There were many factors at play that lead to my decision to hand in my notice 7 years ago.
It was a tough decision to make after 18 (mostly) happy years with the same organisation; an organisation I joined straight from university, offering relative security, steady salary, good pension and benefits, some flexibility and plenty of opportunities for development and growth. To walk away from all that felt like stepping off a cliff, especially as after 18 years in the public sector I knew next to nothing about how to run my own business.
We slashed the family income in half overnight and there was no buffer of redundancy pay or any other ‘golden handshake’. But I knew that something had to change; I’d become unhappy and felt burned out. Even though I was still performing in the job, I knew I wasn’t giving of my best, and it was the same story outside of work.
I felt like I wasn’t doing anything very well – my job, being a mum, being a wife, being me.
I’d realised I didn’t even know what being ‘me’ meant any more, so had already begun a journey of self-discovery that began with working with a coach. A journey that brought me to the realisation that I wanted to feel in control again, be my own boss, be wholly responsible for my own successes and mistakes.
I wanted to create something I’d be proud of, to help other people in the process, play to my real strengths and do things I enjoyed and nourished me.
I wanted even more flexibility so I could do the school run, and be there for the family when they needed me. I wanted to create a whole, integrated life, not just ‘work-life balance’.
As I walked away, I felt many things – guilt, fear, excitement, determination, gratitude (not least for my amazingly supportive hubby). And it’s been quite a ride since then as I reflect on all I’ve learned, done and been over the last 7 years. But it was absolutely the right thing to do, as I’m very happy with my life. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t things I’d like to change or improve – life can always be better, but overall I’m very contented, satisfied and happy.
But, and if you regularly read this blog you’ll know this to be true, there are still times when I’m filled with self-doubt, worry and fear.
I notice that mostly happens when for some reason I’ve been comparing myself to others. Now I know comparisons are not helpful, because we can only see such a very small sliver of someone else’s reality, but hey, I’m only human!
I’d had one of these episodes recently when I’d been talking to another business woman whom I admire very much. She was describing, with contagious energy and passion, the launch of another new enterprise of hers, taking the number of businesses she owns and runs to five. I was impressed with the scale of her thinking and left shaking my head with awe and admiration for all she achieves.
And inside I was thinking ‘wow, and I can’t even find the time or energy for all I want to do in my one little business, what am I doing wrong’.
But then I caught myself – afterall, that’s not my idea of success. I don’t want to be all-consumed by my business, I want my balanced, nourishing integrated life, and that’s where most of my time and energy goes.
I realised then that actually, in one sense, I do have 5 businesses. There’s Tea & Empathy Coaching, but there’s also our home. Our household is a business with income and expenditure, assets and liabilities. It has stakeholders (and shareholders). I manage a budget for it, and there are definite key performance indicators. My husband is my business partner in running the household.
And he’s also my business partner in the other 3 concerns: each of our 3 daughters. Each are unique and require management in different ways. The measures of success for each are also different, and although the payback for us as these little ‘businesses’ grow is not financial, there’s definitely a good return on our investment!
I put more thought, planning, energy and attention into running these other 4 ‘businesses’ than I do into the ‘official’ business, because that’s the right balance for me.
So, having reconnected with what’s important to me I could then wholeheartedly congratulate my business woman friend (who incidentally does not have kids), and admire her energy and skill, whilst knowing that I’m also ‘enough’, and highly successful in my own life.
She is not ‘better’ than me, or vice versa.
We simply both have different paths, right only for the one who walks; each enjoying and choosing where and how we focus our attention to achieve our own definition of success.