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How I dealt with feeling I was going backwards.
Earlier this week I had a little bit of a wobble.
I am doing an outreach course with Kayte Ferris of Simple and Season and as part of that was exploring all the things that I could talk with authority about for an hour.
As I happily mind mapped away, filling my big sheet of paper, it became apparent that most of these topics were the exact things that I had written about 18 years ago. Slowing down, being more thoughtful about buying things, connecting to the seasons, making things, growing things - these were the very things I wrote about on my blog in 2003.
And more than that, they were things I wrote about on a bigger stage back then. My blog had a direct link from the Country Living Magazine website, hundreds of other bloggers linked to it, I was quoted in books and featured in newspapers and magazines from Country Living and Gardeners World to People's Friend and The Times. I was even on television as a foraging expert.
Looking at my map it seemed that I had managed to be further back than when I started out. It is all very well to write - as I do - about the joy of returning to the roots of the business but it is quite another thing to realise that you appear to be going backwards.
But of course that slipping back isn't the whole story. Those 15 years have been years of moving towards mastery rather than years of treading water. I may not have been writing in the press, I may not have had a well trafficked blog, I may not have been invited back onto tv, but I have quietly built my knowledge and honed my skills over that 15 years into something quite different than what they were.
Something with depth, something based on personal experience, not just reading. In that decade and a half I have changed jobs, built businesses, raised children, learned to cope with chronic illness. I have experimented with ways to keep my stress levels low and my energy higher.
Now I look back on what I wrote in my early 30s and it feels insubstantial - learned rather than experienced, a ripple rather than a cresting wave.
And of course this is why I joined Kayte's course - the 10 years I took away from the slow and simple side of my business were spent creating a big business which didn't require any marketing from me. There was no connecting, no back story, no mission.
But there was learning, and thinking and doing - and now as I swoop back round, curving under where I started the business back in 2002 I am gathering speed and I am ready to talk again.
What to do if you feel you are going backwards.
(Because I think this applies in many aspects of life, not just in business)
Look at why this has cropped up now.
Most of my worries about going backwards were actually to do with a feeling of running out of time and a comparing where I am with where I think other, younger women are. Comparison is never a good idea, but in this case I realised that I couldn't even tell which lap these other people were on. They could well have been me in 2003, still on the first run round the track.
Look for the things that you have learned.
It isn't possible to get through life without learning something, becoming better skilled, more empathetic, even suddenly realising the immensity of a particular topic and recognising how little you know. Write all these things down. The things that I understand and appreciate at 49 that I didn't have a clue about at 30 filled a whole notebook once I got started. Aside from the actual practical 'slow living' knowledge I had built up, I also had experience of building and working in a much faster, frenetic even, retail business which means that I have a much better idea of how busy most people's lives actually are. This might be a bit that a friend can help with - sometimes it is really difficult to spot our own skills.
Try to move through the feelings of scarcity.
Comparison, rushing, lack of confidence, panic - these for me were all symptoms of a feeling that there was only a certain amount of space and that I had squandered mine by not putting in more effort earlier. Looked at hard though that panicky feeling of having missed the boat was not to be trusted. There are boats along all the time, all headed in interesting directions.
The only way to get over a feeling of going backwards is to actually start to move forwards - make a list of three simple things you can do today to kick start your project - whether that is starting a business, beginning a project or, like me, deciding to speak up a bit more.
Then do them.
The next stage of my outreach is to approach other people, blogs, magazines, newspapers, podcasts and so on - if you have any suggestions as to where my voice might best be heard please email me Jane@snapdragononline.co.uk.