Reflecting on 2018 and looking forward to 2019
Grab a cuppa and settle down whilst I tell you about my progress in 2018 and the lessons I have learned along the way.
What is The Experiment?
The Experiment is exactly that – it is me treating my business from the perspective of experimentation and observing the difference it makes to my own fear, procrastination and perfectionism.
After over a decade of helping others master their own fears, procrastination and perfectionism it is time to ‘fess up to where I am playing small in my business.
This post is made up of three sections written at different points during the past 12 months.
December 2017 – preparing The Experiment
2018 is already shaping up to be a very different and more ‘mature’ year for me, and I do think that you need to have a certain confidence to be able to take this approach.
This plays nicely into my observations in recent years that most of what we are taught really needs to be turned on its head when applied to your own business.
Children and entrepreneurship are the two greatest personal development opportunities I have ever embarked on!
My hope is The Experiment will provide me with insight into the way I work, and give me opportunities to improve and grow. I also plan to document The Experiment in a bid to continue to shed light on what it REALLY takes to build a successful coaching business.
I won’t be doing this alone, and I do have a team that assist me in my business as well as mentors and teachers that I work with.
It is important to reiterate that I am not at the beginning of my business, and it has been my sole income for the past 2 years. (I have just had my biggest month to date which is multiple 5 figures.)
I know that I have challenges to The Experiment, not least of all is my inconsistency. I am full of ideas, but seeing them through and being consistent is a constant challenge, and that is one of the reasons I plan to document and share this journey – my hope being that you will continue to encourage me to see it through.
The first step in my experiment has been to brainstorm all of the things I WANT to do in 2018, and refine that down to a few more focused projects and goals, and then identify my fears around them.
I know that I am not alone in being a hard worker, in fact I often get lost in my busy-ness, but how effective am I really being? I pride myself on being able to make decisions quickly, but that often means that I end up taking on new projects, expenses and commitments without due diligence.
Awareness is the first step, but then what?
I have tasked my newly promoted Business Manager to hold me to account with any new plans that I want to embark on, or invest in which will require me to present business cases aligned to my goals for 2018. Who says you’re not accountable to anyone when you are your own boss?
Time to take my own medicine around setting values aligned goals…
The first step is to complete a Wheel of Life, which is a ubiquitous coaching tool that you may have come across before. Although if you haven’t, don’t worry because the first time I came across it was on my very first coach training way back in 2006.
Here are the questions I am asking myself about the Wheel of Life.
Business, Career & Studies: Is your career where you want it to be by now? Are you heading in the right direction?
Finance & Wealth: Are you earning enough income to satisfy your current needs? Are you financial setup for future growth in wealth?
Health & Fitness: How physically healthy are you? Are you satisfied with your level of fitness? Are you satisfied with your diet?
Social & Friends: Are your friends supportive of you? Are you engaging friends and socializing to your satisfaction levels?
Family: Is your family supportive of you? Are you supportive of your family?
Love: Do you feel loved? How often are you expressing love to others?
Recreation & Fun: Are you enjoying your life and making it fun? Are you satisfied with the level of activity that you do?
Contribution: How would others rate your contribution to society or them as individuals?
Personal Growth: How focused are you on personal growth? Are you satisfied with your direction? Are you trying new experiences and seeking to learn?
Spiritual: How connected are you to the inner and outer world? Are you satisfied with your relationship with your spiritual being?
Self-Image: Do you think of your abilities highly? Do you respect and love yourself? Do you appreciate yourself?
Combining the output of these two tools tells me that I need to focus my energy, attention and resources on Fun, Health & Fitness and Finance & Wealth. I also have a goal around Physical Environment that I will be pursuing.
One of my mentors, Natalie MacNeil, recommends a 5x5 planning system for goals. I have always struggled with this tool until now. You see I had been trying to squeeze 5 business goals into the plan, but that doesn’t work for me because I want to be taking action on all of my goals simultaneously, and when I do that, I end up spreading myself too thin.
This year I am focusing 3 of my 5x5 goals on my business (and therefore Finance & Wealth) and the remaining goals will be Fun and Health & Fitness.
I have one large project that is already on the cards for the first half of 2018, and the second goal will be to continue to grow awareness of Coach School. The last goal will be a choice between a number of other projects I would like to pursue in 2018 but as none of them are standing out, I shall forecast them for later in the year where one may more of a priority than the others.
There’s no guarantee that this approach will work for me in 2018, but hey, that’s why this is all an Experiment!
Now that I have my goals, I need to break them down into milestones and then actions. This is where it starts to get interesting and the mind chatter begins…
As I am breaking down my goals I am also taking note of the fears and excuses that are coming up, so that I can get them out on paper at the same time.
When I work with clients on their goal planning, this is usually where I switch my listening on for ‘obstacles’. Where is my client making excuses? Where are the fears, where are they playing small? I am now doing that for myself.
It didn’t take me long to come up with a dozen fears around my business goals, but by writing them down, and taking my curiosity with me as to how my client might address them, I am already back into ‘solution-mode’ rather than problem mode.
January 2018- starting The Experiment
I’m a couple of weeks into the Experiment so far, and whilst I’m not fully back to work because of school holidays, I still have plenty of chances to put my new mindset into place.
One thing that has happened that has had the ‘Experiment’ treatment is that I received some feedback from a group member that may have sent me into a tailspin in the past. Now the feedback was incredibly constructive and supportive, and it was delivered in an appropriate manner, but my first gut instinct was,
“OMG, I’m doing this wrong. This client is unhappy. I have missold her into this program, and I’m not delivering what I told her I would.” And from there it was a short spiral into, “I need to refund her, who am I to think I can run a group like this? I’m a terrible coach and mentor. OMG she’s found me out! I need to quit. I wonder if there are any jobs out there?… Maybe I should just give it all up.”
All from a small piece of feedback that actually consolidated my own suspicions and that I had already begun working to address.
I like to think that I am pretty self-aware, and everything I do is about making other people braver. And yet, this simple, well intentioned email could have this kind of effect on me.
Imagine the impact that it could have on someone who is just starting out. Maybe that’s you?
So I am sharing how I felt because I think we look to our mentors and believe that they never have the same insecurities and fears, but they do.
The difference is that, with practice, we bounce back quicker.
In this instance, I walked away, took a deep breath and realised what I needed to do. And I did it calmly. Instead of falling into the downward spiral that my head was trying to take me down, I stopped and thought, ‘Ok, how do people need me to show up in order to address what it actually the success of my program?” – something that I hadn’t expected, so not a bad problem to have, right?
As entrepreneurs we are ALWAYS doing something new, pushing the envelope of what we know, trying a different approach. Yet so many of us kick ourselves when we didn’t predict the outcome.
When we look at scientists and engineers (which is my background), we don’t try something new expecting to get it right the first time. We look at the data, and we use it to tweak an algorithm or experiment, and then we iterate again, and again, and again. The data trend is what gives scientists and engineers the confidence to predict outcomes. We rarely do things once.
When I take that approach, suddenly the focus isn’t on me anymore, it’s on the data. And data is emotionless, and utterly resilient.
Taking The Experiment Approach
Before The Experiment, I would have reacted rather than responded to this feedback, and I would have addressed every single point in a personal response to the initiator. I may even have apologised. And I would have shrunk in my role as leader and facilitator of the group.
But by taking The Experiment approach, I politely responded to say that I had heard the concerns and that I would be addressing them in a public manner for the whole group. I made my tweaks and changes, and I laid out the new guidelines for the reasons that I set up the program in the first place, and then I moved on.
Remember, there will always be challenges and periods of discomfort as we grow, and the challenges that are in front of us are new and something we haven’t had to deal with before.
There is a motto that I hear often, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Looking back on years of discomfort, I’m wondering if it might not be more useful to consider that the discomfort does not get any easier, but the feeling becomes more familiar and therefore not something to be feared.
And then everything changed…
Shortly after I wrote this post, I got some news that threw my entire year into a tailspin. My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly. My family were in Scotland, and I was literally on the other side of the world in New Zealand. I spent that day in a haze trying to decide whether or not to return. And then, when I decided that I really did want to go back, when to go. There was a delay in scheduling a post mortem due to a flu epidemic reducing available medical staff and so I found myself in limbo for almost a month, waiting to go home for a funeral.
During that time, I managed with the help of my team (one of whom is my sister and was also going through the same emotional turmoil as me) and my amazing clients to carry on working, but in all honesty, I felt that I was going through the motions.
Once back in Scotland I attended my Dad’s funeral and caught up with as many friends and family as possible. I was also able to maintain a light schedule of seeing clients. I am so incredibly grateful for creating a business that is location independent.
After a couple of weeks I returned home to New Zealand. By that time it was March and I couldn’t believe that Quarter 1 was almost over. I hadn’t achieved anything I set out to do other than a holding pattern of client work. I was already in ‘catch up mode’. This continued to be pattern as I approached my next overseas trip to Los Angeles in May.
One of the reasons for my trip was to have a meeting with a potential partner. Communication had been challenging and as time marched forward I began to feel differently about the opportunity. This was a real sign of maturity in myself. Before I wouldn’t have thought that I had the power to shift that situation, and would have carried on hoping that everything would just work out. (*Spoiler Alert* – It has, but not in the way I expected.)
After LA, the enormity of the first half of my year really hit me and I suspect I was suffering from a touch of burn out. However I kept going, just not in a position to do much more than serve clients and welcome some new students into Coach School, as well as keep up my monthly scheduled retreats.
It was around this time that we had the opportunity to buy our dream home. But this meant readying and selling two other properties. So that took care of winter and a chunk of spring. All the while I kept thinking, I am not getting anywhere with these goals that I have set.
What did The Experiment teach me?
And now, in December 2018 I can finally take stock of what The Experiment has actually meant.
Well first of all, it has kind of compounded my realisation that consistency is a challenge for me! Only 3 posts regarding the experiment that I was going to ‘document’!
Secondly, whilst there are some goals that I didn’t meet around health and fitness, I did hit some pretty great targets.
- I have welcomed and worked with a number of amazing students in Coach School, all of whom are earning while they learn.
- I developed my own coaching model and system, SWITCH on a train in the UK when I was on my way to meet by business bestie for the very first time. (We then shared accommodation in LA in May!)
- I have created a predictable income that allows me to plan and forecast, as well as remove the stress of not knowing where my next client is coming from.
- I moved into our dream home way ahead of schedule!
- I have two projects that although have been delayed in 2018, will launch in 2019 and they will be bigger and better for the wait.
- I have really matured this year in my outlook.
- I’ve continued to be published in on and offline media.
- My referral network has grown and clients are coming to me ready to work together with ease and flow.
So I guess The Experiment has been pretty successful in the sense that it has really proven to me that remaining open to what might happen and not have it derail me has resulted in a very successful year, even if I didn’t plan it this way.
That being said, I am looking forward to putting some more structure into my efforts for 2019, and look forward to feeling less of that sense of ‘catching up’.
The challenges are different once you begin to be ‘successful’, and by that I mean working with clients. I used to have a lot more time to plan and create, whereas now, I need to schedule that more carefully rather than just waiting for inspiration to strike.
Also, I hear often that business owners want to make enough money to ‘not have to worry about it’, and I have to share that the more money I make, the more I worry about it! Well, worry might not be the best word to describe it, but certainly I am much more respectful of money as more comes into my life and business.
And my final thought on 2018’s Experiment (as 2019 will be another Experiment year) is that life is short. Follow your dreams and do what makes your heart sing.
My dad taught me that.