As we all stand on the cusp of a new year, everyone seems to be in reflection mode. There’s something about standing on the precipice of another year filled with opportunities and fresh starts that makes us all nostalgic about the year that has almost passed in its entirety.
I’ve never been one for making resolutions this time of year because let’s face it – hardly anyone ever sticks to them.
This year, I’m feeling 50/50 about the whole resolution thing. But before I dive into explaining why, I’m going to back up a bit.
You see, I’ve always learned things “the hard way”. You know what I mean – when you’re growing up, your parents would tell you not to touch the stove because it’s hot. The “easy way” to learn that would be to listen to your parents and just do what they say – avoid touching the stove.
I had to actually touch it to know what hot feels like. I had to be the one to burn my hand and experience what hot actually means.
Hence “the hard way”.
I haven’t changed much since I’ve grown up. I still learn my lessons the hard way. It’s not that I’m defiant and don’t want to listen. I’m also not self-destructive. I’m just a “why” girl. I’ve always asked myself the question “why”? Why can’t I touch this? Why is it hot? Why, why, why? Sometimes getting the answer to “why” means that you need to learn the hard way.
When I started a business and began painting furniture for a living, I began reading blog posts and listening to podcasts that mentioned a phrase called “burn out”. It happens to all people in all walks of life, but it’s especially prevalent amongst business owners. Burn out is just what it sounds like – burning yourself out so there’s nothing left. I’ve read stories about fellow entrepreneurs who have worked themselves ragged and needed oodles of time to recover. I’ve heard business gurus urge others to take care of themselves, have a day off and indulge in activities that recharge rather than deplete.
And believe me, I definitely heard these words, but they didn’t truly sink in. I didn’t know what burn out felt like in my Eight Hundred Furniture world.
Standing at the end of 2018 and looking headlong into 2019, I’m definitely aware of what it means now.
I’ve done a bang up job of burning myself out this past year. I said yes to just about every opportunity that came my way. Work this shift? Sure! Paint this piece? You betcha! Drive out to this antique shop? Why not? Bring on this product line? Totes! Be a vendor in this show? Of course!
What slowly began happening is that my activities that kept me healthy began falling to the bottom of my to-do list until they were practically non-existent. My weekly Bible study got put on the back burner. Marc and I stopped going to church every Sunday. I stopped doing my couch to 5K program on my phone. I didn’t go out with friends. I said no to party invitations. I even stopped decorating our little in-law suite. Why bother if it’s not going to be our permanent residence?
Everything fell by the wayside for the sake of my business. Eight Hundred Furniture always came first.
I had some friends tell me that it was obvious to them that I was in an unhealthy pattern and that it was no wonder I was tired. When I recognized what I had done to myself, I shared and they said things like, “Well I could have told you that!” But to me, it wasn’t that obvious. When you’re in the thick of the daily grind, it’s hard to bring your head up from all of the *things* and recognize the state you’re in. Comments like that stung pretty badly and I felt like a total loser. I had inadvertently stumbled into the very patterns of behavior that the experts warned me about. But it had all happened so gradually over the course of a year or so that I couldn’t recognize what was happening.
It’s like that story about how if you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump right out because it’s super hot. But if you boil the water gradually, it won’t recognize how hot it is until it’s too late.
Okay, that story is a little gross, but you get the idea, right? (And side note – I don’t boil frogs.)
When it all started to dawn on me, I felt like I had royally screwed up and the guilt and shame of my state of being weighed heavily on my shoulders. I felt so yucky about myself from the inside out. Here I’m supposed to be this super cheerful furniture painter and how I felt on the inside totally mismatched how I wanted to appear on the outside. I shamed myself terribly for getting into such a mess.
It wasn’t until I started talking with some very wise and incredibly compassionate people that I finally started to go easy on myself. Even though I knew in theory that I shouldn’t burn myself out, I had no idea what that actually meant in my specific world of business ownership. I didn’t know which activities drained me the most. I didn’t realize what it felt like to work at two different retail locations on a weekly basis. I didn’t realize how much time answering emails and Facebook messages and keeping regular Instagram posts up would require. Each individual task sounded like something I could handle, but when they all started coming together and needing to be maintained on a regular basis…whoa baby! It’s a lot!
So in a way, it’s a good thing that this all happened to me because I know myself a little better now and can recognize feelings of burn out. I realize that in my previous career as a teacher, I was an extrovert. But now that I’m a business owner, I’ve actually converted to being an introvert. I know that I’m a champion over-committer and over-scheduler. I know that I get a lot of fun ideas and I often want to jump the gun in executing them.
Knowing these things about myself moving forward in 2019 will hopefully help me make wiser decisions that will keep me healthy in mind, body and soul.
So now back to the whole New Year’s Resolution topic I originally started with…
I do have ideas in mind for things I want to do this coming year, but there are SO many of them that I’m completely overwhelmed and it’s not even January 1st yet! We put all of this pressure on ourselves to instantly reverse our patterns of behavior with the turning over of the calendar and it’s just not practical. I actually had a little bit of a breakdown last night about all of the things that need to change in my life and how I don’t know where to start.
Marc had great advice for me…
Start with walking on the treadmill instead of running. Start with backing down to one day a week at one of your retail locations. Start with one easy upholstery piece before you buy more complicated project pieces. Make one healthy meal on your day off. Sign up for one short Bible study, preferably one that’s not a book of prophecy.
As you feel the success from those little changes, it will boost your confidence to keep going and pretty soon, those little adjustments will yield an entirely new trajectory.
Think about steering a ship. You can’t make major changes quickly or else you’ll sink it. A simple rudder adjustment of a few degrees in another direction, over time, will result in a course change of hundreds of miles! (Leagues? Fathoms? Knots?)
So for those of you who are feeling overwhelmed this time of year, here’s my hug for you. Don’t let all of the New Year’s pressure gobble you up and make you feel like you have to become a new person tomorrow. If you want to be in a different place next year, turn your rudder just a few degrees. Take a baby step with me. We can start walking on the treadmill of 2019 together!
And for those of you who are struggling in your business. For those of you who feel absolutely lost in a sea of competition. For those who have burnt themselves out and feel completely empty, I truly do understand how you’re feeling.
It’s okay if you’re in a place of exhaustion. You’re not a failure.
You’re actually pretty awesome.
Take all the time you need to regroup and be kind to yourself.
You are so incredibly brave for doing this super hard and scary thing of owning your own business. You are amazing and no one else can bring the talent you have to the world.
Take care of yourself and here’s a *high five* just for you.