Like many people, I’ve found 2016 to be a particularly challenging year. Fate front-loaded it with stress, packing at least two years’ worth of Life into just a few months.

For me, building a consulting agency, running an editorial product AND trying to make a livable wage through supplemental freelance work while balancing my family obligations was an exercise in knowing my limitations — and being brave enough to acknowledge them.

The last year has taught me some valuable lessons:

Prioritize …

I tried to juggle all of my aspirations, but my well-being was suffering. I didn’t sleep well. I wasn’t exercising enough. I wasn’t coping well with stress — I internalized the hell out of it. Outwardly, I more or less seemed to have my shiz together. “By my view it looks like you are kicking ass,” a dear friend told me recently. Sure, I guess it might have looked that way. I did indeed have a growing roster of clients. I was making tons of valuable connections. I was learning new skills. I was going, going, going!

Inwardly, though, I was miserable. I didn’t feel like I was doing any of my pursuits justice, and I beat myself up routinely for not already being a zillionaire or a household name (not really, but kind of). My sweet husband regularly reminded me that most people don’t have the guts to even try what I was doing, let alone actually succeed at it. But I couldn’t drown out that incessant inner whisper: “You’re doing it all wrong.”

I realized that in order for me to be healthy and attain the balance of items on my Personal and Career Satisfaction Checklist™, I needed to let something go, or at least scale it way, way back. For a time, that something was the Gutsy Broads website (our Facebook community has continued to grow and thrive, however). Family and money-making had to take precedence for a spell. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was helping the women’s movement in different ways — connecting people with jobs, writing and editing stories for female business owners, offering counsel whenever possible, etc.

… And Reprioritize

Be ready for circumstances to change — because they often do. I’d busted my butt working three jobs to save up enough to take the calculated risk of starting my own consultancy, so I had a cushion. However, all of that Life I mentioned earlier involved incurring health costs, made more painful by lost wages (a very real concern for freelance and contract workers who must take time off when they or their relatives are sick). My cushion had become uncomfortably thin. I realized that it was time for my agency to take a ‘lil breather while I nurtured a different company — someone else’s company. The great news: I’m working with a stellar team and regularly experience pure professional joy. I believe that with that joy will come more creative energy for passion projects such as Gutsy Broads. My agency will live on, but probably in a different, less time-intensive form.

Work With People You Like

In April 2015, I got an email from a former Forbes colleague. Was I interested in picking up a little freelance digital editing work, she asked? At the time, I was working 40 hours a week at a corporate contract gig plus an additional 15 with a remote company. “Sure!” I said without hesitation. Something deep in my gut told me not to worry about the crazy workload, that I needed to hook up with these people. When I left my contract gig to make a go of building my consultancy, I stayed with this agency, picking up whatever projects they had available. Why? Certainly I welcomed the extra income, but more than anything, I absolutely loved working with them.  I was learning from them. They inspired me. The projects were challenging and interesting, and they treated me with respect and affection. One example: When Life lobbed one of its curveballs at me early this year, they sent me a gorgeous bouquet, along with an encouraging letter. Seriously? Incredible! Fast-forward nearly a year and a half, and now I’m working with them full time. I feel blessed beyond measure.

Love Your Life Now

shaddockI recently met two women who teach corporate employees how to be happier and more effective. They caution against “I’ll Be Happy When” Syndrome. I’ve historically struggled with this: “I’ll be happy when I make this salary,” “I’ll be happy when I’ve lost 15 pounds,” etc. Somehow, in the last few months, perhaps because I’d removed myself from the traditional 9-to-5 world, my perspective shifted. Despite being exhausted and worried, I felt a little lighter, a little more satisfied. I think that the root of that was gratitude. I am more grateful than ever for this roof over my head, for my already-paid-for car, for my loving and supportive husband. I realize that in all the important ways, my life is full. I’ve already made it.

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