By Catherine Bell
Clients and friends often ask me about what my life is like, working full time in my own Consulting business. Typically, my answer is, “Crazy busy, but I love it – wouldn’t change it for the world”! And that’s the truth. But there’s so much more to it than that.
Eight years ago, I returned from our dream honeymoon in Tahiti, to my much loved job in Melbourne. Yes, the honeymoon was wonderful, full of vanilla-scented hikes through tropical rainforest with my new husband, beach cocktails and naps, world-class snorkelling straight from our over-water bungalow…but that’s not the point of this post! In fact, knowing what a great time I had had, over FIVE glorious weeks off, I thought I would find it hard to go back to work. But then something strange happened.
I walked into the staff entrance of the luxury hotel I was working for in Melbourne, and was greeted by excited colleagues and friends happy to see me back and eager to hear about my adventures. As I walked the long corridors to my underground office (HR always end up in the least glamorous location, usually underground, right next to the hotel dumpster), I thought to myself, “Hey! This is not too bad! It’s lovely to see all these nice people again, I know I will have some interesting work to dig into – and actually, I am really glad to be back!”. I went into my office, sat down, and the realisation hit me like a thunderbolt.
I had to quit. Immediately.
You see, I realised that I enjoyed that workplace, the staff and the job enough to never, ever leave. I flashed forward to my life in 10, 20, 30 years’ time, and I could honestly see myself still doing the same job, in the same place, with the same people. And that scared the hell out of me, because I have always been a bit of an adventurer; I’ve always loved variety and the thrill of something new. There’s “good” comfort zone, and then there’s comfort zone that stops you from living the life you were born for. And I knew, as I sat squirming in my office chair, that I had unwittingly made my way into the latter. I quit that day, only a couple of hours later. My boss was NOT happy!
In the years since that last “job”, I have experienced just about every kind of up and down you can as a new business owner. I have had huge wins, and losses just as sizeable. I’ve had months where the money flowed like water from a tap, and months where it didn’t. I have defined and re-defined my niche, my core offering, my ideal client. And I have learned….BOY! Have I learned! I’ve come to realise that that’s the point for me. I have moved away from the city life that was choking me with fumes and grime and deadlines. I have moved with my love to a funky Surf Shack at the beach which we are slowly and patiently evolving into our dream home, and found time to paint, sing, walk, sculpt, garden and study – all the things that make my life TRULY mine.
Running your own business means different things to different people, and we do it to fulfil our own personal dreams, aspirations, goals and values. Through my business, I have focused on LEARNING every single day – formally, informally, incidentally, the hard way, the easy way, the long and short way. A WHOLE LOTTA LEARNING going on here! And I have come to realise that THAT is the most important thing, to me. To learn, so I can pass that learning on to others. That’s my passion. That’s the life I was born for – and I was never going to find it hidden underground, next to a hotel dumpster.
So what does a typical day look like for me now? Here’s a no-BS account of my life as a Consultant:
- Wake up naturally (as often as possible) and NOT to an alarm around 6.30 am (already winning!);
- Mindfulness practice (which I have found essential to stress management and just making my days go much better);
- Enjoy my morning cuppa, on my back deck looking out at Port Phillip Heads in the distance and enjoying my husband’s company as we plan the day (our Consultancy has grown to be full-time for him as well);
- Get in a walk, some study or yoga class, before heading into the office (“Me time”! Also essential in your own business);
- Emails, conversations with clients, writing, strategic planning, office admin (including the “yukky” stuff like chasing clients for overdue accounts), product creation, preparation for consulting engagements – or heading out to Client meetings or Training, Coaching or Consulting engagements (the “great” stuff that I really do live for!). Often doing this in another city or state so there’s also travel time involved. Working days run between 6 and 16 hours, depending on what’s happening. But I keep it balanced (most of the time!);
- Cooking healthy meals with veggies fresh from my garden (LOVE that I have time for this now!);
- Walking and playing with my dog as often as possible – she makes me smile!
- Beach time every day – a walk, a swim, surf of kayaking session, or simply taking a picnic lunch for a quick meal with a view;
- Attending local events, like live music, festivals, art exhibitions; volunteer work and catching up with friends and family regularly.
Some weeks, I work 4 days. Sometimes, I work for 2, 3 weeks with no break and then take some downtime – that’s the nature of my work. But I make it work for me, for US. And it’s a work in progress – lots more dreams and goals to hit, but I appreciate what we already have – a fantastic way to do work we love and be more in control of our own future.
It’s actually the life I never knew, I always wanted. It IS crazy busy – and I WOULDN’T change it for the WORLD!
So let me ask you. What kind of comfort zone are you in? The good kind, or the kind that stops you from living the life you were born for?
And what would that life look like, if you let it?