I’ve officially been a full time entrepreneur for three whole years!
This journey began when I began to feel a growing dissatisfaction with my job, coupled with a growing desire to be my own boss—specifically, to be in charge of my time, and how I made money, and who I worked with. (I was also wildly stressed and completely burned out. You know. Ripe for change.)
From idea to action sometimes takes longer than anything, and often, the most bravery. All of the really hard stuff happens out of sight, behind the curtains of my computer screen, the walls of my house, and the (not always) stoic exterior of my determination.
A solid facial expression, a practiced smile, a habitual “I’M JUST FINE REALLY IT’S ALL GOOD DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME, YOU GUYS” disguises internal struggle quite effectively.
It’s a useful tool. Also, an early developed defense mechanism. (I know you have those, too.)
But I don’t want you to just see the slick exteriors of completion. I actually care about the deep success of your business venture, not just what’s on the surface. I care about your domestic serenity. I care about your peace of mind and the stories you tell yourself about success. It would be inconsiderate of me to just promise you success without sharing the reality of what getting there looks like. Or, at least, how it looked for me.
So here are some things I’ve recognized in my adventure from point A (realizing that I wanted something to change) to point B (living the change, achieving the goal).
The space between those two steps is a wild, unknown frontier, when you haven’t started yet. Here are some lessons I’ve learned on my path that might help you on yours.
1. Know where you’re going…and keep asking along the way
What do you actually want and why? What will happen when you get there? Can you imagine yourself doing this thing? What needs to happen in order to get there?
Creating a realistic (but optimistic) vision of where you want to go is step one. Then you take action, and revisit the vision. Is this still what I want? Can I add detail to my vision, now that I have more data? Now that I know how it feels to achieve step one…do I feel reenergized to complete the plan, or do I need to reassess?
The vision is never set in stone. That’s the beauty of the thing, really.
2. Anything worth having comes with risk + fear
So often we put off making changes because we feel afraid. We wait for a time later when we will feel more brave, more mature, or have more information. You know, a time when it will feel more comfortable.
And yet, everything worth having inevitably includes risk and fear that we wouldn’t experience otherwise. I dare you to think of an example to the contrary. I truly don’t think you can.
So, remember that fear is part of the deal. Your job is to get behind the fear, to try and see where it’s coming from. Is it really the kind of fear that saves you from jumping off of a cliff? Or is it the kind of fear that just doesn’t want to confront the unknown, that wants you to remain a creature of habit, mired in the problems that you know today, instead of facing new, uninitiated situations?
As a grown-up, you get to take the more vulnerable parts of yourself and soothe them with your thoughts and words. You are the one that remembers that you are capable of taking risks and succeeding. You are also the one who remembers taking risks, failing and surviving to live another day with a brave heart. (Or at least a brave face!)
3. What looks like bravery/confidence/assurance on the outside often feels terrifying/uncomfortable/awful.
This has been the hardest thing to convey to people who haven’t yet taken their leap, the people who want to make a big change but haven’t done it yet. They look up to me as an example of someone who has overcome the obstacles and lived to tell the tale. How brave!, they say. You must be such an expert! I could never do that!
I wish it were possible to transmute my experience into a story that truly conveys how wrong this assumption is. The truth is, I have done nothing insurmountable. I didn’t have to be an Extra Special Person in order to make this life shift. What I was actually doing was taking one step after another, and making decisions one by one, based on the best information I had at the time.
I most certainly did not now how it was all going to turn out in the end. I didn’t know how my decisions were going to pan out. You might even say I was gambling a bit. I’ll tell you this much though: doing what I did didn’t feel like bravery or confidence or assurance of any kind. It felt scary a lot…and there was a decent amount of confusion and wishing I knew for sure…and a vast ocean of discomfort, as I constantly forced myself beyond my comfort zone into uncertainty.
I eventually realized that the goal itself wasn’t insurmountable. It was the fear that felt insurmountable (see #2). And, well, that’s just not true.
4. Security blankets are comfy, but they’ll keep you from growing
Grown-ups have security blankets, you know. But they aren’t literally blankets anymore.
Security blankets are the stories we tell ourselves that keep us feeling safely tucked in to our comfort zone, instead of facing the risk and fear (see #2) of extending beyond our former selves.
Here are some examples of adult security blankets that keep us from growing:
- Research paralysis. I need to read more about this before I start my business. I need to take another course before I feel qualified to offer that service. It’s choosing to stay on the runway, instead of taking off. If I keep researching, I won’t have to take action and learn for sure whether this thing will succeed…or fail.
- The familiar. What you know is more comfortable than what you don’t. I knew I could make more money as a freelance web designer than working at an agency…but the steady paycheck felt so secure and reliable. I know I’d make more money with less time spent working* but getting a paycheck every other week feels so familiar, reliable and safe. Better wait…
- Avoidance. I can’t think about my dream right now. I have too much to do! My life is so packed full I’ll never find the time to start a business/follow my dream/take the leap.
* For the record, this is true. I make more money than I did at my day job, and I work fewer hours. My life has SO MUCH MORE EASE now.
5. You will not have 100% faith and confidence in your goal all the time.
You’d think that once you decide you want something and go for it, you’d be able to chase it with complete faith and tenacity and utter confidence that it’s going to work.
Unfortunately, that’s just what it looks like. There’s no escaping self doubt and uncertainty when you step out on a new path. You might hit a bump or a setback that spirals you back to the beginning…OMG am I on the wrong path? Should I have stayed where I was? SHOULD I BE ON THE PATH THAT’S FIVE MILES THAT WAY? ::panic ensues::
I’ve found it helpful during such times of self doubt and second guessing to:
- Not make any rash decisions
- Check my opinions with trusted friends who know me and want the best for me, to see if my fears are reasonable
- Remember my vision and the reason I am following this dream
- Read emails and nice things people have said to me, as a reminder that I’m not a total imposter
- Just go to bed (sometimes humans just need a good sleep)
There you have it! Five things I’ve learned about making big huge scary life changes.
If you would like a guide in exploring the territory between where you are and where you want to be, I’d love to be of service. Check out my coaching services here, or contact me to set up a free 30 minute consultation.
Over to you! What stops you from taking action on something you KNOW needs to change?
Leave a note in the comments, or shoot me an email. I love love love hearing from you.