As the daughter of a pastor father and a counselor mother, I learned at a young age that life is challenging, fragile, and complex. Growing up with parents whose vocations involved walking with people through significant complexities showed me the importance of living life with intention and purpose. As I grew older and began to experience my own challenges, I became keenly aware of the need to build my capacity to do hard things.
I think that we all have the ability to do hard things. However, frequently doing hard things takes a toll on your mind, body, and soul. If there’s one group of people that knows, intimately, the challenge of showing up whole it is business owners. Undoubtedly, owning and running a business is a hard thing. Period. It’s one of those things that requires an ongoing stream of energy, motivation, and drive. It is also something that, at times, feels all-consuming.
So, how do we do hard things and remain whole in the process? The answer to that question is uniquely personal and individual, however, I’d like to offer a framework to help you think through the answers.
In addition to exhaustion and burnout, one of the results of nonstop work is a diminished capacity to dream. But, just as your business started with a vision, so does your sense of well-being. Dreaming of a different reality is often the last thing on your mind when you’re tired, stressed, and have been solving problems all day. For some, even eating takes less of a priority, so I’m sure that visioning feels luxurious. However, as business owners, envisioning what our lives look like when we are well is not a luxury, it is a necessity (as is eating). So often, our dreams involve imagining what life will be like in the absence of stressors and challenges. While that may be a worthwhile dream, it most often leads to more frustration because it feels unattainable. So, how do we still prioritize our wellbeing amidst life’s complexities? Start with vision and here are a couple of questions to sit with:
What is your overall vision for your life? Think about your business, family, health, spirituality, emotional and mental health, etc.
How do you want to show up in your business and in your life? How do you want others to experience you and your work?
How do you want to feel about yourself and your life?
For many of us, the term survival mode has meant more during the last couple of years and has become our ongoing reality. Whether you started your business during the pandemic or worked to keep your business alive during the pandemic, you are familiar with the work it takes to make things happen. When we’re living in survival mode, centering our values is challenging. Instead, we are focused on the multiple forces at work in our society and trying to react or respond accordingly. As we seek to prioritize our wellbeing to show up whole, values become the lens we use to navigate the hard things.
Our values both ground and guide our actions and help us to live a life of congruence. When we feel the most uncomfortable, disconnected, or stressed, it is often because we are out of alignment with our values. It feels like we’re all over the place but getting nowhere. For example, perhaps we have a value of collaboration; working with others to achieve or reach a common goal. Yet, we find ourselves doing things alone and/or not seeking help or input from others. Or you may value authenticity; showing up in the fullness of who we are no matter where we are. Yet, in some spaces, you are tamping down your personality because you don’t want to be “too much” or make a bad impression. If you live like this long enough, you will experience a sense of disconnection from yourself.
What are your values? Take some time to review a list of values and identify your core set of values.
What are the values that, when you live them, offer peace of mind, wellbeing, and wholeness?
How are my current ways of being in line with these values?
Once we clarify our vision and identify our values, here comes the challenging part: being courageous enough to actually live in alignment with our values in ways that move us closer to our vision. The good news, though, is that this is not all on you. We were not meant to do everything alone or take sole ownership for our wellbeing. We were made for connection and community and while there are solo practices that we must engage, we benefit greatly from communal practices. Think back to the earlier example about valuing authenticity and consider what a practice will look like that honors that value. On a personal level, it looks like being courageous enough to be yourself in any space that you enter. On a communal level, it looks like cultivating relationships with people who are accepting of who you are and encourage your vision.
In their book, Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown poses the question, “what do you need to do or be great at to embody your vision as you fulfill your mission?” I think this question also applies to the practices and intentional actions that support our vision and demonstrate our values.
In consideration of your vision and values, what do you need to do or be in order to live your values and show up whole?
Do you need help? Are there things you’re doing that can be outsourced?
How might you invite your community (friends, family, colleagues, etc.) into your practices of wellbeing?
Again, your way forward will be personal and honestly there’s no formula or equation that makes any of this simple. However, taking the time to sit with your vision, values, and practices is an intentional step to embracing transformation, loving yourself well, and showing up whole.
“Between endings and beginnings, our old self vanishes.”
Octavia F. Raheem,
Pause. Rest. Be. Stillness Practices for Courage in Times of Change
Dr. Margaret A. Brunson (she/her) is the founder + CEO of Illumined Leadership Solutions and is a leader, luminary, and thought partner. Her focus is on preparing high-impact leaders for transformation: of themselves, their businesses, and their communities.