I love talking shop with clients. We talk about where their business is going, how to manage staff, difficult clients and tricky situations. we often talk about productivity and being better organised.
My background is in business planning, so this stuff is second nature to me, and completely fascinating.
But I have some clients who confuse business coaching with life coaching. They come to talk about life, and end up steering towards business.
What do you want to focus on? My problems with staff
What do you want to achieve? Better turnover
What is keeping you up at night? My proposed new business structure
There will always be a natural overlap. A busy executive will be interested in work life balance, a business owner will want to talk productivity at work, and at home. The life of an entrepreneur can be the world’s most exciting self-development rollercoaster ride. But what about when it takes over, and you stop having a life, and the business dominates everything?
A business is a bit like a toddler, it will stretch its demands to fill very hour of the day. The job is never finished, there is always one more project to think about, one more email to send. So it takes over, and you start to disappear.
And the business or your job pays the bills. So it becomes VERY IMPORTANT. You never reject an incoming phone call from a prospective client, but you might happily reject an incoming call from a loved one. Money crises often take precedence over personal crises. We always pay the bills on time, but fail to turn up to the gym. Or to date night.
And it is part of what is expected as part of the superwoman ideal that is engrained in our collective psyche. We talk a lot about the subliminal messages that society is constantly sending our young girls about their bodies. But there are all sorts of messages out there about what the rest of our lives should be like too. There is an expectation that we will look great, be healthy and fit, have charming children, an empowering yet independent life partner, and a soul affirming career. Sometimes the actual words change, they drop in an out of fashion. We might swap out the word skinny for strong. Or the word profitable for meaningful. It is thankfully getting more acceptable that having a partner or children is optional. But it’s all the same, there is an expectation about what a balanced life looks like for a grown woman. We might cut ourselves some slack on a few of the expectations, but rarely all of them.
So when talking shop starts to take more than its fair share of coaching time, it comes back to a very simple question : What do you want? It is surprising how many people are completely stumped by this straight-forward question. They immediately know what they want to achieve in their business, but struggle to articulate what their other self (their non business self) wants.
Take a step back and ask “who am I outside of my business? Who am I if I don’t do this job?
My message I want to get across:
You are not your business. You are so much more
You are not your job. And your job is not you.
Your business is not you. It is simply an expression of who you are.
You are probably extremely passionate about your business. And that’s OK. Your career may be intricately linked in to how you bring your unique talents to the world. It may feel like your life’s purpose. But your business comes from your passion, it is not who you are. But it is still not all of you. We are still living, breathing human beings who need some time out, some connections, some other pursuits occasionally.
When you let your identity be overtaken by your business, you expose yourself. Every business correction becomes a personal failure. A blow to your self-esteem. Everything becomes very personal. And when failure is not an option, decisions can start to feel overwhelmingly stressful. You lose perspective and objectivity.
When you let yourself be defined by your business, you let the business performance define your life success. Will revenue, profits, market share, and customer satisfaction KPIs be written on your gravestone?
When you separate yourself from your business all sorts of magical things happen
• You can start to separate your own personal needs from your business needs
• You give your business space from you, you gain some space and distance from your business. Both will do better for it.
• You become more objective and rational about what you need to thrive
• You can see more clearly what your business needs, and you can delegate, outsource, collaborate, or share the reins as required
• You will bring your calmest, relaxed most creative self to your business if you have given your body and your mind the downtime they so desperately need.
And I guarantee that your life will be more pleasurable, more satisfied or more enjoyable if you finally find the time to learn that language, reconnect with that friend, take that hike or luxuriate in that much-deserved rest.
It doesn’t mean you don’t give your business all the attention, time and energy it needs to thrive. But you see it for what it is, something you do. Hopefully something that takes you one step closer to what you really want from your precious life.