How I Build My Ideal Work/Life Balance
I admire Racheal Cook because she stands for creating a real business rather than a business based on “look at my fabulous, perfect life — now hire me and I will tell you how to be me.”
That’s why I said yes to “The Business That Loves You Back Blog Tour” in which Racheal invited me to write about how I build my business around my desired lifestyle. Ready?
Allow me to explain.
I started doing my work in 1992 when my first book was published. My love of writing and serving women’s wholeness became one of my reasons for being. I loved what I did so much, it wasn’t a question of life balance. I wanted to do it all the time. I also wanted to be successful more than anything (I was 28!), so I was very driven.
And that pretty much worked – until the Internet entered the picture, I had a baby, and I arrived in me mid-30’s. I went from writing a book every year or two, leading a few retreats, and giving a handful of high-profile speeches – very sane and pretty balanced – to building an on-line business. Answering email. Creating products – everything from calendars to virtual retreats. Nurturing forums. Answering more email. All the while raising my daughter. And then came social f–king media.
My business became the 700-pound gorilla in our family’s living room. My sense of balance and pleasure dried up.
Now this was back in 2001… Now here is where I talk about how I figured it all out a mere year or two later… and then it was bliss and trips to Bali…
Cue snorting laughter.
I just started to figure out how to live a good life that I love that isn’t eaten alive by my work in the last two years. That’s a damn long learning curve. Shall we shorten yours? Here’s what I suggest:
1:: Run away from overnight success fantasies – I beg you!
Instead, create a modest, incremental, slow and steady plan for growing your business. This is the most important thing I can tell you. I had “overnight” success with my first two books and I kept wanting more of that. Which meant I spent most of my time plotting how to get “picked” by Oprah (again) or to have something magic happen where all the hard work would “poof!” go away. I kept chasing the “next big thing” instead of being a devoted student of my readers. I had to learn compassionate grit = self-kindness + persistence.
Do have big dreams but choose yourself with compassionate grit.
2:: Instead of naming how much you want to make, name what is enough.
When I focused on “make a zillion dollars by next Tuesday,” I couldn’t begin to build a life I loved. I wasn’t living my values. I value living lightly with the lowest carbon footprint possible. I value raising up everyone in the world so we are all safe, fed, and loved. When I got really clear on that and embraced how simple a life I love to live, everything began to shift.
What amount of money will help you create the world you want? Does your desired lifestyle allow others to have a life?
3:: Being self-employed is a master’s degree in spiritual growth so you might as well embrace it.
Your personality patterns will rear their lovely heads again and again – and then again – just about every day. Having my Brain Trust around to lovingly say, “You’re doing it again,” has been invaluable. Get yourself a group!!! Get yourself a therapist or coach who really understands what this work brings up!
List your signature business patterns now and then hug them. They’re your wisest teachers.
4:: Ask for and develop exactly the kind of support you want.
First, I was too cheap to find help (this was before VA’s existed), then when I found a great VA, I sent her mixed messages about how much work to do out of fear that it would cost too much. I was in the mindset of “I am writer” vs. “I am in business.” Then I got used to being a business … and my business grew past what my VA liked to do, so I started hiring additional people – but badly. I didn’t tell my first VA what the new person was doing. I hired quickly without due diligence, trusting friends’ recommendations. I learned – so slowly! – to call references, ask hard questions, dig!, give a trial assignment, and then, a trial period.
Then when I did find good people, I had to learn to lead, to not just dump work and disappear. I now have the best little team – two VA’s with different strengths, a web designer, a trusted bookkeeper, and a CPA – and I pay them with glee. I spend $2000 to $3000 a month on support.
Become someone who can be supported and work to find your just right support.
5:: Let yourself embrace what you really want to do while practicing the hard art of choosing.
This is my current learning edge – to let myself embrace the exact work I want to do and let go of all the other things I’m good at. This isn’t frightening so much as annoying. I want to clone myself so I can keep doing everything! But the “do everything” place is deadly quicksand in disguise – it will kill your great work.
You have to keep choosing and orienting toward what you most desire. If you hear yourself saying, “But I can’t choose; I want to work with _____ and _____ and I really must keep doing _______ and then there is that certification in _____,” you are missing the truth of being human. To be human is to learn to choose. There is a diamond-like clarity and beauty that arrives when you say, “This and only this.” Yes, it is painful, and yes, it might not work, and yes, certainly you will stumble and the “this” will not play out the way you fantasize and it will change, but in the choosing, great growth and learning will happen. And maybe great success — but that, really, is besides the point.
Choosing is your highest art.
To bottom line what I’ve learned about being a self-employed creative for 23 years:
Throw away the idea of an ideal lifestyle, of perfect balance and 7 figures pouring into your PayPal account while you sleep, and instead dig your fingers deep into your desires and values. Grow down instead of up, down into what you and only you can love and bring to life. Grow into choosing, into being human. Put your hand on your belly and choose for yourself.
I will be right there with you!