Last week was my 'proper' return to work from maternity leave. It's come after two months of travelling around the world with my husband and now-nine-month-old baby, a whirlwind trip through Asia and the US that fulfilled just about every dream we'd had for our first year as parents.
Several things happened while we were away that whipped me up into a flurry of purpose and drive and ambition about my career, leaving me determined to pirouette gracefully out of the blocks on day one of coming back to work.
Firstly, I had a tarot reading when we were in New Orleans, asking the question 'what's next for my business?' What I took away from this was my desire to step up, to increase my impact and visibility and to coach on topics that I really, REALLY care about. And also where I'm getting in my own way, by doubting my own credibility and keeping myself small and refusing to invest in myself.
(Sidebar — I love tarot. The opportunity it offers to explore a subject that you care about deeply, but that feels confusing or unclear. A good tarot reader is like a good coach, using the meaning of the cards to increase your awareness of your own wants, fears and blockers. They won't tell you anything you don't already know —they'll just drag the important stuff kicking and screaming from your subconscious into the spotlight.)
Secondly, I started to question in earnest my mindset when it comes to money. My weird mix of stinginess and greed and generosity and extravagance and frugality. I suspect this is common to many British people, particularly women, but I've realised that I'm ashamed of wanting to be wealthy, believing deep down that I can't be rich AND a good human being. So I bought a book (the salve to all life's thorniness) — You Are A Badass At Making Money. Not subtle, and as American AF, but that's kinda what I was looking for.
Next, I went through my regular (i.e done twice before) ritual of choosing a Word of The Year and setting intentions for what I wanted 2019 to be about. In 2017 I chose Connection, in 2018 Strength. And for 2019? Wealth. Actually, to start with I danced around Abundance and Discipline and Creation. Then I decided to stop giving a shit what people might think when I told them my word, and decided to own the intention I'm setting to build a business that is as financially successful as it is positively impactful.
So there I was last week, buzzed about the beginning of a new year, full of nervous energy and enthusiasm and ambitious targets (but only a vague notion of the work I actually want to do to get there). I was certain that I would quickly and confidently set a new direction for my coaching business, build a huge online following within a matter of weeks, and become known for...something impactful and important.
But (and this probably won't come as a surprise) all I felt was...stuck. Stuck, frustrated, mind blank and self-doubting. I just didn't know where to start.
The thing about building and running your own business is that it's often very unclear what you should actually DO. No one is telling you what the strategy is, what your responsibilities are. Most of the time, no one else even really CARES what you're up to. There's no blueprint, especially if you want to change your product or service like I do. And targets and goals can be more harmful than helpful, because you have the end goal but no first step.
And so, as is my habit, I started obsessing about irrelevant but apparently essential tasks, like finding the perfect diary with the correct week-to-two-page layout that would facilitate my greatness. I scrolled other people's websites and Instagram grids to reassure myself that every other coach has their shit fully together and there was no room for me anyway. I spluttered guiltily whenever anyone asked me how it felt to be back at work, my inner saboteur screaming 'you're sitting in a cafe writing emails and listening to Michelle Obama's autobiography ffs, you are NOT WORKING! Go and feed your baby!'
Then, over the last couple of days, I've started to unpick what's going on. Through talking and writing and accepting that it's ok if I'm not EXACTLY the same person as Michelle Obama, I've realised two important things.
One: I've lost sight of my 'why'. My focus on building an easier relationship with money, whilst important, has left me in danger of making my work all about money. This then becomes paralysing, because all I'm thinking about is 'what work can I do that will generate the most amount of money possible?'. This is far from being the only thing that matters to me, so I end up feeling (and acting) disingenuous and awkward.
Two: goals and targets aren't helpful. They just give me something to fail at. I end up with a massive target that is so far from where I am today, that the gap seems insurmountable and so I freeze. A very wise person (who also happens to be my sister) said the other day 'you just have to start where you are'. So I've decided to release the goals and the targets, and instead set intentions for the year. Then just forget about them. The best things in my life have always happened when I trust my instincts and just start, piecing things together as I go along.
And so, to work. Whatever that ends up being.