Up until now I’ve been pretty quiet about it, but on October 1st I celebrated my first year in business. *cue confetti*
Looking back, it’s insane to think how much The Gratefulist has evolved (heck, how much I have evolved) in the past year. So much has happened (writing, creating, launching, pitching, being pitched, re-branding) and the year has flown by. As I sit here reflecting on all of this, I find that there were certain challenges that popped up throughout the year waiting for me to take action or to learn the lesson they represented. Some of these lessons were struggles at first and some of them still are.
Today, I want to share these lessons with you as a way of being honest and transparent about my business and personal struggles. I hope you can apply them in your work and life as well.
PIN AWAY :)
STOP PURSUING PERFECTION
I thought I’d dealt with my perfectionism. But girl, I was wrong.
The thing about perfectionism is that it’s sneaky. Once you deal with it in one area of your life, it pops up in another area. Once I ventured into business with The Gratefulist and I became a business owner, I quickly realized it came with a whole new set of challenges: FOMO, comparisonitis, being an absolute beginner, having to figure out a daunting mountain of technical issues and systems, figuring out how to make my own dreams and ambitions for The Gratefulist a reality.
My perfectionism had a field day. I felt like things had to be perfect before I pressed ‘Publish’. I didn’t want to be a beginner. I couldn’t make mistakes. I needed to rise to the level of other creatives in my field or what was the point? I felt stuck. Or so, the voice of perfectionism in my head kept repeating to me.
As always, perfectionism led to procrastination and overwhelm. I was so overwhelmed with the scope of a big project that I just didn’t start. I delayed another project month after month.
After realizing that perfectionism was running the show for me, I put a stop to it. I saw perfectionism for what it really was: the voice of fear. To be honest, that voice had a point. Starting a big project or launching a new product is scary. So I validated that fear and then I made it clear that I was the one in charge.
Since then, even though I still have to deal with my perfectionism (it’s a daily thing!), I run the show. I found a system to help me get organized (Trello). I’ve learned how to break big projects down into smaller chunks and weekly (and even daily) tasks. I’ve created a daily creative routine, and that has helped me push past the fear. Big shocker(!), there’s actually joy to be found in declaring something done, when in the past I would’ve spent two more weeks perfecting tiny details. Done is better than perfect, my peeps!
Another thing that has made such a difference is the belief that I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s become somewhat of a mantra for me. Each time I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (for instance, when I’m doing my taxes or when I’m trying to figure out CSS for my website), I remind myself that I’m fabulous in a lot of things but I don’t have to be good at everything.
DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF
Maybe you recognize this, there’s an insane amount of pressure in our culture and in the online world in particular to be doing, doing and doing and pushing and controlling and hustling. More, more, more!
I fell for this trap big time when I started my business.
And it made me feel like a failure. My inner critic liked to remind me that I could be doing so much more: wake up an hour earlier, crank out a new blog post, post on Twitter, sign up for Snapchat, sacrifice my lunch break, create a new freebie, or else...
Major lesson here: the culture of doing is a fallacy.
It’s running around in a hamster wheel without realizing I’m not actually going anywhere. I’m only running around in circles. And if that’s not bad enough... that hamster wheel is located in a cage. I was locked in.
Every time my inner critic starts shouting I try to drown out the noise and listen to my inner voice instead. My inner voice is so much nicer and gentler and more compassionate: “You’re doing the best you can. There are only so much hours in the day. You’re doing everything you can to work towards your goals.”
Also, self-forgiveness is key. There will be times when I mess up or when I spend an hour daydreaming instead of writing. It happens. I forgive myself.
This is a lesson in progress for me, because that panic (I should be doing…!) still sets in regularly. I’ve come to realize that, as a solo business owner, I have to be comfortable with discomfort. I can do it all, just not all at once.
IT’S OKAY TO SLOW DOWN AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
There were times where I felt like I couldn’t slow down. After I was done with my regular full-time job, I only had a few hours each week to spend on my business. I felt I had to be optimally productive during those hours.
But my day job took so much out of me. I came home each day completely drained and overstimulated from all the noise and interruptions. My stress levels were at an all-time high. I had nothing left to give. Not even to my business.
I’ve learned to leave the guilt of not doing enough behind me. I’ve learned to put myself first. This means I’ve had to lower my ambitions (or better said, make my ambitions more realistic) and do things at a slower pace. I’ve also had to put off some big things I had planned. Basically, I had to slow down and prioritize taking care of myself.
At first, this sounded horrible to me (slowing down, ahhhh!). But I’ve found that in slowing down I returned to my core and to the core of my business. In the quiet, I discovered The Gratefulist’s true mission and the opportunity to put my values and priorities into practice.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
I believe there’s a constant tension that exists when you’re running your own business or when you’re putting your creative work out into the world. I’ve had these victories that made me feel like a total boss and then crippling moments of self-doubt.
There’s an ebb and flow when it comes to business. There are months when everything seems to happen at once. I’m making sales, get asked to be on a podcast, see growth in my community and on social media. And there are months when it’s preeettty quiet, nothing, crickets.
My biggest aha moment this year was when I came to see that there’s a fine line between healthy evaluation and relating everything to me personally. The trouble is that I’m a solopreneur, which means everything - everything I do or don’t do, every effort, every result - is directly related back to me. But, here’s the big aha, I don’t have to make it mean anything about me. When a launch fails, it doesn’t mean I’m a failure. When I see a good result or no result at all, it doesn’t say anything about me as person.
I’m still figuring this out, but I’m quite sure that this ebb and flow doesn’t really have anything to do with my input, my work, or my efforts. Sometimes efforts produce results, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes results come without any effort. Again, I’ve learned to not take this personally. I haven’t failed (and I’m definitely not a failure) when I don’t see results. I’ve learned to embrace the ebb and flow and take the waves as they come.
TRY AND EXPERIMENT
This past year was a year of trying things out and experimenting. I mean that in a very practical sense, with having to make myself familiar with new programs and systems and figuring out how everything works and how everything is connected. But I’ve also extended this experimenting to discovering new concepts and new ideas, opening my mind to new possibilities, and doing some things I never thought I’d be able to do.
I keep all of my ideas organized in Trello. However, I don’t feel like I have the time (or take the time) to research those ideas and implement them.
I never want to stop learning. This is something I want to make time for. Not only from a business perspective, but also as a personal challenge and as a way of recharging myself and my creative juices. I’ve dreamed about going on a creative retreat, like fellow soul-connected creative Kayla Hollatz did a few months back. I think I’ll make that a priority for my second year in business :)
What does all of this mean for the future? What am I going to do with all of these lessons learned? Obviously, some of these lesson are still a work in progress or require daily practice. It’s important to me that I’m the one that stays in charge instead of my perfectionism, that I keep listening to my inner voice, that I slow down and prioritize self-care, that I embrace the ebb and flow of business, and that I keep on learning.
But these two things are also important to me.
I want to keep investing, both in time, energy, and money. I want to keep investing in myself, in my business, in the #perfectionistproblems Facebook community, in connection and community. To make this possible as The Gratefulist continues to grow, it probably means I have to hire someone to help me out. Hopefully, I can make this a reality in my second year of business.
My mission with The Gratefulist is to help you, a soul-connected yet stressed-out creative, embrace your perfectly imperfect self so that you can unleash your creative and personal potential and feel empowered as a creative.
I’m invested in this mission and in the #perfectionistproblems community, because I believe in the power of community. This year I also want to stay invested in my business goals and the resources I’m creating for you. I’m giving myself permission to stop pursuing something if it doesn’t feel right and to don’t do something that doesn’t get my creative juices flowing and make me excited to jump out of bed every day.
I mentioned one of my favorite tools, Trello, a couple of times in this post. I’ve created a Tools & Resources guide with all of the tools, resources, programs, systems, and hacks I use in my life, creativity, and business that help me embrace my perfectly imperfect self and stay on track with my daily routine for purposeful productivity. Want to know which tools I use on a daily basis? Just click on the button below to download your copy of the Tools & Resource guide.
Hi there! I’m Wendy, founder of The Gratefulist and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you let go of your perfectionism. Let’s chat about the hard stuff - like dealing with comparison, your inner critic, procrastination & productivity with purpose - so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.