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: your sales aren’t shit

First, excuse the language, if it’s not the wording you’d use.

But perhaps you’ve said something like that? “Sales are so bad.” Even if it’s just in your head, if you’ve repeated a phrase similar to this more than three times, we need to talk.

I’ve heard it hundreds – if not thousands – of times from clients who are pretty low on energy, looking for a magic answer or at least some kind of good news. And, truthfully, I’ve been there, too.

I’m not one to sugar-coat things. I don’t like spiritual bypassing or anything similar. (“It’s not that bad! Just look on the bright side!” No, thanks.)

But this is where self-discovery and self-development are incredibly useful. Using awareness of what’s going on in our brains, we can change the story, and change the situation.

Here’s what I mean:

You’ve looked at a number, or several numbers, and something in your brain has said, “Sales are shit.” It’s such a clear and powerful message that you may have questioned it briefly, but it’s basically taken hold.

Then, because it’s not a great feeling, you’ve told someone else. “Sales are kind of shit.” And this person tells you they’re sorry to hear it, or that they’re in a similar position, and you feel not alone. Which feels better than sales-are-shit-and-I’m-all-alone.

So the mantra takes further hold.

And then when you sit down to write a to-do list or you’re thinking about your business, your brain is thinking from this “sales are shit” place. You feel desperate, or uninspired – both sides of the same coin. Maybe you have that frantic energy: you’re getting a lot done, but it’s not really changing sales or changing your mind. Or maybe you just… don’t do very much, because it all feels overwhelming and out of your control.

This story – one that you decided on in the blink of an eye based on something that isn’t the full picture – has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Want to get out of the downward spiral? There are three essential things to do.

Check the numbers you’re looking at.

If you decided sales are shit based on a two-second glance at a dashboard that doesn’t take your entire business into account, you absolutely need to dive a bit deeper.

If sales are down, you’re likely to be looking at turnover, rather than profit. Which is a false success metric, and is definitely going to give you misinformation about your business and your efforts. Track and look at profit as a marker of where you are, rather than assuming turnover is the same – broadly – as profit. (My business is way down on turnover compared to a couple of years ago, but my profit is significantly higher.)

Check the language you use. Clarity is power.

Okay, so as I said, I’m not one to sugar-coat the truth. Telling yourself things are fine when they’re not won’t help you to improve your business or your situation. We need truth. We need clarity.

But there are ways to phrase things that honour the truth without getting stuck in a story.

First, let’s get the facts. If you’ve looked at the numbers, you’ll hopefully be able to say something like, “My turnover is 30% down on last year.” Or, “My profit has dropped.”

Then there’s something to add…

“My profit has dropped, and I’d like to change that.”

“My turnover is 30% down on last year, and my profit is, too. I’m ready to improve my profit.”

Sticking with true statements, we want one that expresses something true about the situation. You’ve got a fact statement about the numbers, and then it’s best to add something that shares what you want to change. In a positive way, of course!

Get a new game plan.

With a more positive mantra, like, “I’m ready to improve my profit,” you can start to put together a more proactive game plan.

The thing about the “sales are shit” mantra is that it keeps you stuck. You can also get stuck with a positive mantra (even if it’s amazing), if there’s no action that relates to it.

So if you truly are ready to change your profit levels or improve your enjoyment levels, it’s time to get creative about how you want to do that.

I’m pretty clear on something: most business women I know can come up with 3-10 great actions to take if they have half an hour and a positive environment to picture possibilities.

Maybe it’s creative ways to reduce your costs and streamline things. Maybe you can create a more efficient way of fulfilling orders. Maybe (and I say this with many years of experience) you need to put your prices up.

You don’t have to change your entire business overnight. But find a starting place. The second part of your new mantra should encapsulate the way you want to feel, say, a year from now.

When you write your next to do list, include something that is linked to how you want to feel.

What do you think? Does this method resonate with you?

Here’s the thing: fear is the biggest distraction

I spent Monday in what I would, in previous years, called a daze. I drank tea, I wrote, I read. I made a rather pathetic attempt at writing emails. A lot of the day was spent staring into space.

Sounds productive, huh?

Actually, it was. And like so much of life, the difference between utterly unproductive and deeply clarifying, productive work could not be seen on the outside. Had you seen me, you’d have thought I was wasting a day.

On the inside, it felt like I was synthesising a whole load of ideas, wisdom, thoughts, needs, and wants. Something was shifting, but the only way to allow it to happen was to be quiet and highly unproductive.

By the time I went to bed, a thought had bubbled up from all this contemplation and it said: All you’re doing is trying not to get hurt.

And, reader, it was 100% correct.

All I have been doing this year is trying to avoid getting hurt. I have played it safe, taken small, calculated risks, mostly about things I don’t care about too much.

I have spent a large proportion of my time this year trying to limit the amount of hurt possible. At the end of last year, I did get hurt – I got hurt in my business. And I have been trying to rebuild things differently, and mostly succeeding, except I haven’t been doing what I’m meant to do.

Fear has distracted me from writing, from planning things I cannot wait to do, from letting go of the things that are getting in the way.

Social media doesn’t distract me – fear does.

Fear tells me that I’m stuck. That I just can’t find the answer. That perhaps there is no answer and I should go and get a job. (Fear knows how to twist the knife, doesn’t it?)

Fear has kept me tweaking projects, refining things that just don’t matter, because to actually try to do something I really want – that will hurt.

Failing at something I wasn’t really that bothered about in the first place is much less painful than even the idea that I might fail at something important.

Also – failure is inevitable. Fear is the one who tells me it’s awful and avoidable, if only I were good enough. Fear tells me that failing means no one will like me and I’ll never be happy again.

Failure is simply part of the landscape – as certain as breathing, sleeping, waking.

So here’s the thing:

This year, for me, has been my life’s lesson in getting back up. The phase I’m in now is how to get beyond survival and into thriving.

Fear has been there every step of the way and, left unchecked, it would keep me stuck and working too hard at things that don’t matter.

And I know that I’ve read articles similar to this one and nodded my head and thought, “Yeah, musn’t let fear get in the way,” while doing everything Fear told me to do. So I know you might do the same, and that’s okay. We can only do it when we can do it.

But in case this hits you at a moment when you’re open to hearing it, I hope you’ll know that failure is part of the programme, and that Fear can’t hold it over us for the rest of time.

I hope you’ll see maybe just one small way that you’re holding yourself back because of Fear.

I hope you’ll know that you’re not alone. That successful, authentic, creative, ambitious people get all caught up in Fear, too.

You don’t have to change a single thing today. You can just notice.

Me? I’m going to start by tipping the balance towards the things that really matter. I can’t wait to fail at them.

optin-cup

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