Talking Shop: The Struggle is OK

A few days ago, I had one of those days that every entrepreneur dreads. Nothing was going right. I kept telling myself all the things that were wrong with my businesses and me. I told myself I was the reason I was struggling. I didn't have the right stuff. It would be easier, better if I just gave up & went to work for someone else. I was tired, I was burned out. I felt I was defeated. Sound familiar?

I seem to struggle with these same feelings every year. I've worked as a photographer full time for a few seasons now. It always seem to get to November or December & somehow my income sources seem to evaporate overnight. I'm not booking as many photo assignments, whatever they might be. The weather is dreary & cold and I just want to stay inside near a fire for the foreseeable future. After a few weeks (months) of this, I'm ready to give up entirely. Insert above conversation with myself. Repeatedly. Until the end of March. Even though it's now April & these feelings are starting to dissipate, they can strike at any time of year.

So here's what I want you to know:

The struggle is ok. It's ok to want to give up. It's ok to feel frustrated, broken, exhausted, incomplete, confused, miserable. It's ok to feel done. It's ok to start to question - yourself, your business, everything.

One of my very good friends told me one particular afternoon when I came to her, exhausted, confused, lonely and wanting to give up, "Just because it's your dream job, doesn't mean it's a dream every day."

Being an entrepreneur is hard.

It's time consuming. It's life altering. It's heart wrenching. It wants sacrifice. It interupts your sleep. It demands you spend time with it over anything else.  It requires effort.

It's ok to remind yourself that what you're doing is difficult work. That it is work.

Feel better?

Once you've taken a few deep breaths (it's healthy, see?) how do you find the energy inside your soul to return to the work when you feel like you can't do it anymore?

  1. Take Inventory I turn off all my lights, put on some relaxing music, sit in the corner and start to think. I go step by step through my life. “I don’t have enough money.” But I do have a roof over my head and food in my fridge. For every can’t, won’t or don’t I find myself saying, I search for a positive. Taking stock in where I am now shows me how far I've come. There will forever be stuff I'm working towards and striving for but I've come pretty far already and sometimes I just need a little reminder.
  1. Re-find Your Light You started your business for a reason. Whether you photograph families, design dresses or curate a food blog, there was a spark in the very beginning of your journey. You wanted to create something. Plan something that reminds you why you started to begin with. Brooke Summer, a Denver boudoir photographer, says “For me, it’s a creative shoot where I call all the shots, build it and execute. Something that really reminds me of my why.”
  1. Look for Inspiration Take a day trip to someplace you've never been, head into nature and take it slow, or spend the day at a local museum. Find what excites you. Explore, get lost & leave the agenda behind. You never know what will trigger a new thought.
  1. Create for Creation's Sake & Challenge Yourself If you're a photographer, photograph something just for you. Or photograph something completely out of your comfort zone. If you're a foodie, create a recipe simply for the sake of creating. Or try giving yourself a "Chopped" style challenge, making a recipe from four to five ingredients you pull out of the fridge. Experiment, create and try something new.
  1. Talk it Out Make friends with other entrepreneurs. Whatever your profession is, it can be an awfully lonely one, especially if you primarily work from home. Chatting with other entrepreneurs who get it  can do wonders for your spirit. Sometimes they can provide awesome ideas & insights you never would have thought of & sometimes it's just nice to have an extra ear to listen to the problem at hand.
  1. Treat Yo' Self Make Donna & Tom Haveford proud & treat yourself. Freshen up the table with a new bouquet, spend the day at the spa or hair salon or buy something pretty you've been eyeing. Heather Richardson says "Putting yourself back into feeling top notch guarantees a refreshed look at everything."
  1. Let it Be Another local photographer, Hillary Kaye Warren, suggests just riding it out and letting the feelings rest in you for a little bit. Take a moment (a day or two) to let yourself feel unsettled. Sometimes, your mind will let go of all that doubt and anxiety all on its own.
  1. Ask a Professional Sometimes, we just can't shake the blues. What feelings we might associate with our business could actually be stemming from something different. There's absolutely nothing wrong with seeking the help of a mental health professional to right you when you feel upside down.

What have you found works best when you're struggling? I find sometimes it requires a couple different techniques in connection with each other. I've also found adopting healthy habits all year long (like yoga, mediation and drinking plenty of water) really help in stemming off these feelings.

Whatever it is, just remember you're not alone and these feelings will, eventually, pass.