When the lovely Halley asked us to write about the hardest and best parts of living life on your terms and running your own business, I wanted to make sure that this was also relevant to you, lovely reader, who might not run their own business or live in that world.
As I started brainstorming what have been the hardest and best parts of running this little show for me so far, I realised that everything I was writing applied to life in general. The stuff that business owners find challenging is stuff that pretty much anyone who is human has to weather.
Overcommitment? Check. Uncertainty? Check. Boundaries? Check. In business, issues in these areas can become amplified, magnified, and start to affect crucial things like your income, but these are all very human struggles.
So (consciously not heeding the people who suggest writing blog posts with one person in mind) this post is for everyone, whether you have your own gig, work in big mega-corp, live on a farm, or travel the world.
In some ways, it’s about the best and hardest things about being alive, and I hope it’s useful to read & know that we’re all in this together, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
The hardest parts of living life on your terms
There are two types of overcommitment I’ve come across in business and in life: saying “yes” when I really want to say “no”, and adding enough to a day’s to-do list to keep me busy for a week.
The result of overcommitment is that we end up feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and like we’re barely keeping our heads above water. We might be driven by a desire to feel involved or valuable, a fear of missing out, or some other unmet and unconscious needs. Either way, overcommitment is a sure path to exhaustion and not aligned with self-kindess. When you overcommit, you’re not living life on your terms because your time is dictated by external factors.
As for the antidote? This is very much a work in progress. I’m learning that most things take longer than I think they will. I’ve designated certain days of the week as coaching days and left others free for admin. When planning my to-do lists for the week ahead, I’ve started leaving Friday free initially so, if necessary, I can move back any outstanding tasks without feeling swamped.
A sure-fire sign that I’ve overcommitted is when I start feeling like my efforts are futile and I’m never going to get everything done that I need to do. At that point, I’m not living in alignment with my values (see below) and I know it’s time to re-evaluate where I’m spending my time and energy.
As most people will tell you, there’s a lot of uncertainty involved in business—and the same is true for life. One of the most challenging aspects of uncertainty is that there’s no real equation. All we can do is show up, do our best, and see what comes out of it. But that’s hard, right? Because we want to know. We want to be prepared. Because the last thing we want is to get caught out and be, like, vulnerable, right?
As Tony Robbins said: “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” (tweet this)
I’ve found it much easier to deal with uncertainty when I’ve consciously decided to let go of emotional attachment to an outcome. If I email someone with a request, if I submit a proposal, whenever I have an initial coaching session, even when I submit a guest post, my priority is to serve other people and I trust that this will come back to me in some way at some point.
When I refocus on my priorities, take my ego out of it, and stop attaching meanings to the outcome, uncertain situations become a lot less stressful.
Either it works out or it doesn’t. Either way, I tried, and I’d much rather look back on a life of unsuccessful attempts than a life lived in a self-imposed cage of “what if…?”.
3. People who don’t like don’t like what you’re doing
We live in a world that is simultaneously wonderful and lost. We are social beings, and we thrive on community and connection, but right now many of our communities contain much insecurity, hurt, and scarcity-based mindsets. The result is that you will encounter people who take issue with what you’re doing for no other reason than you’re daring to do it.
Just this morning, I got a comment on YouTube saying that my voice “sucks ass”. Yes, YouTube is its own beast and comments on there don’t really count, but the fact is that when you live life on your terms, there will be people who see you doing something positive and want to bring you down a notch or two.
The antidote: I’ve learned to look at these situations and say “Peeps gonna peep”—in other words, people are going to do what they’re going to do and we have zero control over it.
Other people’s emotional baggage is not your burden to carry. When people are mean, play the tall poppy syndrome game, or decide that the way they’re going to contribute to the world is by trying to bring other people a peg down or two, all they’re doing is trying to pass their own lack of self-kindness onto you.
Choose not to accept it. Turn it into something positive. And keep on going.
The best parts of living life on your terms
1. Getting to live a life that’s aligned with my values
In no particular order, my core values are: growth, freedom, truth, connection, and understanding.
All these things are embodied in the work I do, and that’s why I love it. Rather than having a 9 to 5, this is part of my lifestyle, and that’s part of the fun for me.
If you’re unsure of your core values, I suggest narrowing down what your core values are (you can use my free workbook “Discover Your Values” to do that) and examining which areas of your life are the most and least aligned with them. Ask yourself: “What one step could I take today to live more in alignment with my core values?” It’s a simple exercise but one that has big impact.
2. Having the freedom to choose and the power to change
Just as uncertainty is one of the hardest things about living life on your terms and running your own business, it’s also one of the best. No set outcomes, rules, or restrictions means I have complete control over how I choose to spend my time.
I don’t have to deal with pointless systems (that aren’t of my own making, anyway) and I have a renewed appreciation for the things that I do, even when they’re not fun, because I truly feel like I’ve chosen to do them. If something isn’t going the way I want it to, I get to do something about that.
I’m not limited by my role, company glass ceilings, my job description, laws that dictate how long my lunch break needs to be, or office politics. I get to travel (and am thinking of travelling permanently), I get to spend time with my partner and friends when I want to, I get to plan my week so I can take off to Guadalajara tomorrow and not have to use up a percentage of my annual leave.
If I love something, I can do more of it. If I don’t like something, I can change it. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact, but it’s true for each and every one of us.
3. Having a continual sense of possibility
One of my biggest lessons over the last year (and, in my opinion, one of the biggest joys of living life on your terms), has been discovering that the only thing that really stands between where I am right now and the endless possibilities that lie ahead is me and, more specifically, my internal dialogue.
I never used to pay much attention to the saying “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
But it’s true.
As someone who used to a emphasise “being realistic”, I’ve learned that my “realism” actually equates to staying small, safe, and playing in the sand pit. As an adult, and over the last year in particular, I’ve loved reconnecting with my sense of what is possible, and dreaming and scheming has become one of my favourite past times.
There is immense pleasure in reconnecting with our childlike sense of possibility and wonder. (click to tweet)
Having a purpose and a strong sense of “why” helps. I want to spread the word about self-kindness to as many people as possible because I know that when we’re kinder to ourselves, we’re kinder to others and this kindness has a butterfly effect. That’s what makes the hardest parts worth it.
As you journey through a life lived on your own terms, I encourage you to explore and examine why you’re doing what you’re doing and hold on to that sense of possibility for a better future, both for yourself and for the people around you.
What, for you, are the hardest and best parts of living life on your terms?