The Solopreneur Sabbatical That Changed My Life
The idea of a solopreneur sabbatical was not something I had planned. It came to me a couple of days after I sent my newsletter in early October. The message was strong — I needed to step away from the wheel of content for a while to assess, analyze and be still.
After a month away from content creation, it makes me wonder where I should begin, as I reflect on the last few weeks. Even this post has taken me a whole week to put together, as the ideas came through in parts and then evolved into this blog post. Perhaps I will take a leaf out of the all-time classic hit and sing — Let’s start at the very beginning- a very good place to start.
A Different Direction
When October 2021 came around, I could actually feel a significant shift in my thinking and the way I approached my business. The seed for this was planted back in May this year, just a few days after I’d had my highest-ever earning month for my business. In that absolute euphoria of joy, of having made it as a business, I was called to pause and ask myself a much more important question. In other words, what was it that I truly desired? ( Lucifer fans, you’d get the reference).
More importantly, I felt myself being pulled in a different direction — away from monetizing for the sake of it. Please understand that I have nothing against making money or those making money. I just wanted to dive deeper into the reasons I wanted to make money. Let me try and explain this a bit better.
The Role of Money
Money, in all its forms, is a lot like technology, if you think about it. It all depends on how much you use it and for what purpose. But before all of that you have to ask yourself the question: “How much money do I need?” Instead of “How much money can I make?” See the difference?
In the first instance, you’re learning to live within your means and earn enough to maintain a comfortable existence. When you are in this space, you earn enough to stay content and it supplements your lifestyle in ways that you don’t really anticipate. As this message became louder over the last 6 months, I found myself shedding unnecessary expenses for the business. The first to go was a paid subscription to Medium, even though it was a very nominal fee of $5. The next was Tailwind — a scheduling tool for Instagram and Pinterest — because I realized that focusing on content quality was far more effective than a specific best time to post said content.
More on this topic here: How to practise minimalism in your business
The second instance — how much money you can make — puts you on the back foot in more ways than one. It implies that what you have now is not enough or that you are not enough the way you are. The value that you provide is tied to the value of the money you earn — see what I mean? When that happens, you find yourself in a constant state of anxiety and a need to earn more to stay within your means.
When you start with the mindset that you are enough, you have enough and you get enough, the Universe complies with this line of thinking. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in more ways than one. Here’s a classic example from my own business.
Back in November 2018, I switched to my current hosting provider, Chemicloud, because I really needed a better hosting service. And they delivered above and beyond, no questions asked. My hosting was up for renewal this November and I always knew that I had to pay the renewal fee at full rate when the time came. Since I was aware of this, it never crossed my mind that I would be given an opportunity to see the Universe in action. Last week, I mailed them regarding the billing process and they instantly responded saying that they would be glad to upgrade my hosting to a better plan at a marginal increase from what I would need to pay. Get this- I wound up getting a recurring 50% discount on their triennial plan! That means, for as long as I decide to keep the hosting with them, I would have to pay just $7 a month instead of $14/month!
I mean, just INR 550 per month to keep my blog alive with the best support service in the world? If this isn’t a miracle, what is? Which kind of segues neatly into the next section of this article.
The Call of a Higher Power
When I went on my unexpected break from all things related to my business — content/video/audio — it gave rise to a whole range of feelings and emotions that I didn’t quite expect. One of those was practising stillness and the joy of doing nothing. Truly being, in every sense of the word. As I let go of the need to constantly ‘do/create’, I found inexplicable joy.
In this time, I tuned in to the power of the Divine in myriad different ways. After many years, I completed a 7-day reading (Saptaha) of my favourite spiritual text, the Sri Sai Satcharita.
Every morning and every night, I spent a few minutes in total silence just listening to the sound of my breath. The early mornings when I lit the lamp at the altar, I breathed in gratitude and exhaled all of my anxiety. Every week for the last few weeks, I’ve made it a ritual to visit a religious place of worship and soak in the serenity of the charged atmosphere.
During this month I started studying how our Ayurvedic dosha affects our body, mind and soul.
I also started chanting a powerful sloka each time I felt like I was losing control of a situation. This included everything from a personal interaction going wrong to stressing over how my daughter was studying for her upcoming exams.
Every single time, I could feel the calm entering my body, settling itself around my chest and releasing the weight in that area. I honestly believe that listening so deeply to the Divine has helped shape the way forward for me in so many ways — both personal and professional.
It was at the beginning of this journey that I decided to leave Facebook for good and it had nothing to do with the whistleblower incident. It was almost as if a gentle hand rested on my shoulder and a voice softly whispered in my ear, ‘It’s time. You’ve done enough. Time to leave this space when you are in the right element of gratitude and love.’
What this month has taught me is that I need to deeply practise stillness as a habit. Because the messages that come through are so very powerful.
What truly makes me happy
That brought me back full circle to the deeper understanding behind professional happiness. This manifests when my work truly impacts and helps people make the right decisions. Like Asha who decided to invest in a domain and hosting plan to move all her recipes to a blog, after a bit of thought and foresight. In her mind, the knowledge that keeping all of her content on social media is a definite risk spurred her to make the investment in a domain name and a website at an affordable price for her budget.
Like Ranjitha who decided to invest in my Instagram course and who now uses it so very effectively to share more information about the work that she does. She truly embodies what it means to communicate her thoughts on non violent communication at a rhythm that feels right for her.
Like Ranjani who has seamlessly adopted the Instagram platform as a genuine way to forge connections while marketing her work as an author. She was the one who told me that it’s one platform that she’s grown to love because of the authentic relationships she’s built here.
And like Shirani who signed up for SEO coaching with me, because she was clear that her message was the most important thing and that social media (Instagram) could be used as a billboard for her work, not as the primary source.
These are the joyful wins that I count as feathers in my teaching cap, more than any money that I could possibly make. That’s when it struck me — when was I truly happy?
When I could not just guide my clients at the start of their journey, but be there alongside them for the ride. And that’s my vision for the year 2022 and beyond when I will be modifying my coaching business to meet those intentions. I’d love to get in there, with my clients, and watch as they take those steps with confidence and assurance with the idea that I am there in the trenches, cheering them on. I’ll go into more details soon.
At the end of the day, my work should reflect my state of mind and today I can tell you, with assurance that it’s not about how much money I make or how many followers/subscribers I get. It’s about the difference I can make in the world with my brand of authentic marketing. And if I can help other people find the reason, their rhythm for their business, then I believe that’s my ikigai.
About Shailaja V
I’m a blogger, content strategist & productivity coach who has been writing online and blogging since 2007. Read my story & more about my work here.
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Originally published at https://shailajav.com on November 11, 2021.