If you don't like how you're showing up in the world, change it.
Over the years I have often (some would say TOO often) thought about what really drives me, and what it is that I really love helping people achieve. Working with purpose-driven brands means that I get to help really passionate people take their brand and business to the next level. And there is so much that I love about all that we do together — helping them realise how amazing and unique their stories are; creating beautiful and authentic styling and design for them; beating the overwhelm and really coaching them to create a business in alignment with their values, and helping them take their vision and make it a real, living, evolving brand...with integrity! But underlying all of those things, there is a bigger purpose...a theme that really makes ME come alive when I do this work.
But before I get into that, let me give you a little (uncomfortable) background.
About 10 years ago, I found myself in a terrible state financially. Some of it was as a result of my own mis-management and lack of understanding, and some of it because of a few tough years with losing both my parents, and then an abuse relationship, which left me more than £10,000 in additional debt on top of years of credit cards etc. I really was at rock-bottom. Having days where I had to choose which one meal I could afford that day was a wake-up call I can assure you. I felt beaten and ashamed, and like a failure. Fortunately, thanks to my friends, I did seek help. And so, on advice that I had very little to lose, I declared personal bankruptcy. It was one of the most horrendous experiences — not because of the process, but because of the shame and self-loathing that came with it, and what I made it mean in my head at the time.
It was also the best thing I could ever have done.
I started from scratch. I had no choice but to start again. And slowly I realised what a gift that was - not just in terms of my financial situation, but because I had a chance to shape how I behaved and even how I thought — and most importantly of all I could choose to do things differently with my business going forward! It gave me a sense of freedom that I had never anticipated!
Living to work
Before starting my own consultancy, I was very fortunate to work in global, creative agencies where the environment was awesome and I actually enjoyed my work and colleagues (most of the time anyway). But since then, having worked with many small business and as a mentor in start-up incubators I have heard so many stories from people who spent years in a job that they hate before making a change. And I have to confess, that is one of my biggest fears. The idea that someone can spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 40+ years of their life doing a job that makes them dread every Monday morning...that makes them wake up wishing they didn’t have to go back to that place...constantly feeling that there ‘must be more to life’ — that truly terrifies me.
Let it go, let it go (You’re welcome for the earwig!)
I have realised that all of these things have combined to make me passionate and excited about one important thing - the idea of re-invention. I have an expression that I use whenever I feel like I am frustrated or feeling trapped or in a rut - I call it an Etch-a-Sketch moment. One of those moments when I want to just take my life, shake it vigorously and start with a clean slate. And while you can’t erase the past, or change your fundamental DNA…you really can re-invent yourself! We can choose - at any point in our life, and as many times as we want - to start fresh.
Bankruptcy is obviously an extreme example, but the lessons I learned from it are nonetheless applicable - there is no shame in walking away from something, or embracing a change that will be better for you in the long run - even if it is not what ‘most people’ would do or approve of. And there is nothing wrong or shameful about admitting you are in over your head, or that something is just not working. As I touched on when I talked about seeing your life and business as a series of experiments - it can get messy, and you have to be willing to let go of something that didn’t work and try again in a different way...because each new attempt is made with new experiences and more knowledge. And that’s awesome, but...
...the REALLY exciting thing to me is that we can choose to reinvent ourselves EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.
Think about it - every day we get to start again....with more knowledge, experiences and (hopefully!) wisdom. And we can choose to shake that old mindset away and try start fresh with a new one. So why don’t we do that? Why do we stay in patterns of behaviour that don’t serve us? I know personally speaking I spend WAY too much time worrying about the past, or dwelling on past regrets. I have to constantly remind myself that I cannot change what is done, I can only move forward. So annoyingly obvious, but I so often forget it.
I think what holds us back from truly embracing this opportunity for daily re-invention is tied up in a belief that our past experiences, achievements and failures DEFINE us. And while those things are all chances for learning and growing, I think if we mentally reframed them as nothing more than stepping stones...useful to help us get to where we are now, but not worth worrying about once they are past…we would see the opportunity for re-invention as much more achievable. Again I think it’s about reframing the idea that we will be ‘LOSING’ something of ourselves by starting again, to the idea that we release old, unwanted baggage and start ‘CREATING’ a new version of ourselves and our lives.
Truly think about what it means to create your future life and future selves. I know it sounds simplistic and obviously, but REALLY think about it. We create our future and our future selves. We are responsible for actively choosing to re-invent ourselves every morning, or we can choose to carry on as we are. B because the honest truth is that we have no control over external circumstances (and they can and will frustrate, annoy and disappoint us many times no doubt) but we CAN exercise control over our own thoughts and behaviours… and intentionally work to create our ideal day, every day. And guess what — if it all goes awry and today ends up sucking and we don’t like it…we can just start again tomorrow.
So how can we start to make this way of thinking easier to adopt? How do we make re-invention not just a possibility for ourselves but something that gives us new hope and enthusiasm every day?
Reframing the way you think about anything requires a change of mindset and a change of established ways of thinking that may have been with you your whole life. The only way to reprogram neural pathways and create new thought patterns is through repetition. Simple steps that we often don’t even think about can make massive changes if we stick to them.
We have to actively choose to see each day as a fresh start…an opportunity to create our ideal life. Like creating any new habit this requires effort - to start with at least - but is the most effective way to create lasting change.
Step. By. Step.
There are three techniques that I have found can really help create a mindset of re-invention.
Take some time to yourself and really think about and write down what your ideal day would be? Consider what would need top be different to now. Especially consider what the key elements are that would make your days better. Is it less stress? Fewer money worries? More time to yourself? A better work environment? More time to be creative? Don’t dwell on current negatives - focus on what you would need to create in order to make your day better.
2. Schedule your re-invention
OK - that last line is a bit of an overstatement, but what I mean is, actually schedule - in your daily calendar - time to start creating your idea day. And that starts with three key things:
A check-in every evening for 5 minutes to really reflect on what did and didn’t work in your day, and rather than dwelling on the negative, getting clear on what you can change to improve tomorrow. So few of us do this and it’s such a useful way of psychologically clearing the day’s problems away and looking forward instead.
Gratitude. A massively over-discussed and under-estimated technique. Being explicit about what you are grateful for each day can totally change your mindset. As humans, every time we achieve a goal or reach a desired point in our lives, we move the goal posts. Now that’s not bad because we keep aiming for new things. But what it does often create is a lack of appreciation and celebration for what we have already achieved. Remembering that what we have NOW is often what we DREAMED about before makes it that much easier to feel appreciation rather than disapproval at what we don’t have yet.
10 minutes every morning to set your intention. I know this sounds simplistic, but sitting down and planning your priorities for the day, along with actually articulating to yourself your intention for the day can work wonders and improve productivity. We all operate so much on autopilot that the act of intentionally deciding how we want our day to be can disrupt and improve an otherwise out-of-control daily routine.
3. Get miniscule.
There is virtually no task in the world that cannot be broken down into smaller micro-tasks. This is the way I approach re-invention with my clients, and it is the best way to ensure success without overwhelm. Every new year, birthday, holiday etc. I used to plan a massive ‘start fresh’ of my whole life and everything in it - and it never worked, and I was always disappointed in myself. Until I got clear on the fact that re-invention doesn’t need to happen all at once. Once you have clarity on what kind of life you want to live, break it down into the smallest tasks possible - and tackle one thing at a time. Psychologically we are more likely to keep striving for a bigger goal if we achieve small, regular wins along the way. So ensure your success by planning out micro steps that you CAN achieve. And celebrate each win, because each one of those achievements is a part of your re-invention.
George Eliot is attributed with the wonderful quote “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
I so love that quote. Whenever I start to feel like I’ve ‘missed my chance’ at anything (and I have to be honest, as I get older I OFTEN have that thought) I remind myself that I can choose where I go from here. That tomorrow morning I wake up into an entirely new day with endless possibilities - no matter what has happened before. And that I can choose, every single day, to start as I mean to go on. After all, as Annie Dillard famously wrote: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives". Spend ‘em well, my friends.
THE KINTSUGI JOURNAL
Kintsugi: The Japanese art of repairing what is broken or damaged with pure gold resin. A philosophical approach that teaches us to treat our flaws and experience as precious parts of us which make us more beautiful and unique, rather than striving for some perceived perfection.
Every Monday I will drop into your inbox to share new writing, links and resources from my own experience. I believe in sharing honest, helpful content that will help you build a more intentional business & life.