How to take the pressure off

In July I opened up my calendar for free check-in calls for clients and readers at the midway point of the year. It’s been fun to hear where you are and what you’re working on. If you took advantage of that opportunity, please keep in touch, and if we haven’t spoken yet, please reach out!

One of the biggest stressors I kept hearing was the amount of pressure being put on new businesses and career leaps to make money right away. And not just some money, but the same amount made at the established roles you were in at other companies.

If you’re under five years in business, and definitely if you’re under three, that is too much to ask. In fact, you’re setting yourself up for failure and burnout.

Why? Because putting pressure on your new leap to ensure your financial security means every step you take MUST WORK at a time when you’re still figuring out what this new venture will be.

When you’re building a business, even a couple years in, you very much need to be in Research Mode.

Among the things you’re learning are:

  • Who your customers are

  • What they want

  • What they’re willing to pay

  • Where to find them, as well as

  • How to run a business from quarterly taxes and choosing a legal structure to if/when to hire help, setting hours and more

It’s like worrying your baby isn’t speaking in full sentences yet while you’re still getting a hang of their feeding, changing and sleeping schedule.

As you collect more information in these vital areas, your confidence as a business owner (or parent) increases, as does your ability to effectively attract and retain happy paying customers (or happy babies).

You need research time!

What you don’t need? The pressure to know all of these answers before you’ve done the research. You can’t figure these out without trial and error, and you can’t do that with “you have to make enough money right now” playing on repeat in your head.

The same is true for more established business owners going after new markets, professionals looking to make a major mid-career leap, and writers, artists and performers putting themselves out there.

We have to take the pressure off in the short-term in order to have more long-term success.

How to take the pressure off

1) Create the long-term plan.

If you have a business plan, that is your long-term plan. If you don’t have one yet, then take a few minutes to imagine and list out your ideal work life, including the specific amount of money you want to make, the number of hours you want to work, the kind of physical environment you want to work in, and the kind of people you want around you / how much focused alone time you’d like.

When I do this with clients, it’s a full coaching session or two of us brainstorming all aspects of your work life, but a smaller, targeted list will work in the interim so you have something to refer to.

Once you have that, lay out what you’ll do today, this week, this month in order to build toward that goal. The smaller the steps the better so you can check them off and feel your own progress.

(By the way, long-term can mean six months, two years, whatever you want. You define it.)

2) Create the short-term one.

Given what you’re building toward, and that it will take some time to get there, what do you need in the meantime to feel calm, secure, like you can keep going?

Make another list answering that question, which can include a certain amount of income to cover expenses and have a nest egg, the kind of health insurance you and your family require, the number of hours set aside per week to devote to your new business, etc.

Similar to above, this list allows you to determine what you do today, this week, this month in order to achieve these short-term stabilizing goals which in turn serves the long-term vision.

3) Make empowered choices for yourself.

What does it mean to have these two lists?

You may get a part-time job.
You may move in with your family.
You may stay working with your less-than-ideal employer for an extra six months.

Things you may have been considering before, but the difference now is that with these lists you can make an empowered choice in service of the life and work you’re building for yourself.

So instead of, “I either make enough money now by following my passion or risk failing and having to return to work that doesn’t feel inspiring,” you can say with confidence: “I’m proactively choosing this short-term option because it gives me the security and time to build what I really want.”

You’re still working on that long-term plan, so please make sure you have a to-do list from it that you’re checking off daily. The only thing that’s changed is that you’ve removed the pressure of everything having to work immediately and allowed yourself a chance to find your bearings. To do the necessary research.

You haven’t failed, or stopped, or given up. You’ve built a plan that can really work and in a way where you can feel healthier and happier at every stage.

Like a boss.

What to do when you wake-up-and-worry

  Ever woken up in the morning already afraid of a tough conversation you need to have?

That was me the other day. Within a minute of opening my eyes I remembered what I went to bed trying to forget: a call I needed to make and not knowing how the person would respond. My worry joined me under the covers and then followed me through my daily routine. What if I get the words wrong? What if it ruins our friendship? 

In Brené Brown'sThe Gift of Imperfection, she talks about the poo-poo platter of fear, perfection (I may have mentioned that one before), and scarcity.

Underneath whatever you tell yourself is happening is the discomfort of being vulnerable. 

Bingo. My morning wake-up-and-worry was about me not being able to control what would happen with our conversation or how she would react, and feeling vulnerable about it.

In the past when this happened, I would be nearly incapacitated from getting anything else accomplished and would finally succumb to apologizing instead of sharing my point of view, hopeful that the other person didn't notice anything was wrong. 

I'm happy to report how different things went this time. Not so much the conversation (though it went well too!), but what happened inside of me to all that worry.

The antidote to fear, Brené says, is gratitude. Before reacting as I normally would, I took these three steps:

  1. I stopped myself from any knee-jerk reaction.
  2. I acknowledged I was feeling vulnerable.
  3. I looked for something to be grateful for.

This technique worked immediately. The second I said out loud to myself, "I am feeling vulnerable," an unexpected wave of calm washed over me. Seriously, it took one second.

It slowed me down to see what was really happening: fear of the unknown, of being wrong, of losing love and respect. Acknowledging my vulnerability allowed me to be with it in a gentle, kind way.

Exactly the attention I would give someone I care about. This time that someone was me.

The next part was the biggest surprise. 

The third step is gratitude. What did I choose? I was grateful for my vulnerability suddenly appreciative of the role it plays in my life. If this person weren't important to me - if being understood and respected weren't important to me - I would not have been as anxious about our conversation. I love all of those things about myself!

This realization also made me grateful to be afraid, because it means I'm moving into uncharted, worthwhile territory. I needed to hear myself ask for what I needed no matter the outcome. It means I'm building better relationships, and I'm more aware of and sensitive to my own feelings.

It's incredible what happens when you notice anxiousness and see what's really happening.

Do you ever wake-up-and-worry? Try these three steps and tell me what you think, or share what works best for you!