The past few months have been stressful. I tend to underestimate the amount of stress I am going through, but if I was assessing the circumstances, I would tell that person they're under a lot of stress! So I've been stressed. And it's had a significant impact on my direction for my business services and goals moving forward.
Can we see stress as an indicator that things need to change?
Stress can indicate a number of physiological, emotional and psychological issues but it can also be an indicator, a sign, that the direction we are heading in isn't quite right. It might be showing us that there is something that needs changing, innovating or removing and it's not always something bad.
But if we ignore these signs, they will eventually begin to corrode who we are as a business provider, individual and then ultimately, who we are in our relationships and personal life.
My theory is that stress is worth taking note of and here are a few things I do to begin with to determine what it is that's stressing me, or causing me problems:
- I mind map. I get the coloured pens out and large plain paper. I have a business goals book that I write all my ideas and thoughts in and my mind mapping goes here too.
- On my mind map, I ask myself questions. One of my recent questions was 'what would happen if I didn't run any business or have any paying work in 2016?'. It's a hard question to answer so I made two lists - one that outlined the practical changes: less money, for example, and the emotional changes - less anxiety about meeting deadlines, for example.
When I wrote down my answers, one of them really resonated with me. It said this:
If I don't have any paying work in 2016 I will feel a loss of identity
Wow. This really struck me so I took it further, making a mind map with the words My Identity Construct in the middle. I spent a good whack of time just looking at those words and writing down what they meant to me. I realised that one of the major reasons I work for myself is because it feeds my confidence, and therefore, my identity. Without that work, and that income, I feel less than. I realised that when I have no official role or responsibility I feel anxious, inadequate, overlooked and discarded.
This is deep stuff for sure. And I spent the whole day working on these thoughts, going away and doing other tasks, watched a movie, talked to friends, etc and went back as I felt I had more insight.
It's time to take stock of who we are
How we all manage a change in direction and what we do to manage it - not from a business sense, or even in practical terms, but manage the emotion, the anxiety, the doubt, the fears, the intangible stuff that forces us to rethink everything we've worked hard to achieve - is a vital ingredient in pursuing excellence in our business ventures, our personal lives and our goals.
This is why I want to talk with you about the inner world, because without a solid foundation on the inside, the rest is going to crumble. Maybe not soon, but eventually. And then everything you've worked to create is left on shaky foundations and may never recover.
It's time we really take stock of who we are, without the construct of business, family, friendships, success, power, money, and so on. What if we suddenly didn't have any or all of those things? Who would we be without them?
We need to make sure that who we are, internally, is healthy, or at least as healthy as it can be. For me this means these areas have to be regularly 'audited' and new goals set to maintain or improve them. I take time out every couple of months (or more often if needed) to give myself an audit. Here are my primary areas:
- Spiritual - for me, this is a biggie. If I feel out of touch with my faith, I falter. On everything. I am not controlled by religious routines, but I maintain a very simple and uncluttered approach to keeping my spiritual world healthy and when that gets effected, everything starts to suffer.
- Mental/ Emotional - this is where my mental health plan comes into play. I am a verbal processor and also use the pen to expose the things going on in the brain box. When I stop doing these things, I become morose, introspective (in an unhealthy way) and fearful.
- Relational - my relationships with my hubby, my two boys and my extended family matter more than any dollars I bring into the household. When relationships are struggling, I have to stop what I am doing and sort things out.
- Physical - I struggle in this area the most, because I don't do sport. I am not a physically active person by default, preferring a good book or a pen and paper to keep me busy so this is an area that needs regular attention so I don't end up unwell or in pain.
To close or to pause, that is the question
There have been times when I have known something is over. And if there is one thing I have come to realise, it's that it's okay to close things down. It's okay to say that you are not in a place right now where you can manage the extra work load. For me, as the secondary earner in the house, I am blessed beyond belief to be able to make such big decisions. I don't take that lightly.
And so when these times arise, it's important to go with your gut and close that season off, clean and tidy. Let it be what it was, feel grateful you had the opportunity to experience it and move on with a fresh start.
But what about those times when it's not so clear cut and ambiguity stirs up all that anxiety and doubt again? With the previously mentioned stress load, and a client list that has seemingly run away with the spoon to the moon and hasn't returned, I have been feeling a sense that in this particular situation, it's time to pause for a time and wait. I may need to just redirect my attention rather than close things down entirely. One of the key indicators that I am resting on is that I've not really changed anything with my businesses, or had any major client break ups or made some terrible mistakes. Clients have been happy and nothing has really felt off in general so I feel that a pause is more in order than a full closure of what I have been doing.Â
By pausing like this, you can give yourself time to assess your original goals, work out if some stuff needs redefining and determine if it's innovation that you need, or a totally new direction.
So for now, my business is on an extended break. As I've not been able to come to further conclusions, I feel it's okay to take the time out and just wait. It could just be the season. It could be that ultimately my focus needs to lie elsewhere and this is less important in the grand scheme of things. Or it could be that I just need to let go of that season and move on. Time is the greatest acid test, so I'll let it be the measure.
I hope that as you move into 2016, you can take the time to do some personal auditing, so assessing of your current strengths and some redirecting to ensure your inner world is as healthy and productive as your external world.