In the first stage of my career I started and grew a creative business. I ran it for fifteen years. For most of those years I was passionate about and committed to my work and business. I enjoyed the many challenges, got a buzz out of pushing beyond my limits on a regular basis. I thrived on developing specialist knowledge and expertise. I felt empowered by the responsibility and the status this work afforded me.
My work was important to me and I had a strong sense of purpose about it.
Alongside work, I was a mum, a role I loved and one that I wanted to excel in above all others. When my son was with his dad I also participated in personal development courses with the purpose of helping myself as well as others and went hill walking.
Looking back, I recognise I was fortunate to have this time for hobbies too. Many clients I coach give up personal interests to meet the demands of career and parenting.
For years work took centre stage. I directed much of my time and energy to developing the business and developing as an artist. It was demanding. Satisfying in a good phase and hard at other times. Sleepless nights, anxiety and overdrive were common. Sometimes it felt like it took all my energy to keep going.
However, once I’d settled into this career I didn’t question if it was for me.
Then, due to marketing success, we began to get repeat orders for the same types of work. After initial excitement at generating more orders this type of contract began to feel a bit soul-less. My exciting creative business felt increasingly like a production line with tight deadlines, slim margins and exacting clients. There was a bit of a mismatch between the work I’d set out to do and the work I’d ended up doing.
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Work is a Grind
As this happened my work became less satisfying. In turn the high levels of self-motivation and energy required to run a creative business became harder to find. This made for less enjoyment and more grind.
I became dissatisfied with the occupation I had loved and dedicated myself to for years. It wasn’t a comfortable time. On a practical level our livelihood depended on the business. On an emotional level my sense of identity was invested in Sarah = artist/business owner.
Coming to terms with the change was uncomfortable. At first, we tried to redirect the business towards more meaningful contracts. Then events intervened and when my business partner / husband and I separated, I accepted it was time to sell the business and move into working with people. That’s a whole other story.
My experience is unique in detail but shared in terms of a typical career stage arc. Many coaching clients in their 40’s and 50’s tell me their own stories of one-minute, motoring powerfully along feeling like they’re on the right track and then things start to shift. What felt motivating begins to feel draining. What previously seemed meaningful now looks a bit pointless.
This process makes sense in theory, with age and experience our priorities, values and resources evolve. In practise it can be discombobulating to put it mildly.
The Future Can Be Better
The good news is when you begin to recognise what you don’t want you can begin to move towards what you do want. In this video, I guide you through an exercise to help you do this.
You can take these simple but hugely effective steps right now to start the journey;
1. The first trick is to listen to yourself, acknowledge your feelings and experiences. Allow yourself to name the discomfort. Don’t just keep pushing on through or telling yourself to buck up.
2. When you become aware of dissatisfaction, discomfort and your own resistance ask yourself; What about this isn’t working for me now? What don’t I like? What no longer suits me?
3. Then, wonder about what a more satisfying future might look like. How would I like to feel? What would I enjoy doing? What strengths skills and expertise do I want to utilise more at this point?
These simple steps will help you get started and, I’m not leaving you here. Here's a helpful resource for you to start moving in the direction of more satisfaction - my guided visualisation exercise. Click here to access the free video and take 5 minutes to give it a try, as a first action step.