Things lately haven’t been running according to plan. I’ve been working really hard to follow the map I’ve set for my business, but recently it’s felt like the more I push myself and struggle to achieve, the less it’s happening for me. Obstacles come up, life throws a curve ball, or the phone doesn’t ring. It’s such a contrast from a time not long ago, when I only had to have an intention and it seemed to happen like magic. When everything in my business was working out exactly as I had planned.
Because I’m such a planner, I thought I had a clear purpose and was living life towards it. After all, I’ve learned what’s most important in life – family, friends, love, laughter and joyful experiences – and always this higher purpose is in the back of my mind. The goals I have for my business are meant to serve this higher purpose. And I do have goals. A lot of them.
It’s been such a puzzle because I know I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to do, I know my work is great and that I have lots of clients who appreciate what I do. I know I love photography and I know I love my business, which is now almost five years old. If I’m not on track – where is it?
I needed to stop spinning my wheels so I took myself off to the beach for an hour. I took a book I’d been reading about focusing on your strengths (The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt). Though I really respect these authors and have read a lot of their work, I’d picked up this book a few weeks ago thinking, ‘I’ll know everything in it. I’m really good at focusing and I know my purpose.’ On a whim, I chucked it in my beach bag and off I went.
Settling on the sand, I took a few deep breaths and stared at the ocean for a while, taking a moment to feel the sun warm my skin. Then I flicked to one of the final chapters entitled, ‘Living and working on purpose’. I jumped straight to the activity at the end – a set of questions designed to help you discover your purpose. Ok, I thought, I’ve done this sort of activity before, but it’s been a while, and though I think I know the answers already, I’ll give it a go.
The questions seemed obvious at first, but on reading the explanation underneath each one, I started to dig deeper. So for example, for the first question: ‘Do you recognize what you are really good at and what energizes you?’, I started to write down the usual things – writing, teaching, working with people, taking beautiful photos… but then I realised I could get even more specific with these. Like, I actually love taking beautiful photos where I am working one on one with someone and have the creative freedom to interpret their personality or brand in my own way. Most of my one on one work allows me to do this, but I am also doing a lot of other commercial work with stricter boundaries. While I’ve enjoyed this and don’t mind doing it, it’s not really my core strength or what brings me most satisfaction. And what’s more, my marketing emphasises this area rather than the bit I love most. Oops.
It might ‘duh’ to you, but life is a journey isn’t it? In my business I needed to start small, then experiment, then stretch myself and go big, to come back around to what’s been my main motivation in photography all along – working with business and career people, one on one, creating gorgeous photos for them that show off their personal brand. Guiding them through the planning process, giving them a great photo shoot experience, and supporting them afterwards with further marketing resources. Using not just my photography skills but my interpersonal skills and my writing and teaching background to do my job. Being creative and making a difference to someone, one on one.
It was clear from here what I needed to do to get back to living on purpose. Without focusing on what I really excel at, I’m not giving myself the best chance for success – and for gaining the tools I need to experience a life of happiness and time spent with loved ones (remember my most important priorities?). Though it’s scary, my plan is now to pare back my business to focus on what I do better than anything else. I need to make my most important products and services the focus and reset my goals towards these. I know my journey up to now and all I’ve learned will serve my new focus. Watch this space as I make changes in my business and marketing to reflect my true purpose!