An essay on what it takes to be a pioneer of peaceful living in an age of fear-based business building.
If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a real stickler for inbox organization. I try hard not to read emails for at least half an hour upon waking, in an attempt to enjoy a peaceful first cup of coffee (or as peaceful as it can get with two kids under the age of 4). But I sure hate to see those unread emails piling up.
I get sweaty palms and heart palpitations every time my friend, Lisa, shows me her inbox, which is overflowing with thousands – literally thousands – of unread emails. When the bright red notification pops up on my Gmail app, alerting me to (*gasp*) untouched electronic correspondence, I can’t rest until I review them, process the information, clear them away, and organize them into folders.
Today, I managed to wait a whole 15 minutes before clicking open my inbox, only to find about a dozen emails with subject lines like:
“Only a few hours left!”
“Lauren, what if your business never gets noticed?”
“The one platform you NEED to be using for more traffic and subscribers!”
Holy guacamole, somebody please pass the Xanax. I realize that these are all emails for which I purposely signed up. They’re crafted by some of the finest leaders in the fields of small business growth, blogging, and copywriting. These are ladies I look up to, and I want to know their secrets and experiential wisdom when it comes to building my own successful business.
But have you noticed that many of us (myself included) run our businesses largely from a place of fear, pain, and worry?
If you’re a woman in America – oh, heck, if you’re a woman in the WORLD – you probably face down unbelievable amounts of self-doubt every single day. Women are tough as nails. We can accomplish so many amazing things and manage a multitude of tasks, and yet we’re notoriously hard on ourselves. We never seem to measure up to our own standards, much less the standards we assume everyone else is using to measure us.
And these self-critical tendencies don’t die down when we start families, careers, or businesses. In fact, they just get stronger, louder, and more overwhelming. It doesn’t matter who you are – Marie Forleo, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah – I’m willing to bet millions of dollars that they wake up to the same Big Questions that you and I face every day: am I enough? Am I doing enough with my life? Am I making the right decisions?
I worry constantly that I’m not making the right decisions. That I’m messing everything up, doing irreparable damage to my business, my kids, my life in general. I have a deeply-rooted habit of making decisions based off of one central emotion: FEAR. I make fear-based decisions in my business all the time, pushing myself way too hard in an effort to get noticed and win business, to fight against becoming invisible and irrelevant, or failing altogether.
And I know it’s not just me that feels this way. Take a peek at most of the subscription emails flooding your inbox, and it’s clear that most of us operate in a fear-based space, governed by worry (“are you missing out on this important business tool?”), pain (“are your email subscriptions dropping?”), and urgency (“act now!”) driven by fear. We think everybody else is doing this, reading that, and making ten times more money than we do. So, we hustle and drive ourselves to the brink of insanity, fearing we might miss out, or mess up.
But why did you start your business in the first place?
I’m guessing you wanted to help people in some way, to make a difference in their lives, and in the world. I’m betting you wanted to create a bigger, better life for yourself as well, one in which you get to practice the skills you most value, do the things you most enjoy, and spend time with the folks who matter to you.
You wanted to build a life filled with creativity, connection, joy, and freedom – not create a fear-filled prison for yourself.
I’m not saying all fear is bad. It’s a good thing to be challenged by your business, to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and dream uncomfortably big. I’m just saying that the next time you feel the need to buy that business-building tool (“before it runs out!”), go to that networking event, talk about your awesome products and services, ask yourself if it flows from a place of joy and excitement about what you might create, or if it stems from a place of fear that you’ll miss out/ make the wrong decision/ become a horrible failure.
One key symptom of this crippling fear in my life is neglecting to prioritize my own needs. When I stop making time for the gym, eating healthy meals, or spending time with friends and family, I know I’ve got a problem. I don’t have time! I have to keep going! I’ve gotta hustle, stay busy, stay focused! Meanwhile, I neglect the most important piece of my business – ME. And in the end, it’s my business and relationships that suffer.
So, I’m pushing back against that fearful voice. I’m making space for the things and people that nurture me – even when my brain tells me there isn’t time, or that I’ll miss out on something more important. I’m going to the gym twice a week, going for walks, taking Sundays off, and building boundaries around my social media engagement. I’m actively living out the values that inspired me to begin this entrepreneurial journey in the first place. Because the nourishing, connected lifestyle I hope to build doesn’t begin “someday” when my hustling is finally over – if I don’t build these practices into my daily routine now, they aren’t likely to materialize further down the road.
It starts today, through intentioned action. It starts right now.