You Gotta have faith (riding the highs and lows of self-employment)
When I say have a little faith, I don’t mean in a religious sense, or the George Michael sense for that matter. I mean when the going gets tough, when you’re full of self doubt, when nothing seems to be working, and yet you’ve committed yourself to a new, exciting, but daunting (at times) path – sometimes all you can do is just have have a little faith. As giving up is not an option – is it?
So what does it mean to have a little faith? For me its really about trust. Trust that I am where I am meant to be, trust that I’ve come this route for a reason, trust that I will work it out, and trust that everything is going to work out for the best in the end. That’s a lot of trust, which is not easy when you’re going through a difficult time in your journey.
There have been many moments over the past fifteen years of self-employment, despite many highs, where my journey has been tough, lonely, and deeply challenging. I’ve struggled at times to keep the flame of hope and inspiration burning, but have found some simple things that have really worked for me over the years, which I hope will work for you too:
Remember that this is a journey – Self-employment is a journey which requires vision, and personal as well as professional development. Sometimes we need a role model, real or fictional, that has undertaken a difficult journey and has managed to navigate the challenges and obstacles in their way. They can remind us what is required of us to successfully steer our chosen path. Having a role model can provide vital inspiration at times of self- doubt or overwhelm, as well as some clues as to how to move forward and through the territory.
Get a Coach – yes, I know it sounds like a sales pitch and of course it is to some extent, but I do think of all the helping professions, coaching is particularly good for supporting you to stay on track and get back on track. As an approach, it offers challenge and support in just the right measure.
Celebrate how far you’ve come – when I’m feeling low and doubting everything, the last thing I naturally think to do is to look back on my journey so far and celebrate my successes and achievements. However, I have come to believe that celebration and acknowledging the journey is important. Taking the time to remember what has already been achieved can help motivate you forward, and be particularly helpful in the down times, as a way of getting back on your feet, newly refreshed and empowered.
Make a list – have lots of tasks on it, and break down the big tasks into lots of small ones, and when you just don’t feel like doing anything – do some of the small things on the list, and enjoy some easy wins. One thing we can say to ourselves that holds us back is ‘I don’t have time for that’, so next to your task list, put an estimated time for completion of each task. This helps you to take actions moving you forward, even when you don’t have much time, motivation or energy.
Don’t compare yourself to others – when I’m feeling down, just to add to the self doubts, I notice my mind likes me to notice my peers and all the ways they appear to be more successful than me, and all the ways I haven’t managed to achieve what they appear to have achieved. This focus on comparison of other people, and highlighting all their achievements whilst belittling my own is a sure recipe for sinking deeper into self-pity and despair. It is great to be inspired by other’s achievements – but when you feel down, don’t use those others as an excuse to make yourself feel worse.
Have some things that inspire you around your office or work space – your environment can play a pivotal role in how you feel. If you’re feeling isolated, why not pop out to the cafe and treat yourself, or if you’re working from home, spend half an hour drawing or doing something fun, have some inspirational quotes around you that you really love, and plenty of books that you find inspiring.
Surround yourself with people who encourage you and understand what you are trying to achieve – the negative ‘realists’ may serve a purpose in life to keep your feet on the ground with some of the inevitable practicals of running a business, but you also need people that will inspire you, motivate you, make you laugh, and help you to bounce back from the blips.
Take a break and let things settle down – tomorrow is another day. Sometimes just taking a break, and ‘sleeping on it’ can be just enough to shift you out of a rut. You are going to have bad days. Something that is insurmountable today may feel easy first thing tomorrow.
Go for a walk in nature – I find that sitting down sometimes means that my thoughts and my motivation stagnate. Going for a walk can help to get ideas flowing – and going out into nature helps me to feel connected and grounded once more. I get some of my best ideas going to my local woodland – I take a little notebook to capture these, and then when I get back to the office I begin working on these, which frees up my energy and motivation once more.
Do something creative – I love to do textiles; this relaxes me, and gets me ‘out of my head’ into a ‘doing’ mode. When you are chipping away at a long-term project at work, which requires a lot of self-motivation, sometimes immediate feedback and results are not forthcoming, and it’s hard to keep going. Doing something ‘hands-on’ and creative gives some immediate satisfaction and results.
Remember what you value – if you don’t already have a mission statement for your work, this is very important, and should be drawn upon. What are you trying to achieve? What is important to you? What is your ‘why’? When things seem not to be working, re-connect with what is important to you – and sometimes this is enough to re-energise you into taking action once more.
Phone a friend – someone that gets you, that knows you, that reminds you of the bigger picture, and someone that has some faith in you. Sometimes a few kind words of encouragement are enough to get you back on track.
Finally, have a little faith. Sometimes, even though I am not religious, I just ask for help. I put it out to this great big universe of ours and I say, ‘please help me get through this’…and somehow that works, believing that there may just be this benevolent force out there, that is for my good, and believes in what I’m doing.
Helen Tanner is a Coach, Speaker, Trainer, and Dramatherapist with an extensive portfolio of working in the UK (including seven years as Charity Director) and internationally (including New Zealand, Botswana, Tunisia and war-affected Libya, Myanmar, South Sudan, Kosovo, and Belfast). She was chosen as a Rotary Peace Fellow in 2012, and a Global peace Index Ambassador in 2015. www.helentanner.com