Self-employed: Lessons in Help, Heart and Magic

The sun warmed my forearms. Leaves rustled in the trees, and the wind carried the scent of lilac across the pasture. I was standing next to Sunna, a dove-gray Mustang who’d lived in the wild just 18 months before. She whinnied softly as I stroked her forehead.

I was marveling at the deep sense of peace melting through my veins when suddenly I realized what day it was.

May 18th. My one-year anniversary.

One year earlier, I left my corporate Marketing job and walked into full-time self-employment.

It was both a hard decision and an incredibly easy one. The easy part was that I knew, I just knew, it was the right thing to do, even though on many levels, it made no sense. I had a good job I liked, a team I enjoyed. I had knowledge, experience and a great reputation at my company. I made a lot of money.

On a soul level, though, I knew I was meant to be doing something very different.

I thought I was ready for what I was stepping into.

And, I was.

When I said my goodbyes, I knew I would never regret my decision.

That first day, when I no longer had my corporate job, I still remember the sensation in my body. It was 8:00 a.m. and a giddy sense of lightness coursed through my limbs. I felt decades younger. I felt like skipping. The first day at my desk stretched out in front of me, spaciously. I had all the time I needed to start creating my new reality. For the first time in what felt like forever, I breathed deeply.  

And yet, I don’t think I realized how much I would learn during that first year.

I’ll share some of my most important lessons here, in the hope that some or all speak to you as you dedicate yourself to doing your work in the world.

We all need help.

Last fall there was a point where I was feeling overwhelmed. I knew I needed clarity and practical help to grow my business. And yet, every time my intuition said “You need help,” my mind would argue “No! You just need to do this yourself!” I was afraid I was going to end up like those coaches who think they need just one more certification, workshop or e-course before they can really start growing their business. (Denise Duffield Thomas calls it “procrasti-learning”),

Finally, I expressed this fear to a teacher who wisely responded: “We all need help, Diane. It’s just a matter of what kind.”

It’s so true. Every single one of us -as business owners and as human beings - needs help. Feeling like I needed help and then telling myself I shouldn’t need help was keeping me stuck.

By allowing the neediness, I was able to then discern exactly what kind of help I needed, and what kind I didn’t.

Then it was simply a matter for going out and getting it.  

Things aren’t good OR bad.

I know this intellectually. Life isn’t black or white, it’s a brilliant tangle of color. Jade peony leaves. Delicate violet lilacs. A scarlet cardinal.

Yet, I had to learn this about my business too.  

The problem with all dualistic thinking is that it denies reality.

Being self-employed was so, SO much better than my corporate job, I was unconsciously labeling it “good.” But then, if that was true, I couldn’t admit there were things that were difficult. Finding a structure in my day that supported me, for example. Purchasing and figuring out my accounting system. Self-employment taxes.

Once I realized what was going on, I could welcome the fact that being self-employed, like anything, was both good and bad.

Your heart knows.

I’ve helped many clients learn how to start listening to their hearts for the truth. And this past year, I’ve had countless opportunities to learn and re-learn this myself.

On a daily basis, there are decisions I need to make about my business. When I ignore my heart, I feel worse. Like once, I followed up with a friend who said she wanted take one of my programs but then didn’t sign up. Something felt off in our communications about it, but I didn’t listen to my intuition. I kept chasing after her, even as she kept making excuses (said she didn’t get the email, the link didn’t work, etc.) She ended up never taking the program and blowing off the relationship.  The whole thing left me feeling angry and resentful.

On the other hand, when I follow what my heart tells me to do, even when it feels scary, like guest-hosting a webinar for the first time, it always leads me to greater peace, happiness and ease.

Be willing to be surprised.

One of my teachers, Mark Silver, teaches this as part of listening to your heart. Your mind thinks it knows how things should go. You set goals. You plan action steps.  But then, you can never really predict what’s going to happen next, right? Approaching life, and your business, with a child-like attitude, being willing to be surprised, invites in richness, magic.  When I accepted an invitation to visit The Twisted Tree Ranch last October, I had no idea what to expect. The only time I’d ever really been near a horse was at a pony ride at the Hon Company picnic decades ago.  And yet that weekend, I found I loved being in the gentle presence of horses. Fast forward to today, and I’m hosting a writing and Equus workshop this September. It’s something entirely new, something I could never have imagined doing a year ago.

In all, it’s been a brilliant year, full of freedom, growth and learning. I’m so, so grateful to be here, to be doing this work.

And I’m even more grateful for you. For you reading my words, and for you being in this world, doing your work.

Here’s to hoping next year will bring us even more. More learning and more help. More color, more heart and more magic.

Photo by mohammad alizade on Unsplash