Every now and then it's good to check in with how things are going, and half way through the year feels like a good point for this reflection. I began 2017 with big intentions, and even bigger dreams, and now that we've suddenly (it certainly feels that way sometimes) reached August I've been taking a bit of time to look back on what I've achieved so far this year, and what more I'd still like to do.
I had reached a bit of a plateau a couple of months back, things in my business and personal life seemed to have stalled, and I was frustrated at not making as much progress as I thought I should be. I took stock, and got really organised with a series of lists and trackers so that I could see exactly where I was at, what needed to happen next, and figure out when I would fit in doing it. This has definitely helped and I feel much more productive most weeks when I can see jobs being crossed off lists and boxes being filled. I'm even thinking about trying out a bullet journaling system to keep all my lists and trackers in one place, but perhaps I'll talk about that another time (if you use a BuJo, please send me your best tips!).
As so often happens when we're not really sure what to do next, or when we need a little kickstart, the universe stepped in and offered me several incredible opportunities. I was invited to sell at the Support Local Pop Up Fair, and have now been at two events, with more booked; and the editor of my favourite knitting magazine contacted me to ask if I'd write a column based on the #everydaycreativemoments challenge I hosted back in the spring - this will be published later this month (so excited I can't tell you!). My Etsy shop is also getting more traffic and sales which is hugely encouraging.
Then I came across the incredibly lovely Lauren Barber on Instagram, and after a little while of lurking and eventually plucking up the courage to join in the conversation on her posts, it turned out she was launching a new group coaching course - The Inspire Tribe - and it sounded EXACTLY what I was looking for. Support, encouragement and accountability from a small group of women, combined with Lauren's background in marketing and passion for heart-centred businesses. I met with Lauren and we talked for a while as we walked in a local park and woodland (and got caught in a rain storm!) and I decided to bite the bullet and join the tribe.
And so far it's been wonderful! Every fortnight Lauren sends us a workbook to get us thinking about a different aspect of our work and message with plenty of questions to ponder and write about; we also have a Facebook group for sharing daily accountability challenges, ask questions and celebrate successes, plus a WhatsApp group for those wobbly moments when you just need someone to cheer you on.
The first focus was to start getting clearer on our Why - our purpose, the reasons we feel called to do what we do, so that this can form the basis of the messages we share with our own audiences and friends. I thought I understood pretty well why I want to work for myself, what I want to do, and what I hope it will give me in terms of a lifestyle, but working through Lauren's gently probing questions, I found there was much more going on underneath.
Reflecting on my past experiences - particularly on previous jobs, my family situation, mental health difficulties, and financial circumstances - helped me get a better grip on where some of my most ingrained habits, expectations and fears have come from, and to realise that many of them no longer serve me, or plain and simple hold me back. Of course I'm not going to be able to let go of all of them just like that, but being aware of the internal stories is a solid first step to halting them in their tracks before they can overwhelm me again.
Thinking about my Why, or my reasons for doing what I do, and the dreams I have for growing my own business, I came to a two-pronged answer. First there is the Why that I want to share with the world - I jotted down three key words: creative, curious, connected - and secondly, a more personal Why, dealing with the practical and realist side of things.
Now I'm actually going to talk about these in reverse order, but only because the personal Why is just that - personal - and isn't as relevant to what I want to share with you here. Ultimately, it boils down to independence, a desire for freedom, to be in control (as much as we ever can be) of my own destiny, to be responsible for my own livelihood, and to achieve success on my own terms. A big part of this is financial stability and independence, and eventually being able to afford my own property and pay my own bills, but this clearly has to work in conjunction with the work that I put out, offering value to my audience, and putting a value on my creations and to some extent myself - I am worth getting paid a fair amount. Other aspects of this independence relate to relationships with my family, finding a balance of a social life and time alone that works for me, and general issues of self-esteem and confidence. More on these another time perhaps.
The bigger part of my Why though, is the part that relates to what I do and why I do it. I'll admit that when I first began my business the main focus was on making money, but over the past months, as I've shared more of my story here and on Instagram, it's been so heartening to realise that other people find what I'm doing inspiring. They tell me they can relate to my words, they love my photos, they feel inspired by the things I'm making. I cannot tell you how much that means to me, every comment is received with the deepest gratitude, and it's this that is driving where I want to take my work.
I mentioned the 'three Cs' before (I know, these alliterative things can be such a cliche and a bit cheesy, but in this case I'm just trying to go with it!), and they really form the foundation of my messages.
If you've been around a while you'll know that creativity is a huge passion of mine, and I'm championing the kind of everyday creativity that we can all tap into in different areas of our lives, that pulls together all our experiences, knowledge, and inspirations, and re-forms them into something that is a unique expression of us. I don't believe creativity has to be confined to one area, one hobby, or even our work, but that if we exercise it more holistically our creative muscles get stronger, and the inspirations can spill over into everything we do.
Curiosity feeds creativity - I don't think one can exist without the other. When we're curious about the world around us we seek out the things that are interesting, surprising, inspiring, and these all get stored in our brains and our hearts, to be mixed together with other knowledge, experiences, and that magical individual essence of You. Perhaps you devour every book you can find, you visit every place related to your favourite subject, you try out endless recipes searching for new exciting flavour combinations... Whatever it is that drives your curiosity, your creative self will eventually find a way to let it out again, perhaps in writing, or art, or academic qualifications, or helping you win the pub quiz every week. Frankly, I reckon life would be very boring if you weren't even a little bit curious about something.
For me this part boils down to just two very small words: Me too. It's that moment of recognition, finding something in others that you see in yourself. And of showing appreciation for the things others have done that you love, and letting them know that they've inspired you in some way. Being truly authentic in what you share, letting your truth be told, and holding space for others to do so with mutual respect, genuinely listening, perhaps asking questions to gain better understanding, and encouraging each other wholeheartedly.
If I can keep these three things at the forefront of my mind when I'm planning things for my business, writing blog posts, sharing something on Instagram, or making new products for my shop, then I'll know that they are aligned with my greater intentions and that they express the truth of who I am as a person and what I want to bring to the world. (That always sounds a bit grand doesn't it? 'The world' could just be the three of your reading this post and I'll be happy!)
Perhaps you could take a bit of time today or this week to think about your Why - why do you do what you do? What purpose do you want it to serve? And what do you need to do to bring yourself closer to this vision?
One final thing - if you subscribe to my newsletter (which you can do here if you're not already on the list), you'll have already heard that I'm hosting another creative community challenge in September. This time it will be bigger and better, with daily emails and suggestions, ideas for exercising your creative muscles and finding some focus if you've lost your inspiration, and an ebook of all the information at the end. I'd love for you to join me - just hit the big button below this paragraph to find out more and sign up.