It’s never too late, take as long as it takes, but bring your ideas to life!
Ten years ago, you would have found me in the dark of cool Spring nights, sitting on top of the toilet in my family bathroom, afflicted with pregnancy insomnia, pen in hand, scribbling away in a notebook. After three natural births at home, my yoga teacher had asked me if I would run a workshop with her about natural birth, to deliver to the group of pregnant women. ‘Of course!,’ I said, and began writing the notes that would turn into my book, ‘Natural Birth in a Nutshell’ (published by Motivational Press in March).
The gestation period of the book has been considerably longer than that for my babies: nine years as opposed to nine months. The process of getting to publication was not a long and arduous climb up a mountain, but more of a gentle meander down country lanes with so many pretty flowers and interesting detours along the way. Many times I nearly dropped it, like a heavy backpack. Yet something deep within me knew I had to get it done. It niggled at me, and begged. It tugged and pulled, and eventually my will to do it outweighed the heaviness of not knowing how to, feeling I didn’t have enough time, and the nagging self-doubts that it wasn’t worth publishing anyway. In this article, I’m going to take a look at how to identify those projects that are worthy of your time and energy, and unpack the reasons why you may not be getting on with it.
‘Eventually my will to do it outweighed the heaviness of not knowing how to’
I bet you too have projects and ideas that are tugging at you, begging you to get them started, let alone to bring them to fruition.. They may be aligned with your main work or business, they may compliment it, or they may be completely different. Whichever of these they are, how do you know if it is worthy of your effort, of you adjusting your focus even for a little while, to bring it to life? A friend recently introduced me to the Japanese concept of Ikigai, and it brings a good rounded perspective to whether your project is a goer or not. Ikigai is about finding the sweet spot between what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what people will pay for. It’s a great first step to assessing whether your project is viable. Work on it yourself, ask friends what they think, and decide which of the principles is important to you.
‘The sweet spot between what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what people will pay for’
The first tip to getting started (if you haven’t got notebooks stuffed full of them anyway) is to list your project ideas. Committing them to paper is the first step to bringing them to life, and to making a commitment to doing something with them. Sit with your ideas for a few days, or at least overnight. It’s in the ‘not doing’ that wisdom will arise as to which project is the one for you. Finally, make your decision. Just decide on the project you are going to do, and make that the one (at least for now). Taking purposeful steps towards one idea or project is like the laying down of pebbles on a path. Changing direction doesn’t take away the pebbles you have already laid down.
You can work out if your project is ‘the one’ in three ways: first, listen deep to yourself to find out what’s calling you; second, who is your project aimed at? Go talk to them. Find out what they want and how you can help; third, take small action steps towards your project. Over an eclectic period of a single year I tried three ideas: as a Divorce Coach (worthy, but PR disaster with my book), a hostess of Goddess Gatherings (everyone loved the idea, but in my city, it’s hard to get people to leave the house) and as a Spiritual Wellness Coach for Mothers (everyone needed it, but no-one would pay for it). Don’t be afraid to try, fail, pick yourself up and start again. It’s all part of the journey and you will learn a huge amount along the way. Finding someone who can give you an outsider’s perspective on yourself can bring you the clarity you need to choose the right project to start off with..
‘Listen deep to yourself to find out what’s calling you’
Let’s assume you are now fixed on the project idea you are going to focus on. It’s still buzzing around in your head, but it’s getting a bit clearer now you’ve made a decision and committed to it. What could be getting in your way? Lorna and Jim came to me with an idea for a business consultancy that they had had on the back burner for years. Jim had a comfortable role as a consultant already but found it dull and demoralising. Lorna worked as a freelance interpreter, translating business materials from German into English. She struggled with self-belief which in turn led to intense procrastination. She just couldn’t take the first step. They both knew what their new project would be but Jim couldn’t act on it because he felt so weighed down by his regular work, and Lorna kept telling herself she couldn’t possibly do it. They were stuck in inaction! After a session with them, finding out why they wanted to start their consultancy and exploring how it would make them feel to get it going (inspired, authentic, connected), Lorna and Jim went away and began to implement some of the strategies necessary to finally bring their project home.
I’ve diverted this away from my own uncomfortable story about my book. Why 9 years? Was it procrastination? Lack of self-belief? Not having enough time? I probably used all those as hurdles and I eventually climbed over them, but what really got in my way was naysayers. Well, one naysayer in particular who I took notice of. It can sometimes be one, sometimes a few, sometimes many naysayers, in our lives who put us off our projects. Sometimes that naysayer can even be ourselves (‘I can’t do it’, ‘what do I know’, ‘no-one’s going to be interested’ and so on). There are a number of possible reasons: they are jealous, they are worried you are going to change, they would really like to do a passion project themselves, but don’t think they can. What if the naysayer is right? (Even if it is you.) You may find that you do believe them, that they do stop you in your tracks. If the project is of value to the world, if it speaks deeply to you, you will not be choosing the project, it will be choosing you. It will constantly be there, in your mind, sometimes gently nudging you, sometimes hitting you with a sledgehammer, and there will come a point where naysayers or no naysayers, you just have to get the project done, and you will.
‘There will come a point where naysayers or no naysayers, you just have to get the project done, and you will.’
Carla came to me with a fantastic idea for a language exchange project. A mother of two with a full time corporate role, she felt too strapped for time to be able to do what she loved. Her confidence was low too, and she believed that if only she could lose some weight, then she could do the project. She was not a large lady. It’s so easy to put obstacles in our way: I’ll do it when I have more time. I’ll do it when I’ve lost weight, I’ll do it when the business calms down, I’ll do it when… Just fill in your own gaps! As the bearer of honesty, I can only tell you these are self-created obstacles that can be overcome by you simply saying ‘Yes’ to your idea, ‘Yes’ to your life, and ‘Yes’ to getting right out of your comfort zone. There will be hairy moments, but you will feel oh so alive!
‘There will be hairy moments, but you will feel oh so alive!’
In my first career I worked as a Social Worker with children and families. After about ten years it became clear that it was affecting my mental health and I would have to stop. Life pushed me to make a change, and to overcome my own obstacles. At that point I had no idea what I would do next but I gave up my career to explore the options. I had left my career, my city and my whole network behind. I tried a few different options: I worked as a restaurant manager, a bookseller and in a co-operative helping to set up a holistic health centre and cafe. After a few months I decided I wanted to start my own business. The type of business did not concern me too much. I knew I wanted to help people directly in some way, I knew I had no money to start it, and I knew from being the only clean and tidy housemate in my student accommodation, that I was good at that. So, I started a cleaning company with a handwritten business card, a few dusters and some elbow grease.. A couple of years later, as ‘Sparkle Superior Domestic Cleaning’ I had 80 regular clients and ten cleaners. I had to do it! I had burnt my bridges in my old life, I couldn’t return to my old career, and I needed purpose as well as income. Choosing your passion is not always the easiest, most comfortable path, but it is always the most rewarding and fulfilling one, whatever the obstacles to overcome.
‘Choosing your passion is not always the easiest, most comfortable path, but it is always the most rewarding and fulfilling one’
Caroline Richards is a Project Catalyst. She specialises in helping people with ideas bring them to life. If you have a great idea but you’re not sure how to get it going, book a free 30 minute discovery call at www.carolinerichards.co.uk