You Don’t Need A Big, Grand “Why” to Have a Successful Business
It happened again. 9 years in, so I should have seen it coming. I don’t know why I thought this time would be different.
Last week I was really excited. I started working with a new coach in a new group and one of our first topics was “core message”. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worked on this for my business, and how many times I’ve left with something that felt flat or lackluster. I was optimistic that this time I would finally get it.
We’re taught that we should dig deep and find our “why” — the big reason we ditched the status quo and started our purpose-driven business. And my whole career as a coach I’ve been surrounded by amazing people who have these deep and meaningful core messages. They’ve overcome something horrific or traumatic, or they have this irresistible calling to their work. Their core message seems to flow from them naturally.
Not so much.
I became a coach because someone told me I’d be good at it.
I liked the idea of making my own hours.
I wanted to be able to move to a new place and not have to quit my job.
I never wanted to write another resume.
So I became a coach.
I don’t want you to think I don’t absolutely LOVE what I do. Now that I’m in it I realize it’s the perfect job for me. It uses all my creativity and problem-solving skills, I get to connect with other really interesting people, and I’ve been able to grow myself as a person in the process. I also love that it’s an up-and-coming industry that has lots of room to shape and grow. I have so much to learn to become masterful, yet I know I’m already having a massive impact on peoples lives.
But that’s doesn’t mean I didn’t stare down a blank page when I was working on my core message.
I felt like a fraud.
I felt like I was trying to invent a deeper purpose for my work when there wasn’t one.
I felt embarrassed that I was in a helping profession but I started for selfish reasons.
Instead of doing what I would usually do, which is to come up with an answer to the homework assignment that was good enough and move on (always the straight-A student in me trying to please the teacher!), I spoke up. I decided to be vulnerable and admit that I was feeling as lost as ever trying to come up with a core business message.
To my astonishment, I learned that other people felt that way too. I learned that this is yet another business thing that we’re told we need, but we’re not taught that it’s okay to not have one, too. The longer I’m in business the more I realize how many “shoulds” we follow without question. I’m trying to change that.
My group helped me realize that seeking personal agency, self-sufficiency, and flexibility in my work is a completely valid “why”. They made me see that I help my clients find these things for themselves, and likely that’s why my clients are attracted to working with me. That I lead by example and am a beacon for others, showing them it’s possible to have this in their life, too. I help them find their own version of what these look like. That wasn’t what I set out to do 9 years ago, but that’s what’s happening now.
And you know what?
I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Because I pursued personal agency above all else, I’ve made some excellent decisions in my business. I was able to move my business from Australia to Canada, and then to a different province in Canada without missing a beat. It’s really paying off now because I’m able to live in the woods and be present for my family. I can daydream about spending the summer camping without having to get permission to take time off. I can write this at my kitchen table in cozy leggings and a cup of tea looking out my sunny window into the forest. I was able to drop my daughter off at forest preschool this morning and play with her in some snow tunnels because I didn’t have to rush off to work. Today I’ll get to have a nice hot lunch with my husband. That’s what it’s all about for me.
Originally I wrote this using the word “freedom” but that word didn’t sit right with me. I recognize that my lens on freedom is completely informed by my privilege. I’m continuing to learn the ways that the coaching industry is inequitable, and that many coaches are not able to feel freedom like I feel, even if we do the same thing. My intention is to keep learning about the impact of my biases and make meaningful changes there, too. I hope the words “personal agency” and “self-sufficiency” are more accurate and helpful in this context.
And that’s something else I appreciate about this job; I’m able to pursue the other things that are important to me. I can explore topics like equity, diversity, justice, and inclusion and incorporate them into my work. I’m eager to find a way to include my passion for the environment, self-sufficiency, and sustainability into my business. And I’m free to create a business in an ethical, conscious way without having to report to anyone but myself. I get to decide who I work with and how I do the work.
If you’re resonating with this, here is your permission to embrace and enjoy your profession without needing a deeper meaning behind it. It’s amazing if you just love what you do for no other reason than it brings you joy or fulfillment. You don’t need to feel any shame or guilt or embarrassment like I did. You can just do you.
Because when you’re living a fulfilling life, there’s a ripple effect.
You then become a beacon of possibility.
You get to lead by example.
And you get to change lives by showing up as your joyful self.
I hope you enjoyed this article. As scary as it is, I really like sharing the ah has I have about my business with you, because I know many of you are having the same doubts and feelings. If you’d like to stay in touch, you can join my list to get these musings in your inbox most Mondays here.