If you're a subscriber, you may have noticed that I missed posting last week. The week prior—I typically write each week's post a week ahead—was a tough one full of lots of big emotions, with Tuesday being the disruptor.
Tuesday, Sept. 12, was my husband's 60th birthday. A milestone birthday, for sure, but one that took on even more meaning given his ALS diagnosis in 2021. If you're unfamiliar with ALS, it's a progressive neurodegenerative disease and the inspiration for the ice-bucket challenge. There's no cure, and no way of knowing how fast the disease will progress for each person living with it.
Last year on his birthday, as I helped him to bed he seemed a bit out of sorts so I asked him if something was wrong. He mentioned something about his birthday, and that he was sad and just having a bit of a blue day. My first reaction was simply to soothe him to avoid disrupting our complex bed-time routine, but I realized that was the wrong response and not what he needed.
So I gently encouraged him to share what it was about his birthday that was bothering him. And he said, “What if it's my last one?”
Ugh. Good gawd, how do you answer that question with integrity? At first, I didn't. I paused and sat with that heartbreaking thought. And then I assured him that it wouldn't be his last, which in my gut I unequivocally knew to be true.
Needless to say, this year's birthday was a momentous celebration and here we are, already looking ahead and planning for 61.
The next day I got an early morning call from my mom that my uncle had passed away unexpectedly in the middle of the night, followed by a few more highs and lows that made it impossible for me to focus on anything but grief and a deep need to rest.
What does this have to do with my business?
Our journey living with ALS (his with its direct effects, and mine as caregiver), was the impetuous for my biggest business pivot since becoming my own boss in 2012. The desire to retire my consulting services and do something new had been percolating for a couple of years, but it felt too scary to act on.
Dabbling with different business models became the means of scratching the itch, including launching a membership serving the same niche as my consulting services, but no matter what I tried the spark just wasn't there. I was ready for a new path and purpose.
When the right opportunity presented itself, I was ready. In fact, I was probably a little too ready and leaped rather impulsively without a safety net by joining—and investing in—the inaugural cohort of a business, money, and mindset coaching program in April of this year and handing-off the remaining consulting work (and revenue) this Summer.
In truth, I was lucky. I'd been systematically scaling back my consulting portfolio for some time, but even with a carefully curated set of projects the work was no longer sustainable. Serving as the primary caregiver for someone who still works but relies on others for anything he cannot do with his voice or eyes is a complex role with an unpredictable schedule that keeps me tethered close to home. If I wanted to continue to work in alignment with my values, big changes were necessary.
The power of knowing your why
As an entrepreneur, you can't rely on others to provide you with motivation to get things done. You're the boss. It's your vision that matters. Even if your enterprise is a side gig, it's something you're choosing to do. If your business isn't somehow making your life better, it's time to do some work with yourself, for you.
It's all too common to get slowed-down or stuck:
- in planning and perfecting mode
- by the undermining effects of imposter syndrome
- due to the dizzying feeling of overwhelm
- from letting fear and self-doubt take over
- by endlessly (+ unfairly) comparing ourselves to others
The solution is to gift yourself the clarity of understanding why you've set out on this entrepreneurial path to begin with, or if you've been on this journey for some time, to check-in and reflect on what's changed over time.
For the last decade, my ‘why' has consistently centered around the need to do purpose-driven work conducted in integrity with my values, and with clients who respect me and what I bring to the table as a thought partner, collaborator, and advisor. Being in integrity with my values means disavowing ‘hustle' culture, honoring my own mental health and physical well-being, and being able to prioritize certain relationships above the work when necessary.
Caregiving disrupted many of the systems, practices, and routines that made this possible. Hence the need to pivot my services and offerings to stay true to my why.
Questions to ask yourself
Whether you're embarking on your first business, or beginning to feel imprisoned by a business you've already built, these questions provide a helpful starting place for articulating (or revisiting) your why, and the answers will help you to distill the origin story for your business.
- If you had a magic wand, what would you create with your entrepreneurial energy and ambition?
- If your business were to succeed beyond your wildest dreams, what would it (and you / your team) have achieved?
- If a customer or client were to leave you a raving review, what would it say? How would their life or circumstances have been changed or impacted?
- What would change in your life if you were the architect of your job and your work? How would you work differently? What would you stop (or start) doing–in your work, and in your life? (psst… for those of you who've already build a business, you are the architect. 😉)
After thinking through your answers, how do you feel? Energized? Motivated? Follow-up with this next batch of questions while that feeling is still with you.
- If you're just starting out, what (if anything) is keeping you stuck in the dreaming or planning and perfecting phase?
- If you've already built your business, how does it look different from what you've described?
- Who in your life would be equally excited by your vision? How might they support you in making it happen? If you can't think of anyone, how can you find and connect with like-minded people (a.k.a your success squad or business besties)?
- What are three simple steps you can take to get started, either to launch your business or to transform and align it with this vision? Which one are you most excited to start or energized by?
- How much time will this energizing step take? When will you start (and finish) it?
- How can you hold yourself accountable to taking action, and what will you do if you get stuck or need support along the way?
- What will you do to celebrate each step you complete that brings you closer to fulfilling your vision?
Keep your answers somewhere handy and revisit them when you're feeling discouraged or stuck to remind you what you're working towards, and to celebrate how far you've already come.