Breaking the downward spiral – and creating an upward cycle instead

There’s a theme that comes up regularly when I’m talking to clients, whether it’s a one-to-one conversation, or in my group coaching programme, or on retreats.

It’s the dilemma of shifting the flow from a vaguely (and sometimes worrying) downward spiral – low sales, low motivation, low energy – to a positive, regenerative, profitable cycle of business.

We often get stuck on the hamster wheel. We’re overworked, underpaid, with too much to do, which means we don’t have the energy or resources to make a change. We tell ourselves we have to keep going, but not much is working and we seem to be more defeated, further behind, less successful every time we check.

This is a place of short-term, of scarcity, and of fear. It doesn’t tend to generate orders or new ideas or clear focus for what to do next. It can feel like we’re trapped. We certainly aren’t sure if our business will survive when we’re in this place.

Because orders are low, we’re risk averse. We don’t want to invest in new products or in support that could help get us out of this downward spiral, in case we can’t afford it. In case it doesn’t help.

In this place, it’s almost impossible to shorten the to-do list or discover a place of clarity. Everything could be the answer; nothing is definitely the answer.

We can wind up sleepless, doubtful, stressed, anxious, and with no idea how we even got there.

Nerves fray. Tempers rise. Moods darken.

Downward spiral.

The other place (I feel a bit The Good Place, but that’s another story…). The other place, is generative. Everything you do adds to your business. That product you invest in makes money, creating the next wave of investment.

With the wind at your back, it’s easy to keep up momentum – it’s easier to retain customers than find and engage new ones. Each good day allows you to feel better about the next day. You can take the positive results of yesterday, believe in yourself, and put your energy behind your next (brilliant) idea.

It doesn’t matter which item you check off your to-do list next, because they’re all good ideas, making great strides in your business. They’re all going to pay off.

Asking for support feels like a choice you can make when you’re ready, and you can even indulge yourself by asking for exactly what you need, in the perfect timeframe and with just the right person. You can afford to invest in getting the right support for your business, and you get to choose how and when you do.

Any fear is quickly taken care of by a straightforward and achievable solution. You might wonder about it for a couple of days, but then you’re ready to solve it.

This is kind of what people imagine about being on the right side of a mysterious algorithm: the more you sell, the higher you appear, the more you sell, and so on.

This is the upward spiral.

The truth is we’re usually moving between these two directions at any given moment. Neither is 100% realistic or true.

We’re never running into the ground as quickly as we think. And the world isn’t as charmed as we imagine others experience it to be. Worry-free business? Rare. Like unicorn rare.

But there is some truth in it. Partly because that first situation I described is when we’re stuck in the short-term (and fear), and not focused enough on the long-term.

We can achieve more in the long-term than we imagine. But to do so we have to break the cycle of constantly focusing on the couple of weeks in front of us and make a plan that gets us to where we really want to be.

I’ll say this: when you have a long-term plan and are working towards it, it’s much easier to be in the present moment and enjoy your work and life. That’s not the same as being stuck in the short-term. Let’s not confuse the calm, clarity and connection of presence with the urgency, scarcity of short-term thinking.

In fact, presence can be one of the ways out of short-term thinking. Presence can get us focused on one thing at a time, rather than tripping up over ourselves to answer emails while creating a bestseller and writing a wholesale pitch and trying to post something brilliant on Facebook.

Presence is the first step to stop the hamster wheel of short-term thinking.

Step 1: Give yourself presence.

The first thing I recommend is to pause. Be present in this moment. Notice where you are. Are you in the hamster wheel, on the downward spiral? Are you on a positive cycle? Are you somewhere in between? Find yourself on the spectrum.

Step 2: Remember this piece of therapy wisdom:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

In other words, if you want things to change, you have to change them. If you’re not getting the results you want from the actions you’re taking, it’s time to change the actions.

Step 3: Get clear.

Before you make a change, make sure you’re really clear on the results you want. What do you actually want to change? How do you want to feel? What do you want to be true?

Meditate, visualise, take yourself to a coffee shop or a quiet place, and write it all down. Let yourself be really honest about what you actually want, what success would actually feel like and look like.

Maybe you want a certain turnover figure. Maybe you want to get sales from a specific place or type of customer.

Maybe you want to have more time with the kids. Maybe you’d like to venture into speaking at events or being invited to guest post on someone’s blog.

Be as specific and clear as you can. Let it simmer.

Step 4: Be really honest.

Throw out anything that isn’t getting you closer to those dreams.

The free work you’re doing, when you’re not even making enough money to cover your expenses? Out.

The constant development of products you don’t love because it’s kind of fitting the bill right now? Stop.

The need for perfection that holds you back from getting the good work done? Hold it right there.

You know. Deep down, you know what’s holding you back, but you have to see it. You have to see how you’ve been getting in your own way or not seeing the problem clearly enough.

Maybe you’re building sales up to a new level, but you don’t know how yet. Be really honest about the skills you need, the things you need to learn, the way you want to get there. How you get there is as important as getting there.

Maybe you feeling like you’re trying to learn, but nothing’s coming together yet. If you genuinely haven’t learnt anything in the time you’ve been trying, it’s time to try in a different way. Channel your inner Hermione. Make a learning chart. Give yourself gold stars.

Step 5: Give yourself enough time.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re trying to shift gears, you need to give yourself time to learn, to change, to see results. Be generous with it. Stop thinking short-term, and give yourself longer deadlines, broken down into really, truly, genuinely bite-sized chunks. You’re human. It’s time to stop hoping you’re a unicorn.

And a bonus step: Remind yourself daily what you’re working towards.

Give yourself gold stars for even showing up. Reward each tiny piece of progress. Get yourself a buddy and cheer each other on. Hire a coach or assistant who’ll help keep you motivated and accountable.

Put up your goals on the wall. Remind yourself that you’re doing things differently. And it takes time.

Change your perspective on this. Set yourself free from the hamster wheel. Give yourself the gift of long-term success.

This feels a bit soap-boxy but I know that these things change the course of a business, because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve done it myself, in my own business.

Have a question or need some support? Get in touch. I would 100% love to hear from you.

Now good luck. I’m cheering you on.

Jenny x

PS Interested in getting regular encouragement and cheerleading and motivation and structure? Consider joining Progress not Perfection, my group coaching programme.

Stories for a Friday: accepting imperfection

I was driving back from yoga and thinking about how I’m not good at certain poses. Forward bends. Anything requiring flexibility in the hips. I am good at balances, and I’m really, really good at savasana (which is all about lying on the floor and relaxing – I really am good at that).

Same as when I’m doing a more traditional workout. Push-ups are not my forte. Nor are lunges.

But I can do them. Slowly and with lots of exasperation.

Anyway, I was driving back from yoga, thinking about how I’m no good at these poses, and maybe not good at anything. And why aren’t a good at them? What is it about me that stops me from being good at forward bends and push ups? Is it related to my other faults? Is one of them causing this, or is this causing one of them?

And suddenly… I stopped.

I stopped questioning myself. I stopped trying really hard to figure out why I’m “no good” at certain things. I even stopped thinking I’m no good at them. Because, for goodness’s sake, I can still do them!


I’m not perfect. Neither are you. And even though I have made a pact to embrace imperfection and let go of striving for perfection, it can still bite me in the you-know-where.

On the days when I’m fed up of not being damn perfect already, when I’m impatient and overtired, when I just want one thing to go right (dude, you didn’t severely injure yourself or anyone else today – something’s going right), I can start slipping into that perfectionism place.

By the time I got home, I was just grateful to be. To be able to go to yoga. To be able-bodied and relatively capable. To have good things to look forward to (if I let myself see them).

Considering my theme for this month is freshening up, it would be easy for my monkey mind to jump into how I need to freshen up my flexibility, to get stronger and better.

I see it differently.

It’s time to freshen up my self-kindness and my self-compassion. I’m imperfect, and that’s just how I’m meant to be.

It’s time to freshen up and re-frame my aims of going to yoga: it’s not about going and doing each pose perfectly. It’s about spending time with myself, with my body, and seeing what I’m capable of today.

It’s the same when we’re too hard on ourselves in business.

Maybe you’ve started believing you’re no good at business, when the business landscape has changed.

Maybe you’ve started thinking that your products aren’t good enough or you’re just rubbish at Facebook ads.

Maybe it’s just not perfect yet, and you’re tired of not being perfect.

Let’s freshen up those beliefs, and re-frame them so that you’re better supported.

Maybe this year is one of exploration for what’s possible. When you launch a product, notice what happens: who likes it, who buys it, whether it takes a little longer to sell than before. That’s not you failing, that’s seeing how the world it.

Maybe you’re learning about Facebook ads. No one nails it first time. Set yourself learning objectives, and notice what you’ve learnt each time.

If you’re tired of not being perfect, write a list of what you’re good at. Notice what works well in your life. Remember that no one lives a perfect life, and no business remains static at the top of its game. You’re in progress.

And mostly, pile on the love, the care, the compassion. Speak to yourself as you would a child or a friend. You’re not perfect. You won’t ever be. But that doesn’t stop you being amazing.

And you’re in really good company…

With love

Jenny x

Here's the thing: you are your business and you're not

you are your businessI’ve believed for a while that most of us creative entrepreneurs and makers and writers and designers and photographers and coaches etc are our businesses. We run personal, whole-hearted, authentic businesses that have personal brands (or brands with a highly personal touch) and that, in many ways, we are inextricably linked to our business.

But there’s a counter-argument, a koan-like opposite that I also hold true: our worth as humans is separate from the external success or failures of our businesses.

When we create businesses based on our unique personal talents, they are so closely linked to who we are, how we feel, how we express ourselves, and how confident we are. That’s part of their power: that the business is close to our own power.

But creating such a tight bind between self to business and business to self can be damaging to both.

Because when you’re not seeing sales, does that mean you, as a person, are not worth money (and love and attention and care and more)?

Does negative feedback mean that you’re damned for all eternity as a person, as well as a business?

And does a successful business month or year mean that you’ve won at also being a friend, partner, sister, parent, human? Not necessarily.

You are your business

You’re the life force that created your business. You’re the mother – you birthed it into the world with the vital elements required for it to live.

Your wellbeing, the care of your heart and mind and soul and body, has a direct impact on how well you are able to continue putting love and life and care and wisdom into your business.

You are the place where the buck stops. You ultimately make the key decisions of your business. You are powerful. You’re the queen and the king and the boss of your business.

I am utterly convinced that, for the majority of us, starting a business and managing a business and continuing a business is a process that magnifies the nuances of our personal strengths and weaknesses. Your beliefs about money, rest, hard work, self-care, other people, boundaries, entitlement, connection and so much more are out in the arena for you to battle with.

If you had an underlying belief, perhaps secret even to you, that people are inherently judgemental and mean, this will become clear as you work with people, sell to them, and connect with them. It might become clear because you suddenly don’t want to show up anymore, or that your internal dialogue condemns all your critics as the mean, nasty teacher you had at school.

I say this not to put you off, or to imagine that you’re the only one. That example in the paragraph above, that’s one of mine. Of course, I don’t 100% believe that people are inherently judgemental and mean. I have a lot of evidence that people are kind and generous and supportive and creative and sometimes just plain ambivalent. But somewhere along the way, this darker belief surfaced, too. The one that leads me to hide away for weeks at a time and not put myself out there.

And in order to be successful in business, I have to work with this belief, and many more like it, in order to have a functional, thriving, successful relationship with marketing and managing my businesses.

This is what I mean: our beliefs will shape at least some of the success (or not) of our business.

You are not your business

You, the person, are already whole, worthy, and amazing.

You are allowed to be happy, to rest, to love yourself, to be loved by others, even if you haven’t made a sale or done everything on your list today.

You are bigger and more complex than a business. You are heart and mind and body and soul. You get cold and hot. You feel more emotions than any non-human entity. You get tired and you get inspired. You have instincts and dreams and desires.

You and your business are separate, like lovers or partners or friends. You give to your business, and you receive something in return. Your business gives to you, and you have the gratitude and energy to give back. (When you’re in a functional relationship, that is.)

Your business may not survive without you if you took your love and energy and attention away from it right now. But you would survive without it.

There is part of you – even if it feels very small and invisible – that does not rely on your business being successful in order to survive. It doesn’t need you to make five figures this month or gain 15k followers on Instagram. It doesn’t even need you to break even. This part of you is already whole and worthy of love and belonging, no matter what happens.

Celebrate your successes, by all means! It’s incredible what you’re putting into the world. Every product published, every sale made, every glowing review deserves a little toast of a cup of tea and piece of gratitude. You did it! You put it out there. And it paid off.

But please, oh please, watch the belief that one failure, one negative piece of feedback, or even a million of both, means that you are failure.

You are separate.

The personal and professional balance

In order to do the work we’re called to do in the world, the creative work, the heart-centred work, the personal business work, we have to take care of our own minds and bodies and hearts. We have to take care of the human at the heart of the business.

For many of my clients and retreat-ers and friends, it is immensely helpful to hear that self-care has to be part of their business plan for long term, sustainable business. That they are very much linked to their business success on that energetic level.

That means self-care: rest, nourishment, nurturing, exercise, healthy environments to work in.

It also means self-development and awareness: investigating the beliefs and re-writing the things that hold you back. Healing your relationships to money, hard work, receiving, creativity and more. An example: do you believe that you’ll somehow ‘use up’ all your good ideas? This is proven not to be the case, but many creatives believe that they won’t find the next big thing ever again. To quote Maya Angelou: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

It’s also vital to see that you’re in relationship with your business. And like any relationship, to be healthy, you need good boundaries, good give and take, and good communication.

So here’s the thing

This balance, this dichotomy of being connected and separate from our businesses is the heart of my work. These beliefs and approaches and ideas are what I bring to one-on-one coaching and mentoring, as well as to my retreats, courses and workshops.

I can’t shy away from it any more. That part of me that believes everyone reading this is judgemental and mean and will think I’m totally crazy? I’ve got that part in check. I’ve chatted with her, figured out that she’s trying to keep me safe, and these days, I can keep her happy enough to get myself out there with these ideas about working with the human within the business for success all round.

If this isn’t for you, I understand. Possibly time to find another business coach or mentor to follow.

If this intrigues you, if you feel your heart or soul or body or some small part of you yearning for care and balance and coming alive and intuition, then perhaps working with my one on one or a workshop or retreat is something you’ll consider.

Let’s find our true path, within and separate from our businesses.

Jenny xx


Enter The Forge

Life's too damn short to chase someone else's definition of success. I'm here to give you the courage and tools to forge your own path.