition of the retreat is the gift of a star with a word on it. It’s a little bit of magic, but also an important symbol: a token to remind guests of their insight and clarity when they leave. Each word is carefully chosen, but ultimately goes to the person who needs in most.

Once we’re all settled in, I lead the group through some writing prompts. For this retreat, it was all about where you are now and where you want to get to. After we spend about an hour digging into some pretty big questions, each person has the opportunity to share with the group, and get some coaching from me.

This is where we really uncover the things that have held us back, that we haven’t been able to see before. Yes, there were tears. Yes, my hormones meant that I was also tearing up! But it’s good. These shifts are important.

Writing prompts sound very simple and straightforward, but the truth is there’s a lot of power behind them. I go deep – asking things in different ways and looking for fresh perspectives. It’s rare that guests don’t find something useful during these workshops.

After a delicious and nourishing lunch, guests had access to the incredible outdoor hot tubs at Paus, as well as time to reflect on the insights of the morning.

We had a little closing ceremony, including a meditation and some declarations of things we’re leaving behind as we go onwards. And of course some happy-sad goodbyes!

The day retreat was such a lovely way to celebrate my last in-person work before my maternity leave, and I loved spending the day at Paus.

If you’re interested in my next Creative Business Retreat Weekend in March 2020, I currently have two places left.

And for more information about future events, you can sign up to my newsletter.

Fancy a private retreat or workshop for a small number of friends or colleagues, get in touch!

Here’s the thing: places we get stuck (and how to get out of them)

I’ve noticed in working with creative entrepreneurs, especially designers and makers, and in my own work, there are certain places where we get stuck. Because we’re individuals, they’re nuanced, but there are definitely themes.

I’ve collected five of the most common blocks to doing our best work and shared some of my thoughts on how we get un-stuck. This list is not exhaustive, and so I’d love to hear your experiences of what gets you tied up in knots and how you untangle yourself. Pop a comment below or email me!

 

Worrying about what other people think

Okay, I’ll admit this is a lifetime’s work for me. I’m a people-pleaser, and every year I think I’ll kick this habit, and every year it is stubborn. So my experience is that it’s a practise. A long one that you have to do every day. I remind myself that I’m not here to please people. It’s not my job to make everyone happy. It’s my job to tell the truth, to be myself, to offer business practises and services that I believe in.

Worrying about what other people are doing

There’s the pleasing, and then there’s the comparison. There are so many books I wish I’d written, courses I’d love to run, events I’d love to host, conversations I’d love to have. And when I see other people doing them, it physically hurts sometimes.

And then there’s seeing other people doing things I hadn’t even thought of! Should I be doing that? How can a change my business strategy to include that, because it’s obviously working? Wait. This is always a signal for a pause. To get off social media, to take a walk, to remind myself of what’s important to me.

Comparison is another life-long lesson. But my best advice is to allow yourself that pause to come back to yourself, and to remember that you have to do what’s right for you.

Note: if either of these first two are big for you, consider Self Care on Social Media for Business Owners. We’ll get you some healthy boundaries around social media, comparison and those silly shoulds.

Creative self-doubt: this font or that? This format or that?

In the last 3 days I’ve had emails from coaching clients double checking their new designs. What do I think of the fonts? Are the colours right?

I can help with these questions for my clients because I already know the answers to the following:

  • Who are you designing for?
  • What do they care about?
  • What’s the most important job for this product / service / offering?
  • Do the design choices reflect these things?

Ultimately, feeling confident in your designs requires courage. It’s never easy. There is often doubt and fear lingering around. It’s about having enough of a connection to what you want to create so that you can push through the doubt.

I could write a whole other post (maybe a book?) on listening to the inner signals of what is right and what is fear, following our creative intuition. All I’ll say now is: I know you have a wise inner creative within you, one that knows the answers.

There’s not enough money

If you’re stuck in the “not enough, not enough, not enough” loop, I recommend logging off. Turn off your phone. Close down your laptop. Stop looking at the to-do list. For 15-20 minutes.

Instead, boil the kettle, make a tea or lemon and honey, and sip it. List a few things you’re grateful for, the prosperity you’ve already received. Go to town if you can. Be grateful for the kettle, electricity, and the chair you’re sat in if that’s all you can manage. This is the seed that shifts the worry and lets your brain know you have resources to get through the hard patch you’re in – or realise you’re not in a hard patch at all.

Alternatively, I also find just walking round the block for 20 minutes can shift the overwhelming not enoughness.

Trying to push through when really we need to rest and reset

This. This, my friends, is a theme amongst hard-working, gifted, creative, ambitious (mostly) female entrepreneurs and creatives. There’s a tendency to push and push and push. We think that’s what we’re meant to do – keep going forever, no matter what.

Your energy isn’t infinite, but it is renewable.

If you’re trying to get through an impossible to-do list. If you keep getting hit in the face by a wave coming towards you, with no chance for a breath before the next one hits. If you are so tired that sleep doesn’t even touch the sides (as it were). If you can’t remember what a clear head feels like.

You. Have. To. Rest.

Rest actually speeds up the creative process. Did you know that? It also speeds up success of all kinds. Because we don’t waste precious energy trying to do stuff that isn’t working when, if we had the mental clarity, we’d know that a thoughtful pivot would yield results.

I don’t write this to be facetious or to over-simplify the complex process of building a sustainable and profitable business. Business isn’t simple, but nor is it as complicated as our fear-based brains like to tell us.

So I write this to offer practical steps to get yourself out of stuckness and closer to your dreams.

I can’t wait to hear what works for you!

Jenny x

 

A few offerings

If you’re getting stuck, you might like:

  • Self Care on Social Media for Business Owners. If I could release creatives from comparison and the distraction of social media, I know that the world would be better off. We’d have more true connection, more amazing products and services, and generally more happiness. Be part of this movement to create healthy relationships with social media, especially for business owners. Lifetime membership is £140+VAT.
  • My January retreat weekend. Yes, you’ll rest and reset. Plus you’ll get time to reflect on your business and make an amazing plan for the year ahead. These retreats change lives, I’ve been told. Places are available for just £700, and you can book a place for a £250 deposit.
  • One-on-one coaching. Let’s get into the detail of where you’re standing in your own way, or coming up against obstacles you can’t figure out yet. Create your own unique plan of six sessions for £750.

Here's the thing: feel the disappointment in order to move forward

Disappointment is a somewhat disappointing fact of life.

And even though we can be in the ongoing process of creating a life with fewer disappointments by adjusting our expectations and our actions, the truth is we can’t guarantee outcomes, and so we experience disappointment.

From minor disappointments, like drinking a cup of tea way after it’s gone cold, to major disappointments, such as business opportunities not being fulfilled, it’s important that we can process everything we feel and make great choices going forward.

Even small disappointments, when noticed and processed, can lead to better situations next time. You might be more mindful of when you make a cup of tea next time, or you might get an insulated cup! For the bigger disappointments, the more we process them, the more we learn about what happened, what fell through, what that means for our choices going forward.

Too often, we’re too quick to try and jump up and move on and pretend nothing happened. Hope no one noticed, including ourselves. In my experience, this can keep us stuck in secret disappointment that we can’t shake off…

I was thinking about this over Christmas, when my five-year-old stepson got really upset at losing a game. My initial reaction is, “Wow, it’s not a big deal. He needs to not overreact like this.” Partly, I don’t want to see him upset, but also it’s so easy to forget how much of a disappointment this is for a small person. (Side note: I’m terrible at most games, so losing is no big deal for me!)

Reflecting on it, I want to help him deal with the disappointment. If he’s disappointed, I want him to be able to express it and process it healthily. I don’t want it to be suppressed so that in the future he’s just aggressively determined to win. He needs to know that it’s okay to lose, to be disappointed, but he can still try again, he can still have fun.

Disappointment points us to what we want

Maybe you wanted to win that game. Maybe you wanted to score that interview in the local paper. Maybe you wanted to win an award, or buy a specific house, or get a wholesale contract with a lovely shop.

Maybe you were disappointed by someone – someone let you down, whether on purpose or not.

I absolutely want you to be able to pick yourself up and move forward. I think that is one of the most important strengths of an entrepreneur. The determination and resilience required to try again is vital in pretty much any self-employed profession.

But I don’t want you to squash the disappointment. Now, I’m not saying dwell in it and take a billion years to move past it. I’m not recommending getting stuck in being the martyr or the victim or starting the buy into the belief that you “have terrible luck”, “just never win anything”, or similar. (Insert your own downtrodden phrase here…)

So how do we hold space for the disappointment in order to get over it?

We have to acknowledge the disappointment. We have to look at it, describe it, explain it, see it. We have to notice what it’s showing us about what we were hoping for, and what we can learn from it.

And then we can make a plan to either get what we were hoping for some other way, or turn our attention to something else.

Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re disappointed until way after the fact. We didn’t realise how much we wanted something until it hasn’t happened, until it falls through. These can be confusing to process, but are some of the most interesting places to discover what you really want.

Sometimes we can attach a whole load of meaning to why we didn’t get what we wanted – meaning that isn’t really there. “I didn’t get that promotion because my products aren’t good enough.” “I didn’t get the house because I don’t deserve it.” “That relationship fell through because I’m not pretty enough.”

Before we jump to conclusions in reflecting on disappointments, let’s avoid making sweeping assumptions, especially when they relate to other people’s decisions. We don’t know what led someone to promoting something instead of yours. We don’t know exactly why someone chose to go in a different direction.

Honestly, I think entire lives can change based on an assumed meaning we’ve attached to something because it’s a tender place or a secret fear. Let’s keep our minds open to the possibilities – and remember that we don’t always know exactly why something didn’t come together.

Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • Start by naming your disappointment. What are you disappointed about?
  • Did it catch off-guard? Were you expecting to be this disappointed?
  • What were you hoping would happen?
  • What is it about that thing that was important to you?
  • What’s the feeling? Can you describe it physically, emotionally? Give it form.
  • What do you need to let go before you can move on?
  • What are you telling yourself about this disappointment? Are there any stories you need to acknowledge aren’t necessarily true?
  • Is there anything you can learn from the situation to help you in the future?
  • Do you still want to pursue the outcome? How might you change your approach having been through this experience?

Brene Brown talks about the vulnerability of actually admitting how much we want something to happen, so that we give ourselves the time and space and support to process it if it doesn’t happen. Let’s not pre-reject ourselves when we’re declaring our big dreams, and let’s not shrug off something that was disappointing because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable.

For me, even the client who decides not to book a session can be disappointing, especially if it’s someone I’d love to work with. Yes, I trust that they are making the best decision for them. Yes, I’ll survive. But if I let that little disappointment go un-checked, I can end up with a story about how I’m no good or will never get a client again.

I need to write about the disappointment, to explain to myself what I was looking forward to, and remember that I can still get that elsewhere and with other clients. And I often end up writing a list of all the factors that could have been – a powerful activity for anyone who tends towards thinking it’s their fault.

Embrace the disappointment so that you can move forward with a clear mind, a clear heart, and more information about yourself and your business. I highly recommend it.

Jx

PS New Year Coaching sessions are still available until the end of February. Get booked in now.

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