What to Do When You Feel Lost and Stuck in Your Business

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.” – Natalie Goldberg

I love talking about the possibilities of entrepreneurship and the freedom it can bring into your life. But I also believe it’s just as important to talk about the pitfalls as well. Today’s post is about my own pitfalls and the most painful year I’ve experienced in my business so far.

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2011 was not a very good year for me. I had just quit my job the year before and was riding high off my first year of self-employed success. In 2010, I’d brought in a hefty income from my business. But in 2011, I made about $20,000 less. I lost a big consulting contract and I didn’t know how to immediately replace that money.

For the first time in years, I felt lost in my career.

Without the structure of an organization giving me a steady direct deposit, I didn’t know what my worth was anymore. I wasn’t sure what my true value was in the marketplace and that scared the shit out of me. I wasn’t used to that feeling, that knot in my stomach that appeared whenever I thought about where my next check was gonna come from.

This wasn’t me, man. The Rosetta I knew had everything planned out in advance. She had always been a high performer and an overachiever. Why should this business thing be any different? I was used to being successful at everything I did. But as a result of making one decision to quit my job, I felt like I had forfeited my identify in many aspects of my life.

Slowly, I began to fall into a depression over a period of several months. I noticed that I stopped going out as much as I used to. I wasn’t taking care of myself very well. There were weeks when I didn’t clean my apartment, when I just let the dishes pile up in the sink. I just didn’t have the energy to do much more than sit in my little makeshift home office in the corner of my studio, doodling in my notebooks trying to figure it all out.

During that time, I probably had some good days, but most of them were pretty rough. I felt unsure of myself all the time, which I wasn’t used to and definitely didn’t like.

I felt like I was failing. 

The only thing I knew for sure is that I didn’t want to stay there, in that place of fear. Here’s some things I did that helped me push through the mental roadblocks to get my business back on track. If you’re feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place right now, they might help you, too.

Repeat a Daily Affirmation or Mantra

I didn’t have money to pay a therapist, so I sought out other resources to help me stay motivated as my business took a nosedive. What I kept coming back to during that difficult time were written and verbal affirmations like this one: Fear flows through me but it is not me. I am bigger than fear. I am beyond fear. Fear does not define me. I am not fear. I started choosing an inspiring quote or mantra to repeat in the mornings (that I often posted to Twitter as well). I began to read the daily passage from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening (a fantastic book that I continue to use as part of my meditation practice). Through ongoing positive self-talk, I was able to shut off my stupid lizard brain long enough to remember that I still had something of value to offer the world.

Try Something New in Your Personal Life

In June 2011, I decided to try something new on the health front by embarking on a 21-day cleanse that required me to eliminate meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol from my diet. All the good stuff LOL. During the cleanse, I began to get my energy back in a big way and started cooking for myself regularly again. A few months later, I made another big change by moving out of my apartment to reduce my living expenses, experience alternative living arrangements and save money for a trip abroad. This decision not only helped me do all of the above, but also inspired me to simplify my life and make room for other parts to emerge.

Go Somewhere to Relax and Get Out of Your Head

In late November 2011, I took a business trip to Honolulu, Hawaii to speak at a conference and decided to stay there for almost a month. It was a good opportunity for me to be out of my normal environment. I spent a lot of time on the island pretty much just doing nothing. Thinking, reading, eating, going to the beach. And writing. Lots of writing. My trip to Hawaii helped me get back to my center and reconnect with the vision for my ideal life. When I got back to the mainland, I was able to get out of “stuck” mode and start translating my deepest desires into actual plans for my business.

Rededicate Yourself to Doing What You Love

That year, I had to try really hard not to apply for full-time jobs. And believe me, I looked! I even got a few casual job offers through my network. The fork in the road was clear; I knew could always go back to a 9 to 5. Instead, I promised myself that as long as I kept getting enough clients to pay my bills, I would stay in business. Still, it seemed like I kept asking myself the same question. What do you love doing the most? The answer kept ricocheting like an echo in a deep cave: writing and teaching. If I’m honest with myself (and with you), I can admit that my answer has not actually changed much since I was in the first grade and the teacher used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up. In 2011, I taught my last course as an adjunct professor and began to teach more of my own workshops online. I rededicated myself to building my business around doing exactly what I loved. And when 2012 rolled around,  I had a rough plan for how to make it happen.

As a result, 2012 was my biggest year ever in terms of paid speaking engagements, book sales and online workshops.

Now that I can look back with some perspective, I know that I had to go through that year of feeling lost and being stuck to get to this point. I had to be reminded that I already have everything I need to be successful.

And that if I will just trust the universe and stay committed to my purpose, it will take me where I need to go.

Have you ever felt lost or stuck in your business? What eventually helped you start moving forward again?

Comments

Comments & Feedback:

  1. Thank you so much for this. Oft times the journey feels very lonely and it’s good to know there are people out there going through the same thing; not in a ‘misery loves company sorta way’ :-). No one tells you that the growth of your business is inextricably linked to your awareness of self because you are the foundation. You realise things about yourself you didn’t know were there and you really have to face them in order to move forward. So in many ways my business has become my therapy :-)

  2. I am new to your blog and I must say, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts. For a minute there I thought you were speaking of me. I too was employeed and was offered an opportunity to buy the company I worked for, but the process became so convoluted that I decided to walk away and start my own. I am only two months in and getting a little nervous about the prospects or lack of. Although we have clients, I am struggling with how to lay the ground work for new ones and have now begun to question my decision. I find staying focused has become a real challenge.

  3. Rosetta, thank you for this post. I’ve felt VERY stagnant lately but it feels good to know that I’m not the only one who’s gone through this. I’m participating in a 3 month photography business workshop that’s giving me some renewed energy and direction. I’m excited to see what will happen in the next six months to a year.

    • So glad to hear that you’re still moving forward with your photography business. Workshops are a good way to get back into the groove. Hopefully you are learning and being inspired by your fellow photogs, too! I love to hearing about your progress – thanks for sharing here :)

  4. I definitely go through periods of not feeling very confident in my consulting business. While I am currently consulting part-time, I plan to transition from my full-time position by the end of 2013. Whenever I feel that I haven’t made any strides in my business, I like to take a step back and write out my accomplishments (be it speaking engagements, traffic to my blog, workshops at conferences, etc.). When I see the amount of things I have accomplished, I then ask myself, “What’s the next step?”. I am used to “big picture” thinking, but I often have a tendency to think big, but not provide any follow-through. When I begin to think more about next action steps to take, it makes me feel more excited as well as more grounded and motivated to move forward.

    • Writing out your accomplishments is a really great practice that I could definitely do more often. Thanks so much for sharing it here! I can be the same way about thinking big but, as I like to call it, “doing small.” This year, I’ve become much more intentional about creating both a business plan and a corresponding marketing calendar to make sure all my business goals move forward in an organized and consistent way. Good luck with your transition this year :)

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