For the past few years I’ve chosen a word for the year. One year I did a year of no to help me set better boundaries in my life and business. One year I chose three words instead of just one, and they were related to my core values: courage, compassion, and creativity.
At the end of 2021 I was brainstorming about what my word would be for the upcoming year. I knew I wanted it to be a year of challenging myself to grow and play bigger. In 2021 I really stepped into my identities as a mom, business owner, coach, and writer, and I knew I wanted this year to include even more of that.
The first word that came to mind for me was BOLD.
I spent a week testing it out, but something felt off. When I finally found my word for 2022, I understood why. The word I eventually chose for the year was –
This word encompasses many of the things I was thinking of when I first played around with the word “bold,” but it also gives me more of a sense of openness and freedom. It really brought a smile to my face when I thought about what a year of expansion might look like.
Here’s what I shared on social media and in my newsletter last year about why I chose this word –
I knew I wanted this year to be about challenging myself to grow and play bigger. When I think about expansion I feel a sense of openness and freedom. I also like this word because it makes me think of flexibility and when you own your own business this is a good quality to aim for! I can’t know for certain what challenges or opportunities this year will hold in store, but if I remember that my desire is to expand then I can roll with the punches and choose what opportunities to say yes (or no) to.
Expansion is also about being increasingly true to my authentic self and to not be afraid to take up more space. It’s about letting my heart and values guide me more than than fear or worries about what others might think. It’s a word that requires me to put self-care at the top of my priorities because you can’t have an expansive year if you’re pouring from an empty cup.
As usually happens when I choose a word for the year – I learned many lessons that I didn’t fully anticipate when I initially chose the word. Today I’m sharing three lessons I learned while leaning into the word “expansion” for the past year.
Be careful what you wish for
There have been plenty of times during 2022 when I’ve wished I didn’t choose this word! As you can see above, I knew that a year of expansion would include some challenges, but when you’re in the midst of those challenges it’s certainly hard to see any sort of purpose to them. This year has been a good reminder of just how much uncertainty is involved when it comes to growth.
First a few positive things about my experience of expansion this year. This year, I’ve grown a great deal in my confidence and knowledge both as a business owner and as a coach. In August I celebrated eight years as a business owner and was able to look back and reflect on a number of different milestones and everything I learned along the way. However, even with all of those years of experience I think I still felt a tiny bit of imposter syndrome when it came to calling myself an entrepreneur. As we end 2022, I’m excited to say that I’m fully able to own the entrepreneur title. This doesn’t mean that imposter syndrome has completely disappeared, it just means it’s off somewhere sitting in a corner and I don’t really notice it during my day-to-day.
This year, I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone time and time again and have been reminded of the magic that awaits you out there. However, I’ve also been reminded of the growing pains that we’ll encounter when we push ourselves to get uncomfortable. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. This year I’ve experienced many of the challenges that I coach my clients through – sleepless nights, self doubt & imposter syndrome, stress & overwhelm, and work-life balance struggles.
It’s an odd feeling to be going through the very same concerns that you’re an “expert” in helping others with – but it’s also been a good reminder that it takes a village to surf the mental and emotional waves of running a company. This year I’ve worked with a therapist, a coach, and have leaned hard on my support system.
This year I was also pushed to grow in ways that I wasn’t anticipating when I chose this word last year. In March my son was diagnosed with a sleep disorder, and although I’d already been dealing with several months of sleep deprivation by that point, there was something about getting the official diagnosis that really made me wake up to how exhausted I was. I was reminded that we go through different seasons in our business and sometimes it isn’t meant to be a season of growth (at least not in the way we anticipated). I was grateful that my own business model allowed me to take a step back and push the pause button on my work on the days when I most needed it which thankfully meant I didn’t have to push a more permanent pause button on my business dreams for the year.
Expansion can be dangerous if it’s in the wrong direction
This year I was reminded time and time again of this quote by author Po Bronson that I’ve tried to keep in mind throughout my career –
“Failure’s hard but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”
Expansion is only useful if you’re clear about what direction you want to expand in.
At the start of 2022 I wasn’t picky about what type of entrepreneur clients I worked with. As long as they were a business owner, I was happy to take them on.
However, it started to become clear to me that I was attracting a certain profile of entrepreneur client that was not the right fit for me. These were entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business who had big dreams for their business and wanted a coach who could help bring these big dreams to life.
While I’m very capable of doing this work (it’s a big part of what I do for therapists in the LIT Community), it requires helping my clients with more business strategy than I enjoy providing on a regular basis. I decided to change my messaging and have stopped having an influx of this type of client.
About halfway through the year I got some clarity about the type of entrepreneurs that I do really enjoy working with and where my years of experience as a therapist and coach truly shine. It’s working with more established entrepreneurs, including startup founders. These people are high achievers who tend to run a risk of burn out or other mental health struggles if they don’t proactively care for their mental well-being. We focus on cultivating emotional resilience and mental fitness so they can cope with the emotional ups and downs of entrepreneur life, as well as prioritizing work-life integration and improving their leadership skills where necessary.
In order to continue to expand in this direction I decided to take the first steps to bring to life an idea that had been brewing since last year – a podcast about the mental and emotional challenges of entrepreneur life – with a focus on startup founders. I’m really eager to see what’s in store for the Founders’ Fears & Failures podcast in 2023!
Expansion is a marathon, not a sprint
I ended 2021 feeling quite starry eyed about the potential growth of my business over the next twelve months. I’d signed up for a high ticket group coaching program where other business owners were sharing their practically overnight success stories and I assumed I’d stumbled across the missing formula that I’d been lacking during my previous seven years in business.
I started the program, put all of the recommended changes into place in my business, and sat back fully expecting my own business expansion to manifest right before my very eyes.
Instead, what I ended up learning is this – there is no magic formula and no secret to overnight success. It turns out, the very things that I’d been doing in my business for the past several years were the exact same things I needed to keep doing – I just needed to do even more of it.
Of course there were plenty of things I learned and changes that I’ve implemented in my business over this past year, but my biggest takeaway from 2022 is what I tell my clients already –
“Being an entrepreneur marathon, not a sprint.”
It takes time to get clarity on the direction you want your business to take. It takes time to learn the right way to speak to your ideal client. It takes time for enough of your ideal clients to know about you and what you have to offer. Especially if you’re a solopreneur! This is why it’s so very important to get clear on the “WHY” behind your business so that you can dig into it when you’re at mile marker 16 and wondering what you were thinking and seriously contemplating if you should just call it quits right now.
The good news is that even when it feels like things are moving slower than you’d like them to, you are undoubtedly learning incredibly lessons along the way. This year I’ve been reminded of this TED Talk I love by Biologist Uri Alon about how getting from point A to point B requires us to take a leap into the unknown. Watch the video to see just how messy that unknown looks for most people!
I often tell my clients that I wish I had a crystal ball that I could reach for during our sessions to help provide them with some clarity or reassurance for their path ahead, but unfortunately, I don’t. I also had no way of predicting how 2022 would end, or all the lessons I’d learn along the way, when I chose my word for the year last December, nor do I have any idea what I’ll be looking back on in one year from now. It’s both terrifying, and exhilarating, and one of the reasons why I say entrepreneur life is also like being on a mental and emotional rollercoaster (and why cultivating emotional resilience is so important!)
That being said, I have many things I’m looking forward to in 2023 – the launch of my new podcast, hopefully publishing my memoir, continued growth of the LIT Community, and coaching even more of the entrepreneur clients I described above. Now, I just need to figure out what word I’ll choose to encompass all the hopes I have for the year ahead!
What about you? Did you choose a word for the year? What lessons has it taught you over the past twelve months?