Jan 2017 *** This was a post I published in Jan 2016 on one of my other blogs and migrated it over here*
With the dawn of 2016 I am finding myself feeling torn between conflicting emotions.
I am exhilarated, yet I am also scared out of my mind.
I am filled with anticipation, yet I am also feeling lost.
And I honestly can’t tell you which of these feelings is stronger right now.
For me, 2016 will be a year of both letting go and letting in.
It all started 4 months ago when I finally made a difficult decision that I knew would dramatically change the direction of my life.
On the one hand, there was no question in my mind that it was the right thing to do, both for my family and for myself.
On the other hand, it was a hard decision to make because I didn’t know exactly how it would change the direction of my life.
As much as I love adventure, I also tend to get very stressed out about uncertainty. A paradox I know, as uncertainty and adventure tend to go hand in hand.
After wrestling back and forth with my decision, I thought I had finally achieved a sense of peace.
Until I officially made the announcement to my team and to my tribe of followers and loyal customers: the online business that I had nurtured and grown since 2007 would shut it’s doors on December 31, 2015.
I wasn’t prepared for the storm of emotions that hit me.
It was as though with that announcement, I had crossed a threshold.
When I was the only one who knew what I was planning, I could prolong my decision, perhaps even change my mind altogether.
But once I made the announcement, it was official, and there was no going back.
It’s amazing how fast certainty can give way to doubt, and excitement can give way to fear.
A million thoughts began to swirl through my mind.
My foremost thought was “Am I making a mistake?”
You see, my entire adult life I have had an entrepreneurial spirit.
I have dreamt about the freedom, the flexibility, and the sheer possibility that having your own business offers.
At the same time, since I was a child I have had a heart for people and a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
For years I have tried to figure out a way in which I could combine the two – my passion for people with my passion for entrepreneurship.
I tried so hard to figure out how I could create a business where I could make a difference, live my purpose, and leave a legacy while also enabling me to create I life for myself and my family that I loved.
After graduating from my Master’s of Health Science degree in Nutrition I launched my first business – a private nutrition consulting practice. I then went on to launch several other businesses in different industries, yet I never seemed able to find what I was looking for.
When I started my first little paper crafting blog 8 years ago, never in a million years did I imagine that a hobby I was passionate about would eventually become a successful online business.
So when this business that I didn’t intentionally launch flourished, it felt like the fulfillment of the first part of my dream.
Several dreams in fact. Along with my spirit of entrepreneurship, ever since I was young mom, a deep creative yearning had awakened in me.
I don’t know where it came from or what caused it to manifest, but I found myself filled with this longing to be creative, while at the same time believing I was simply not gifted with creativity.
Yet now, here I was, not only having discovered my creativity, but had now built a business teaching, sharing and inspiring others to discover and develop their own creativity.
Seeing wonder and confidence blossom as I helped others tap into their creativity gave me such an incredible feeling of joy and meaning.
It seemed to me to be the perfect combination of entrepreneurship and impact.
Honestly, it often felt too good to be true. A hobby I loved had given me a means of making an impact in the lives of others and a means of creating a financially rewarding business that made a big difference in my family’s life.
I sincerely believed it to be the answer to prayer – a gift, it was “meant to be”.
And now, here I was, on the brink of letting it all go.
Because somewhere along the way, as my business grew, the balance began to shift.
My business began to demand more and more of my time, and I found myself with less and less time for everything else.
I slept less, skipped workouts and meals, and gave up on my other passions and interests to make more time for work.
Eventually though, even that time I carved out wasn’t enough and I found myself taking time away from everything else that mattered to me – my husband, my children, my family, my friends.
My dreams were now clashing with my values.
Yes I had a financially rewarding business, yes I was enriching the lives of others, but now it was to the detriment of my kids, my husband, my family and myself.
I was so torn.
I knew I couldn’t continue on this way, but I kept thinking that maybe there was a way that I could make it work.
Finally, after years of this back and forth, I knew I had to make a choice.
“Do I continue on this path or has the time come to let go and seek a new path that is in alignment with all of my values?”
As I look back now, it’s easy to see that the choice should have been obvious.
Yet when you are in the midst of it, it never seems that simple.
For a time I tried to ignore it. For years in fact. But I kept coming back full circle, and each time I would feel more and more unease, and it became harder and harder to ignore.
Then came the denial. It’s really not that bad. I am making it out to be worse than it is. After a time though, as my exhaustion deepened, my stress level skyrocketed and I was becoming consumed with guilt and struggling with feelings of depression, I had to admit that feeling that way was not normal.
That’s when the blame set in. “Maybe the problem is with me. Maybe I just need to be more organized. Maybe I need to learn how to discriminate between what’s important and what’s not.” The problem with blame of course, is that it’s like quicksand. It keeps you trapped.
After many long conversations with my husband, he helped me to see that as the years have passed, while my business was growing, my personal situation has also changed significantly.
When I started my business I had 3 children, now I have 5. Two years ago my husband took on a more demanding job that requires him to travel extensively. My 95 year old grandfather has been living with us for the past 7 years and his needs have increased. All of this has led to my responsibilities and the demands on my time increasing.
Finally I tried to rationalize it. “To fulfill my purpose I have to make sacrifices”
This rationalization was the hardest hurdle to overcome because our society normalizes this mindset.
Very few people seem to dispute the belief that “success” (whatever the definition of that may be) requires sacrifice – of time, of other passions and interests, of relationships, even of health. In most cases it’s quietly accepted, in other cases it’s declared outright by “successful” leaders and innovators.
As much as this view is “accepted”, in my heart I just couldn’t accept it. I wasn’t willing to give up on my values. They are just too deeply ingrained in me.
My spirit kept telling me that there had to be another way.
After a long period of prayer, study and self-reflection I came to realize that I had been asking myself the wrong question.
I had been asking myself “Do I continue on this path?” when I should have been asking myself “Do I continue on THIS path?”
Or put another way…..is there another path that will allow me to live my purpose AND live out my values? Is there another path that will allow me to make a difference while creating a business and life that I loved.
In that simple re-framing of the question, I had opened my mind up to other possibilities.
I began to realize that there is another way. Many more ways in fact.
Jeff Goins really helped me crystallize this feeling as I read his book The Art of Work. One quote in particular really struck a chord.
Your calling is not a destination. It is a journey that doesn’t end until you die.
As we journey through life, how we live out our purpose will change as our life changes. It is our challenge to recognize the need to change when it comes, and embrace the opportunity it offers.
On the surface this may seem like a story of loss. The loss of a dream.
Instead what I hope you take from this story is the knowledge that nothing every stays the same. Life is a process of growth and change, so it’s only natural to expect that the way in which we live out our dreams will change too.
We need to let go of our desire to hang on to our ideas of the ways things “should” be, and allow our dreams to evolve into what they truly were meant to be.
It’s not easy. Letting go never is. You will experience feelings of denial, blame, rationalization, loss and even fear.
I have been there and I have walked through to the other side. Which is why I feel confident in sharing with you that this is normal, and okay, as long as you can work through these feelings and then move beyond them.
Although I don’t know what 2016 will bring, I am choosing to let go, and let in whatever this new journey may bring.
So I am embracing this adventure into the unknown.
Both afraid and excited, and finally feeling okay with that.