Seven years ago I had a brand new 14-week-old baby and I had to go back to work. I’d left my husband, bought a flat on my own and was striking out to support my little family as best I knew how. I was good at it. I had a great job, a good routine … then after 3 months back at work I was made redundant.
Well, with mouths to feed, nappies to buy, a nanny to finance and a mortage to pay, there was no resting-on-my-laurel allowed. So, I spent a month trying to find another salaried job. Nothing. I spent a month considering what I’d always wanted to do and there – ting! – was the answer to my dreams. I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to use what I knew to bring out the best in others. And from that very day, I began to strive towards that dream.
Just 3 months after that day, I had completed my first level of executive coaching training and had taken on my first client. My business grew steadily. My clients list grew and each year I learned more, shared more, invested more in myself. My client list continued to grow.
I’ve never been happier, more fulfilled or felt more in control of my future than since I’ve run my own businesses. On the same hand, I’ve never stretched, learned and challenged my own limited thinking about myself and my capabilities.
If you’ve ever considered taking this path for yourself – and let’s face it, we single parents need more flexibility around working hours and the ability to earn than most – then here’s some things that I’ve learned along the way. Here are my hard-learned top tips:
1. Do something you LOVE
Working for yourself is a steep learning curve and as much as you learn about the practicalities of business, you’ll learn about yourself too. If you’re putting yourself through this process you may as well be creating something you believe in, something that inspires you, something that you know you were born to share with the world.
2. Build a support network
There are days when I thought I’d never make the dream a reality. On those days my support network were invaluable – my dad, my friend Cherie, my coaches and my mastermind groups. Thank God for them! Be selective about who you share your dreams with – they can be shattered in a moment if those championing you are in any way threatened by your drive to succeed. Two, maybe three people at the most is all you need. If you don’t know the right people yet, just hold the intention for them to reveal themselves to you … stand back, and watch the magic!
3. Invest in yourself
Mindset is a huge part of succeeding in business, but you don’t just develop that overnight. Invest in your own development along the way. I used books, business coaches, seminars and mentors – and when I had enough spare money, I flew to the states to learn the latest new business theories from those at the forefront of their games. Did it pay off? In bucket loads!!
4. The marketing is more important than the mastery
You cannot run a successful business if nobody knows how brilliant your product or service is. If you have the choice of advancing your craft or increasing your marketing know-how, choose the latter. The most gifted doctor in the world will remain poor if he can’t get his name out to his prospective clients. Trust me on this one! Don’t get sucked in by schools or course ‘sellers’ who tell you that if you increase your mastery your business will magically increase. Invest in marketing. As your business and client-base grow, you’ll learn along the way.
5. Embrace new technology
I know this one might scare you! Trust me, I’ve been going through this for years now. Just when I think I’veconquered my technology fears a whole other area of learning (and opportunity) opens up. For single parents the freedom that comes from running your own business – especially one where you work from home with huge flexiblity – is priceless. Face your fears! Keep up-to-date with email, internet, social media and your world-wide marketplace. It will change the way you do business. I will open new doors. It will empower you to ‘keep up with the kids’!
If you’ve ever considered setting up your own business as an Entrepreneur and a Single Mum, there are specific skills, processes and opportunities you’d be smart to know about. My Silver Success Circle teleclass in July will be covering this topic in detail. You can sign up at: http://www.successfulsingleparenting.com/SilverSuccessCircle/joinus.html
There’s SO much change going on right now. I mean the global financial thing is affecting so many people’s mindset – and I personally have chosen to entirely step back from that. I truly believe we become what we think about so … think about being calm, you will be; think about getting more balance in your life, that’ll occur; think about running a dream business, watch it develop; think about grace, success, service and a raising of global consciousness, oh yeah, it’s all coming! There is no more effective way to bring about your dreams than to totally engulf your thinking in them. Is it easy? Well, about as easy as it is to commit to training your body everyday to get beautifully-crafted legs, bums and tums (an we all know what a discipline that is!). But with practice it gets easier and one day you will just ‘be’ the person you held that intention to be.
There ARE ways to train yourself to raise your awareness and increase your positive thinking. Here’s my Top 5 Stragegies:
* Get conscious about who you spend your time around: doom and gloom merchants will bring you down. Invest time with people you know who have traits you’d like to develop.
* Be very selective about what goes into your mind: I choose now not to read a news paper, I don’t listen to news on the radio or watch it on TV. These are highly sophisticted communication mediums and you are not in control of the mindset they come from. Instead how about studying some great books about success principles and mindset, reading uplifting biographies, watching an inspiring movie and listening to empowering music.
* Design some affirmations: write 3-5 positive statements that you want to be true for you. Like: ” I am an intuitive parent and my children are amazing human beings!”; “My work is of service to millions of people and I thrive when they thrive”; ” I have infinite choice and abundant opportunities – I trust my intuition to guide me to my purpose and success”. Write whatever is true for your dream and your vision
* Use only positive language: Practice saying uplifting, gracious, encouraging words to yourself and to others. I remember what my granny used to say: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. And that’s more true in these complicated times than ever. People need us to be light, life and love – so give out what you want to get back.
* Practice: Training your mind to serve you to its highest ability is a massive skill set. You wouldn’t learn to swim, play chess, or be in a relationship in a day, so you’ll have to be patient with this vision too. A wise man once said, “Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.”. Be patient with your progress and remember that this is YOUR journey, so don’t fall into the trap of comparing your progress with those around you.
As I write this I’m really reminding my self of these lessons. You see the changes I’m making in my life just now are BIG. I’ve letting go of my first business (which has successfully provided for me and my daughter for nearly 7 years) and I’m going to focus full-time in Successful Single Parenting (woohoo!). Supporting, sharing knowledge, uplifting, equipping, encouraging and empowering every single parent mum and non-resident dad that’s out there. Anyone parenting in an extended family who wants to do it better, smarter, wiser, more calmly, lovingly and peacefully. This is my calling, my vision, my change, my opportunity.
What a great and extended break I had (I’ve missed you!). You know what though? I had a full on anxiety ball in my tummy last Tuesday. It was the first day back to school for my daughter and first day back to work for me, both of us having had over 2 weeks of non-routine. Ouch!
My friend Juliette (she’s a single parent too) was in the same boat and brought her son over for supper that evening. We got talking about the pressure that single parents manage on an ongoing basis – the angst caused from having 100% responsibility for both parenting and provision.
I pondered with her what it must be like to have a second income come into my household for no extra time investment on my side. Neither of us had ever experienced that because we’d single parented from pregnancy. Like, what would it be like to know that all my earnings cover my home, bills, clothes and food anyway, but there’d be another person in the household to earn, say a minimum of £25,000 more? What would we do with that? I mean, it doesn’t need to go on essentials (because I have that covered) so it would just be for spending and for saving. Imagine?
THEN we took that scenario a step further and questioned why it sounded too good to be true. And we realized that the investment to have a 2-income household is the commitment to a co-habiting partner (or marriage if that’s your thing).
I thought about that for a bit – and decided that I’m more equipped to go out and earn that extra £25K myself. So that’s my first ’09 goal. Sorted.
This year we’re launching some out-of-this world programs to allow each of you to have more money, time and freedom month-by-month to the year end. It’s going to be our Silver Success Circle debut – watch this space.
Every year I set myself a new set of goals. They’ve become family-focused as opposed to just me-focused in the last 7 years. And I’ve noticed that certain types of goal-setting works better than others. Here are my 3 Secrets to achieving more than you ever imagined possible in 2009.
1. Set goals that stretch who you think you can be
- Allow yourself to dream about what perfect would look like.
- Then break that down into monthly and weekly action points.
- Keep a daily ‘success diary’ of every piece of that dream you’re achieving. I absolutely see you thriving!!
2. Hold yourself accountable to someone who believes in you (friend, family, coach or mentor)
- There’s power in partnership. So make an arrangement with at least one other person to keep you progressing towards your dreams. OR join a mastermind group (maybe the Silver Success Circle if it fits for you at our launch).
- Set realistic daily and weekly goals so that you can achieve and be constantly encouraged.
- Have your mentor challenge you when you delay and encourage you when you’re victorious.
3. Evolve your environment
- If your physical surroundings don’t support who you aim to be … make a list of the ‘old me’ things, then commit to change them one by one. It could be simple things like nicer cutlery, rugs or bed linen OR a commitment to beautifying generally like ensuring there are fresh flowers in your sitting room every week.
- Sometimes progress requires that we assess our emotional surroundings. Each of us takes on the values of the 5 people we spend the most time around. Assess who those people are for you, and if their lives are ones you aspire to. If not, begin to network in different places until you have frequent exposure to those that inspire you to progress. (Again, the Silver Success Circle will supply much of this for you – we’ll have you reaching for the stars!!)
- Become aware of your spiritual environment. When I say this I mean that we take on limiting thoughts from childhood that continue to fill our minds as adults. Three books I highly recommend to get you to a sky’s-the-limit mindset are:
- As a Man Thinketh – James Allen (It’s short – I’m a slow reader and completed this in about 4 hours)
- A Return to Love – Marianne Williamson (I adore this book!)
- A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle (Tip: if you’re stuck for time start with the last chapter!!)
Are you loving or loathing the lead up to Christmas and the year end?
I’m finding there are SO many things to consider with this extended family of mine, made up of me, my daughter and her dad; my partner (of 3 years, who lives 400 miles north of London, in Scotland) his 2 children and their mum; my parents, grandparents, siblings and their children; my partner’s parents, grandparent, sister and her family – we’re just about coordinated in what’s going on, where, when and with whom. And then there’s the gift buying (on a budget!) …which is mildly doing my head in – thank goodness for the internet!
To be fair, I actually love this holiday season. I’m not that fussed about receiving gifts (there’s a fine line for me between ‘love it, keep it’ and ‘not relevant, ditch it’), but I adore spending time with family and seeing my daughter laugh and play with her cousins and friends.
My daughter’s dad and I have alternate Christmases with her. This is his year so my daughter will be away 5 full days from Christmas Eve. Bit of a heart wrench – but I’m getting better at doing extended amounts of time away from her, even at special family times like this.
I’ve noticed that my mindset is very different this year compared to 6 years ago on the first Christmas my ex had our daughter. What a challenging year that was – a learning curve for us all. Since then, I’ve learned some new skills, worked out what works best for us all and have applied it for increasingly peaceful results. This process has been applied in so many situations with my daughter and my ex that I’ve written my Feature Article on it this month: 7 Smart Tips for Single Parenting Christmas Success.
Have a wonderful finale to 2008 and a prosperous, peaceful and exciting look forward to 2009 (and get yourself onto our Silver Success Circle list – see below – for ongoing goal setting and goal getting for the upcoming 12 months!).
- Get clear about what makes the holidays valuable: Make time to share what you remember about what made this season valuable for you in your childhood and ensure that your children know that quality (time, relationships, and values are) as opposed to having quantity of these things.
- Prepare and plan: Who are you going to send cards and gifts to? With more thought there can be more meaning – and if you’re really smart this can bring the price tag down too.
- Create a good holiday ambiance at home: Take some time to make paper chains, cards, decorations for the tree, cinnamon-smelling fruits (if that’s your thing!). Make it a special time for you and your children to share. Again, these memories will last for your children and have benefits way beyond and a Nintendo.
- Have open negotiations with your children’s other parent about what’s the best design for the holidays: Get the children involved if they’re old enough and try to come to an agreement ahead of time. Where your children are younger, both parents would be smart to have a united message about what’s best for ‘sharing’ holidays.
- If you want to have company over the holidays, get together with friends or with other single parents (or with church if that’s your thing): It might not be what you’ve traditionally done, but there’s no right or wrong way to do holiday itself. Get creative!
- Make an occasion of the simple things: Relax in the afternoon with a great family movie and a glass of wine. Celebrate every moment.
- Congratulate yourself as an amazing parent: Get your nails done, your hair done, have a massage or a bit of pampering. Whatever it is – while you treat yourself remind yourself that you’ve been outstanding this year and your children are blessed to have you on their side.
Part of my personal development regime is to read for at least 15 minutes per day and to meditate for an equal length of time. If that sounds like a discipline in any way – believe me it is! Can I just highlight that this is an intention and I’ve been practicing for years to get it to become a habit. Last month, November, was far from ideal and I managed to create a quiet time of 15 minutes twice only. And I’m aiming for improvement for December!
When I DO make the time I get the investment back in bundles. I had a moment earlier today when I asked myself ‘What has to be in place to allow our children to develop their strengths and uniqueness as they grow? Plus, how do parents do this whilst still maintaining an element of control within our households?’ These are the 3 things that sprang to mind immediately:
1. Set Clear Boundaries
This, at first glance, might appear to be restricting, but boundaries are the most empowering facet of our reality. You see, when we’re clear about what’s not allowed, not healthy, not appreciated or not constructive, we can live with a set of parameters inside which our characters can truly excel.
For example, if I tell my daughter that ‘jumping on furniture is not allowed’ and give her the reasons why, then I can be confident that in any social environment that particular challenge won’t occur. If she agrees to play within that boundary, I can confidently take her to friends, restaurants, shops and out for treats. Same with rules around how we use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, how we behave at the table, how we dress on a school day, how we speak respectfully, how we do what we say we’re going to do, what time is bedtime and what to do when approached by a stranger.
Boundaries also work for parents to keep at the top of our game. I commit to boundaries around communication for me and my ex, around schedules (so if I say 5 pm I’ll have to be there), how much time I invest with work, how much time I’m away, how much time my daughter and I do ‘educational’ stuff with our free time and how much we just play or chill out, how late I stay up and how much I spend on fitness and aloe products (which I love!!).
2. Instill a Sense of Freedom
My grandfather died about 3 years ago at the age of 94. About 6 months before he died I was visiting him and granny (who’s still with us at nearly 96!). I asked my grandad ‘If you had your time over again is there anything you’d do differently?’ He said one thing, ‘I’d say “be careful” less’.
Our children are growing up in a fearful culture. They don’t walk to school alone, they are warned about playground safety, cycling safety, stranger safety. They climb a tree, we say ‘be careful’. They head out to football club, or to gymnastics … ‘be careful’. They head out with their friends (when they’re a bit older) and we say ‘take care’.
I’m not saying that some of these lessons aren’t wise – they are. I’m saying that to get the most out of anyone (including ourselves); their creativity, their full talent, their inspiration, their uniqueness sometimes we have to adopt a slightly different motto: ‘Take a walk on the wild side’!
3. Love Unconditionally
Absolutely and without a doubt the most powerful thing for a parent to instill in their child is that they are unconditionally loved. And this isn’t a soft, fluffy kind of love (although that’s essential too!!). This type creates a foundation of strength from which our children grow in confidence, self-belief and bold creativity from childhood to adulthood to pension-drawing age.
I remember when I was 17 years old and I wanted to take a year out to travel. The night before I left to Australia (alone … except for a backpack … eeek!), I stayed with my parents so that they could give me a lift to the airport the next day. As I was going to bed I got this huge surge of fear … ‘What was I thinking? A year? I don’t want to be alone in a strange country for A YEAR?!’
When my mum came in to say goodnight, I told her ‘I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going’. She smiled, sat down on my bed and said ‘Yes you are. I know you’re scared just now but here’s the deal; if you have 10 bad days in a row, just get on a flight and come home. If you have 3 difficult days then a good one, you have to start counting from 1 again. Your dad and I will always be here and you can come home whenever you need to and stay for as long as you like. But you decided to do this and it’s going to be such an adventure! You can do this. I love you and I’m SO proud of you!’
So clearly, I went! For a year!! Confident that if things were too challenging for too long, then my parents would be supportive and loving when I appeared back on their doorstep.
I’m nearly 40 years old now. And I’m still aware that the 10 day rule applies with my parents although I’ve never used it! Even through divorce, single parenting, redundancy, and new businesses launches, my confidence and happiness – which originates with the unconditional love I received in my family home – has allowed me to discover a deeper, more positive, unlimited part of me than I could have imagined existed all those years ago.
LOVE your children unconditionally and they’ll grow into adults who love their children unconditionally. This is our highest calling, our richest legacy!