Comparison and recovery: a reminder for the new year

Comparison and recovery: a reminder for the new yearIn the last couple of weeks, there’s been a theme to my client calls. I’m going to call it The Late January Blues. Perhaps you know it?

We’ve all rushed into the year, full of hope and possibility, and then we’ve hit a wall. And, in the world of small business, where the Christmas season can really take it out of you, hitting the wall looks like two things:

  1. You’re looking around at “everyone else” and seeing unprecedented success and unwavering energy for new projects. And, of course, you then imagine yourself as coming up lacking.
  2. You just can’t get motivated. You know there’s loads to do. You’ve got big vision for 2016 and your business, but you’re finding it hard to get out of bed.

These are the things plaguing my clients at the moment. So, I want to revisit two key business practices that will keep you sane. They are Comparison Combat and Self-Care Of The Highest Order.

Self-Care Of The Highest Order

If you’re a gift-based business, likelihood is you had to work pretty hard in the run up to Christmas. And I want to be really clear about my definition of “working hard”: it’s not about working to 150% capacity or even hitting 14 hour days. There is no blanket one-size-fits-all definition of working hard that applies to everyone. If you worked a lot, worked hard, juggled work and family commitments, worked hard in an emotional capacity, worked hard at worrying about working hard, then you’re in the club.

You’re the only one who can decide whether or not you worked hard. It’s your own standard to create. But please don’t make “working hard” something that other people say it is. Don’t make it about 14 hour days and working in your sleep and resulting in 10,000 sales a day. Sometimes, I work hard and only work 4 hours a day. But I still work hard.

So, let’s say you worked hard. And then you had a few days off between Christmas and New Year. You spent time with family and friends (not always restful) and it was nice to not be working. Now, the truth is, for the majority of people I’ve spoken to of late, that was not enough rest to replenish your energy and enthusiasm.

And this is the economics of self-care: sometimes we have to rest FIRST in order to work hard later, especially if we’ve been running an energy deficit.

If you’re feeling unmotivated, or like you’re hating your business, or you start resenting the orders that do come in (while simultaneously worrying about money coming in), you need restoration. You need pure, unadulterated time off. You need to re-engage with the things you’re passionate about. You have my unconditional permission to take a day (or a week) off to take baths, read for pleasure, take slow-paced walks, avoid the washing up, write all your thoughts in a journal and nurture yourself. This isn’t catch-up-on-housework time. It isn’t “I could box up all that stuff for the charity shop and landscape the garden and bake 10,000 cakes” time. If you are worn out, you need the purity of self-care.

As a client told me last week, taking a day off (at my suggestion) on Friday made her Wednesday and Thursday more productive so that she could really relax at the end of the week. Taking the Friday off allowed her time to herself, without family commitments, to get back on track. I highly recommend it.

Comparison Combat

Unlike self-care, Comparison Combat is a more active practice! Self-care is often gentle and nurturing. Comparison Combat requires discipline. It’s still loving and ultimately nurturing, but because comparison comes from a fear-based place, it needs a firm hand, and it needs regular exercise to move away from it.

A quick reminder of comparison: checking Facebook, becoming obsessed with what other people are doing, seeing Instagram as an accurate representation of perfect homes and lives and businesses.

For me, it doesn’t just manifest as comparison to similar people or businesses. I can also get caught up in imagining what clients and potential clients want from me, rather than what I want to offer. Yes, of course I like to think about what would be most helpful to me clients. But it can also be a huge distraction, because people want and need a whole load of stuff that I’m not in a position to offer, either because I’m not qualified or not inclined.

When I get stuck in a spiral of doom (my original name for the comparison trap), the only way out is for me to shut it down. To switch off, log out, go for a walk, do whatever it takes to bring myself back to what I care about and what I’m focused on. A little check-out to then check back in.

So, what do you need?

Ah, my friends. What do you need? Self-care? Comparison Combat? Both?

Take a deep breath, maybe a piece of paper and pen. Reflect on what you might be feeling at the beginning of February. Have you been unconsciously unmotivated and blaming it on something other than burnout and over-working? Have you been caught in comparison, rather than focusing on your aims for the year?

A wonderful question from Tara Mohr: Are you being more faithful to your dreams or your fears?

Then, what needs to change?

Do you need more rest, more sleep, more free time?

Do you need to re-focus on your dreams?

What do you need to feel good?

How could you combat comparison in your day-to-day life?

I can’t wait to hear. I can’t wait to see you thrive.


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