Have you ever noticed how crisis can bring out the best or the worst in us? Sometimes it galvanizes us into taking decisive action, we don’t over-think we just do. Maybe the outcome isn’t as polished as usual, but it works. We’re true to ourselves, able to show up fully and support others.
And sometimes the opposite is true. We feel unsure of ourselves and freeze, act out, or just opt-out. We don’t know where to start, so we put our head down and wait for things to pass.
But this year is showing us that opting out and waiting for a return to “normal” isn’t an option. We have to take a stand, shore ourselves up, and take action, however imperfect or unpolished it is.
If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while (or if you’re new here, welcome!), you’ll know I love a framework for thinking through the personal and professional challenges we face. Unlike their less than helpful sidekicks — prescriptions, formulas and checklists — frameworks offer us away of thinking that align with our values, needs, and desired outcomes.
If you’ve been feeling emotionally battered by the devastating events of recent months, and it’s showing up in your business in the form of scarcity or fear, here are 5 tools to support you through your personal and professional journey.
1) Identify your values
All too often, declaring our professional values is more about appearing to be/do the right thing. Particularly now, when it can feel performative. But when we’re willing to think about what’s really important to us and walk our talk — even when it’s the harder choice — we build transparent and honest relationships with our clients and communities.
Identify your 3–4 core values. If you need help, use this values list from Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead to get you started. This exercise alone will be invaluable in figuring out what really matters to you.
2) Walk your values talk
When we live our values, we signal to the rest of the world how we show up, what’s OK with us and what’s not, and what it looks like to engage with us. For example, if one of your values is Service, identifying and using your gifts to support others’ professional or personal evolution might be one way you live that value.
The way I encourage my clients to align with their values is to identify what those values look like on the inside (personally) and on the outside (professionally). For example, if one of your values is “respect” what that looks like on the inside might be respecting yourself through self-care, a commitment to personal growth, and self-discipline.
On the outside you might practice respect by always showing up 5 minutes early, doing what you say you will, even if it’s inconvenient, and never sharing information shared with you in confidence. Below is an example of what my core values look like on the inside and on the outside:
Create your own chart with what your core values look like on the inside and on the outside and share them with your clients.
P.S. I plan to add my values to my website very soon.
3) Be clear on who an ideal client is for you
Have you ever worked with a client that makes you miserable, simply because you didn’t want to turn down the money? I know I have. In my days representing creative talent, the talent and I would often have conversations about how much money it would be worth to take on a certain project, knowing the client would be a nightmare. No matter how much they paid, it was never worth it.
When I started my coaching business, I made the intentional choice to work only with clients who I aligned with on values, expectations, and how we both showed up to the process. I saw it as the only way such a co-creative and intimate relationship could be supportive, safe, and successful. Of course, identifying who I was right for and who was right for me didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t even know what to look for in myself and others initially, but each time something went well (or didn’t’) I took note. The more I learned, the clearer I was able to be about who I do well with and who I don’t. The result: I love, love, love, every single one of my clients!
Take a moment to grade your past projects and clients. What was good about those projects? What was bad about them? What made you feel valued or devalued? What conditions enabled you to show up and do your best work?
When you start to get a clear idea of what your ideal client traits are, you’ll be able to create services, messaging, and content that resonates with, and attracts those people to you. Hurray!
4) Commit to personal development and growth
I’ve learned from my own experience, as well as from having coached countless creatives, that it’s hard for creative entrepreneurs to separate themselves from their business. We’re 100% invested and our work is a direct reflection of who we are as people. The evolution and growth we seek as purpose-driven professionals will call us to challenge our assumptions, question our biases and stories, step up and out in ways that are uncomfortable. That’s personal development baby!
While growth comes with a certain amount of discomfort, I believe our commitment to doing this work is what give us the resilience to hold our center during challenging times like these.
Set aside some time each day for your personal and spiritual development. That might include journaling, reading, meditation, educating yourself on topics where you’re out of your comfort zone, conversations with others, etc. There will be times, like now, where you’ll be called to dig deeper, do more. Personally, I’m doubling down on educating myself on racial oppression, equity, inclusion and justice, and being in conversation with others. Working your personal development muscle will help you ramp up when you need to.
5) Take action as you learn
Action is where the rubber meets the road. It’s hard, confronting, and we can usually find a million reasons why we should do it tomorrow. But momentum builds, so start getting in the habit of taking action. Here are some guardrails you might put in place to keep you in integrity: Do those actions feel aligned with your values? Does it feel true? Does it feel in service of others, not yourself?
If you’re comfortable, I’d love for you to share your values with me below.