Anna Maria Locke

Self Employment Lessons || Month 7

March 2015Anna LockeComment

It’s been almost 7 months since I traded my zoo polo and khakis for yoga pants and jumped ship on the traditional and socially acceptable safe job-with-benefits path to “live the dream” and build a lifestyle/wellness coaching business from scratch. I know so many other wonderful and courageous women who currently feel stuck in unfulfilling jobs and want to follow my lead, and I wouldn’t have it any other way but...

I just gotta say it. Self employment is HARD.

The past several months have been a deep immersion of constant growth, learning, expansion, challenge. My brain explodes every day, and I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster of blissed out highs, rock bottom lows, and everything in between. It’s never boring. I thrive on challenge and growth, which is why I quit my job in the first place, but still. It’s a freaking rollercoaster. Good thing I love rollercoasters.

It’s the best thing ever, but also the hardest thing ever, which I guess is the reason why not many people are brave enough to actually make it work, no matter how stressed or unhappy they are in their current situation. We all have the power to take control of our happiness and wellbeing, but it’s easier to just go with the flow and let life happen to us. Well, I’ve never been one to accept the easy way out so I’m in this for the long haul.

Sometimes I have it all together, and sometimes I’m a hot mess and can barely keep up with myself. I’m terrified that I’m not going to be able to make it as a self employed small business owner. I’m afraid that I’m never going to feel successful, and I’m never going to live up to my own expectations. But I think my biggest fear is that I’m going to be successful too fast, and I’m never going to be able to keep up and relax...I’m afraid of always feeling behind, running to stay in place like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland.

One thing is certain, though. Transitioning into self employment has been the biggest learning curve of my life! Here are some of the lessons I’ve been learning from the School of Life.

1. Life is an active process of constant course correction, not a straight line you can float through.

This fact is something that hit home when I read The Slight Edge. We’re never going to be completely “on track” with our lives (sidenote: which is why the concept of “falling off the health/fitness/weightloss wagon is bullshit). We just have to try our best, learn from our mistakes, and keep moving forward. I’m constantly experimenting with my schedule and limits. Last week I pushed myself a little too hard and had a mini-breakdown in the kitchen at 6:30 am, crying to Ben about how good/hard/overwhelming it all is. This week I’m laying off the pressure, giving myself permission to relax and slow down even if it means I have to put some goals and plans on the backburner or even (gasp) disappoint other people and make them wait. I’m spending more time thinking, processing, reading personal development, writing, and breathing, and less time trapped in the zone of “business” and social media.

2. Having “all the time” is not necessarily a blessing.

When I was working full time and cramming my coaching business and Etsy shop into early mornings, late nights, and weekends, I was desperate for more time and couldn’t wait to be able to control my schedule. Now I’m on the other side though, that freedom sometimes feels like a curse. I don’t have kids or pets, and I don’t have any responsibilities beyond being the best possible wife/daughter/friend/small biz owner I can be. This might be the most freedom I’m ever going to have, but instead of feeling exuberant and excited it’s easy to feel guilty and pressured to make the most of it.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything all at once when time isn’t a limiting factor anymore. But the reality is that I still only have a certain amount of energy and hours each day, and energy will always be a big limiting factor.

Last week I felt some anxiety creeping into my gut and I wanted to face it head on so I could figure out where it was coming from. The best way to process anxiety (for me) is to brain dump and write it out, so I took pen to paper and started transferring the negative thoughts from my mind into tangible reality. What I learned: I’ve been putting way too much pressure on myself lately! I’m trying to motivate and launch the new coaches I’m mentoring, run my own business, keep up with email and networking, focus on my workouts and nutrition with the 21 Day Fix Extreme, share every step of my journey, blog regularly, focus on B-School (which is HUGE in and of itself!), photograph and list my new spring scarves so my Etsy shop can move off the backburner, create videos and promote my Coach Preview group for next week, finish taxes, wrap up the training workshops I’ve been running, work on my 21 Day Fix recipe e-book, stay connected with my friends and family, support Ben, cook dinner and clean the house, take care of my own mental health, start painting, journal and write, figure out my message and mission, and make enough money in the process to feel like I’m supporting my side of the household.

Uhhhh, yeah.

When you have complete control of your time, it’s really easy to feel guilty if you’re not being productive 24/7, and you have to learn how to prioritize so you don’t get trapped in the busy cycle.

My priorities are God, Ben, family, my own sanity, and I try hard to keep work last...but it’s hard because work is all I can think about now that my work/life boundaries are completely blurred and my job is who I am.

To sum up this topic: BOUNDARIES.

3. You have to define what success feels like to you.

There’s no one to tell you what you should be doing, so you have to create deadlines, benchmarks, and your own definition of success. There’s no boss to tell you that you’re doing a good job, no performance reviews, none of those tangible measures of “success” that our egos are addicted to. You don’t have the luxury of getting paid simply for showing up anymore.

I’m learning to measure success not by achievements and accomplishments, but by trying to live intentionally in the present moment, and focusing on the actions I can control. I’m still trying to figure out how many hours each day I need to actually work in order to feel productive and get shit done. How much is too much? How much is not enough? Does thinking and brainstorming about work count? A task will expand to fit the time you’ve allowed, so I’m working on condensing “work hours” without feeling guilty. 

P.S. Do you know the origin of the 40 hour work week? The freaking Industrial Revolution

Why do we still feel like that’s the minimum benchmark we need to be successful?

4. You’re going to get to know yourself on an extremely deep and personal level.

When you spend your time working for someone else, putting in your hours towards a company or corporation’s mission, you don’t really get a chance to stop and think about what YOU want or what YOU believe, or even really face your biggest strengths or deepest weaknesses. You aren’t able to fully express yourself because you’re making decisions and completing tasks as your JOB DESCRIPTION, not as who you actually are as a person. Your role is to complete the responsibilities and meet the expectations of your position. I understand this is a huge generalized blanket statement, but it’s something I didn’t even realize until I stopped striving to mold myself around a laundry list of expectations written by some random HR person.

When you’re the boss calling the shots, when your job description is custom designed by you to perfectly reflect your unique strengths and talents, when you’re spending all day alone in your own head, you're going to take your relationship with yourself to a whole new level, girl. And it’s kind of scary and uncomfortable, yet amazing at the same time. You’ll fall in love with yourself, you’ll see yourself in a whole new light, you’ll also have to come face to face with your deepest hidden insecurities and all the shit you’ve been carrying around with you since childhood.

5. You can’t do it ALL. This will break your heart, but it will be ok.

My biggest weakness is my burning desire to do it all, and do it all RIGHT NOW. But I need to have patience and give myself permission to be a beginner, and accept that some great ideas will have to wait for later. 

6. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.

Friends, family, other beginner entrepreneurs who get what you’re going through. Remember you are not alone, your support team is always a phone call away.

7. Money does not equal self worth or legitimacy.

I still attach my sense of “success” and value to money. I knowwwww, I'm working on it. This is tricky, because I don’t get an automatic direct deposit just for showing up at work anymore. I have to DO the work, and if I don't work, I don’t get paid. Therefore, it’s easy for me to feel like if I slack off, lose focus, take a day off, do something wrong, waste time, or simply relax for one moment, I’m missing out and holding myself back. EGO CHECK TIME! Lies, lies, lies, but it’s so easy to interpret the negative voices as truth.

This is tough in a society where we judge each other and ourselves on our salary bracket. It’s amazing that I’m in complete control of my earning potential now, but the downside is feeling like the more hours you work the more money you’ll make....and then your work starts to revolve around money instead of passion.

I am making enough money to pay the bills, and I’m almost completely matching my old FT (non-profit) salary, so I’m trying my best to trust that everything will be ok and that the money will come when I’m ready. I know it will.

8. Personal development is essential.

Personal development is one of the core components of coaching, and I can’t believe I wasn’t aware of this whole category of amazing books before Beachbody! I probably would have just snubbed them anyway, ha, because who needs cheesy self help crap anyway? Answer: everyone. I’m working hard every day to fill my mind with positive and motivating messages, and I’ve been able to work through so much self doubt and limiting beliefs along the way.

Some of my current faves:

The Slight Edge
The Artist’s Way
Conscious Living
Essentialism

You either walk inside your own story or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness
— Brene Brown

I'm going to own it.

What I’m learning is that there’s no such thing as actual failure, as long as you’re staying true to your values and what you believe in. There’s no such thing as a straight line to “success” because success and happiness aren’t destinations. If we choose to live in the moment and make the most of our present circumstances, that’s how we can find ultimate fulfillment and joy. Happiness isn’t something you can get, it’s something that you DO. It’s a choice. It’s transient and fleeting, because to feel happy we also have to feel sad. But joy is untouched by circumstance and emotion. Joy is my goal.

Chug along, trust the process, keep the faith, celebrate the small wins, and have perspective. End the desperate striving, and live in the present. Accept myself for who I am and love every single part of my personality and story, the good and the bad.

Surrender to the bigger picture, breathe deeply through resistance and fear, and do what feels good. Even when it's hard.

xo Anna

You can read all my self-employment musings and reflections HERE.