Running your own business can often feel like a series of “trial and error” moments. Attempting to find the methods and systems that work best and most effectively can be a bumpy road and leave you questioning your abilities. Jen Louden, a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, understands better than anyone how self-doubt can plague your biz. She’s the author of five additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Life Organizer, that have inspired more than a million women in nine languages. Jen has spoken around the world on self-care, written a national magazine column, and even sat on Oprah’s couch talking about the power of retreats. She believes self-love + world-love = wholeness for all, and today she offers some advice on how to infuse more instinctual trust and less doubt into your business. Trust in your success and it will happen. –Stephanie
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You’ve learned so much about being in business, serving your clients, and marketing… and what if it’s time to stop learning and start listening to and trusting yourself?
I’m not dissing learning – it’s a vital part of business life and my all-time favorite hobby. But too often I see clients and students pass a tipping point where learning about business becomes a substitute for trusting their own instincts and desires. Everyone else’s opinions become more valuable than yours until yours don’t exist. Not good for your biz or your soul!
If you feel you keep waiting to learn enough to trust yourself, or that you aren’t as excited about your biz anymore, here’s what you do:
Get Intimate with Self-Trust
How do you know when you are trusting yourself? What does it mean to trust yourself in business? I have a bunch of ideas, having thought about this for years, but why should you care what I think? It’s your self-trust. It might help to look back – when have you trusted yourself? What did that feel like in your body? Was it exciting, strange, familiar? Has it been easier to trust yourself in some areas of your life than others? Maybe in design but not so much in relationships? Parenting but not hiring help? What you wear but not what you eat? Noticing the difference might help you start to get intimate with how self-trust unfolds – and feels – to you. Notice what you know.
We live in a world of experts, advice columns, and makeover shows. Without even realizing it, you can begin to believe everyone else knows how to run your biz better than you or maybe you just can’t hear yourself think. My signal to quiet the input is when I feel frazzled and full, anxious and unable to focus. That’s my signal to stop taking in anything new and start using Freedom (or some other Internet blocking software) to create a big oasis of quiet. I take Facebook, Twitter, and email off my phone. I read fiction and memoirs. I limit my time on social media using a timer. I trust my instincts to turn within and give myself time to digest what I already know.
Ask Yourself First
When you start out in business, it’s helpful to be a thirsty sponge seeking advice and role models. But even in this stage, and especially as you get even a bit of experience, it’s vital to ask yourself first, “What do I know about this?” before you go Googling or texting your mastermind group. To do this truly effectively, you have to first pause. You can’t access your wisdom when you’re freaked out or scattered in ten thousand pieces. Inhale a smidgen of calm, exhale tension. Tell yourself it’s all going to be fine, you always handle what life brings. Then inquire, “What do I know about this?” This might be your new logo, saying yes to a partnership, launching a new service, or simply taking a break for yoga class.
Jot down everything you hear, see, intuit, no matter how vague or strange.
Make Room for Your Desire
Take one more breath (it only takes a few more seconds) and ask yourself, “What do I want to do here?” Desire is a powerful ally of self-trust. Yes, it’s important to focus on what your clients and the market want, but if you only do that, you may leave behind what motivates you. Your desires not only matter, but they make your business unique. Without them, it’s easy to fall into being a cookie-cutter business, and to lose the energy and verve that fuels your daily determined work.
Next Simple Step
Another way we undermine our own wisdom is by confusing leaping with steady progress. I have wasted years in my work due to setting big hairy goals and huge income benchmarks while neglecting the simple, doable plans. Visions are fun, but it’s in our daily, well-chosen actions that we make our work happen.
Look at what you learned from asking yourself what you know and what you want, and now turn one idea or insight into a simple action step. If you learned that you like hot pink and turquoise, make your next simple step to find three web pages or logos using those colors. If you know that the partnership is a solid “no” for you, either make the call now saying, “Thanks but I’m focusing on my core business right now” or decide to spend five minutes learning more about this business to ground your “no” in facts. If you learned that you need a nap, trust yourself to rest.
Self-Trust Doesn’t Make You Infallible
Probably the biggest myth about trusting yourself is that it means everything always works out perfectly. This silly idea sends us right back out searching for THE answer, the golden bullet, to all our biz questions. Self-trust means you are present and playing! Which is HUGE – after all, this is your business and your life, not anybody else’s – but it doesn’t make you a goddess of perfection. Don’t confuse the two. But as you trust yourself more of the time, you realize failure doesn’t actually exist, only learning. Deep, true learning from your own lived experiences.
You Can Handle What Life Brings
My favorite way to cultivate self-trust is in the moment when my head is about to explode and I’m silently believing the tired old whiny-ass story, “I can’t handle this!” I invite myself – and you to join me – in remembering we’ve actually handled everything that life has brought to us so far. Not perfectly, not always admirably, but we’re still here, aren’t we?
Self‐trust grows from believing (even if you must remind yourself 17 times an hour) that you can handle what life dishes up – scalding hot, icy cold, kind of stale, or so sublime, you must squeeze your eyes shut as you savor it. And since you believe you can handle what life dishes up, what do you choose to do right now?
My work with thousands of women has shown me that self-trust is a hugely overlooked part of business success. It’s a skill well worth cultivating.