Five years ago, all of my creative outlets were things I “used to do.”
I used to work out consistently. I used to do trapeze. I used to swim. I used to write. I used to cook and bake. I used to plan events and host parties. I used to scrapbook. I used to make cards. I used to sing and perform. I used to hang out with my friends. I used to date.
I used to be alive. Not just living. Alive.
The Wrong Way to Grow a Business
Five years ago, I felt like I had lost connection with those parts of myself.
One by one, I had sacrificed them to grow my business.
Every day, I would wake up with the best intentions to create time for myself to do the things I loved to do. The things that nurtured my spirit and soul.
And every day, I’d repeat the same patterns. My drive to serve led me to serve everyone else first. I was like a mom who is so busy putting food on her kids’ plates and making sure they eat that she forgets to make a plate for herself.
I was settling for scraps in my own life. And at the end of the day, there were no scraps left.
As much as I loved what I did, and loved my clients, I started to feel resentful of them. I felt like their needs and demands were taking away my time for me and for the things I once loved to do.
The Wrong Sacrifices
All growth requires sacrifice. This is nature: the cycle of creation and destruction. You can’t grow a business without making some sacrifices.
But here’s the thing: my business wasn’t growing. I had won the Rookie of the Year award, but now I was stagnant.
The more I tried to focus on growing my business, the longer the list of things I used to do became. This led me to feel more resentment towards the people taking me away from what I loved.
Nobody likes to admit feeling resentful of others, especially when those others are the people we love and want to serve: clients, kids, partners.Eventually, we turn that resentment inward. We feel angry at ourselves. Because we know that we are in control, even if it often feels like we are not.
We have a choice.
I reached a point where I knew I needed to make that choice. Slowly, I started choosing myself first. Not at the expense of my clients, but so that I could serve them better.
I said no to email first thing in the morning and yes to myself. I started with the gym. Slowly, I expanded to add meditation. Then writing. As I have expanded my time for deep work, I’ve expanded my capacity to get back to more creative pursuits.
I don’t have every creative outlet back in my life, yet. But I know it’s a process. One at a time.
I’m even exploring new ones. Tonight, I’m performing in another stand-up comedy showcase. This is my third since taking a stand-up comedy class in April. I’m also taking a comedy writing class. I’m keeping up with a 10-month coach certification program.
Five years ago, I didn’t have time for any of these things.
Now I know how to create the time, without sacrificing myself to do so.
Yesterday, I baked cupcakes for the first time in ages.
I ended the day yesterday feeling great about my day. There were many things I hadn’t finished or even started. But I did my daily rituals: morning fitness, prayer, meditation, journaling, writing. I made it to trapeze practice on time.
Because I did those things, baking cupcakes filled me. I felt great about making them, rather than feeling like it was an obligation (even if one I took upon myself; I could have gone to the store to buy cupcakes).
That’s the difference between filling yourself through serving others and filling yourself to serve others.
Filling Yourself Through Service vs Filling Yourself To Serve
Filling yourself through serving others feels rewarding at first. But eventually it stops working.
You need more others and greater rewards, or you find yourself feeling resentful. You show up feeling depleted and drained, looking to the people you serve to energize you. When they’re having a bad day, or if they don’t need your service in that moment, you feel like you’re not enough.
When you fill yourself to serve others you show up whole and complete. You have more to give and you give from a place of true generosity.
When people say thank you you respond with my pleasure. Because it is.
Nurturing your soul and spirit doesn’t come at the expense of your business. It lies at the core of your business. Energy is contagious.
How You Show Up Matters
You can show up empty, looking to fill yourself through your work.
Or you can show up full, with the ability to give your Self — your essence, your spirit — to your work.
Only one of these is sustainable.
If you want to fill your pipeline, start by filling your spirit and your soul.