Self Development for Creative Business Owners: Where to Start

Focussing on self development when you’re trying to figure out how Pinterest works and get your kids to school on time, is something that often takes a back seat. A few weeks ago I wrote about turning 30 and my decision to really focus on doing what I love. In my ponderings I also looked back at everything that had shaped me and every experience that I had learned from. 

Not many of us wake up one day and know exactly what we want to do with our lives. I’ve found that it’s more about figuring out what you want to do as a process of eliminating the things you don’t enjoy. The other key factor in figuring this all out is learning about yourself. No, it’s not self-indulgent, why? Because it helps us see where our strengths are, what magic we can bring to our business and other people’s lives and bu learning about yourself you also learn how to build better relationships and listen to other people more effectively.

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For me, figuring out my jam has taken a lot of trial and error, various side-hustles, learning what I enjoyed doing but also, and possibly more so, from the experiences I didn’t enjoy. I quickly learned that working in London or a FTSE 100 corporate was not for me! I’ve also learned that I’m an introvert and so I need plenty of time by myself to re-charge. All of these things are useful things to know when your goal is to do what you love.

So, how can you dig a little deeper into what you want to make more time for in your business and lifestyle?

Here are 7 places to start with your creative business self development 

Take action

This one is the most important so I’ve put it first. It doesn’t matter how many blog posts and podcasts you read, until you do the thing you’re thinking about, you’ll never know. It might be trying a new creative technique or start teaching your craft, whatever it is, be brave and take action. Start that side-hustle you've been dreaming of, figure out that first product or service.

Whatever you start doing today doesn’t have to be your thing forever, see it as a step along the way to learning more about the lifestyle and business you want to create.

Learn from your likes and dislikes

Think about all of the jobs you’ve ever had, big or small. Include any work experience and volunteering as well. You can also include all of your classes from school if you like. Make a list of what you liked and didn’t like about each one.

Now look at those likes and dislikes and question each one until you get to the root of why.

For example you might love presenting or working with a group of people rather than 1:1, that might lead you to experiment with teaching or running workshops. On the flip side, you might find engaging with people exhausting which might lead you down a path to see how you can do the work you love doing online, giving you more opportunity to be by yourself.

A carpet of bluebells in a woods with a fallen tree

Take a personality test

There are lots out there and you can take something from each one, here are my top 3

16 personalities - this one is free and absolutely brilliant. It gives you insight into lots of different areas of how you work, think and interact with people and helpfully it also suggests what your strengths and weaknesses might be - from what I've heard they tend to be bang on - they certainly were for me.

The Four Tenancies - Find out what motivates you, this is really useful for understanding why you might always pay your bills on time but you left it until the night before to do any coursework at school or university. In Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz you’ll find out more about what does and doesn’t motivate you to get stuff done!

Wealth Dynamics - Don't be put off by the name, this test has been a game-changer for me. Unfortunately it's not a free one but it still makes my top 3. The foundation belief behind this test is that rather than focus on improving what you struggle with, focus on developing your talents in the areas where you thrive. This test was developed by Roger Hamilton and he calls this ‘finding your flow’ - ie finding what it is you love doing. Often if you love doing something or if something comes easily to you you don’t even notice it - because to you it’s easy.

I used to think I was a terrible procrastinator, but the wealth dynamics test helped reveal that I’m a 'mechanic' - a personality type that loves to pick things apart and tinker with things and put them back together in a more successful way. For me this has manifested in a love of planning and making things simpler and clearer for people.

Open yourself up to being vulnerable

This is a biggie and it’s a constant battle. To learn more about yourself, you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone. As a result your inner critic might well pipe up or you might be worried about what people at work will think. It might even be your mum telling you that you should stick to a safe job. Whatever it is that’s holding you back, be brave and do it anyway. It might help to think back to the last time you felt like this and what the outcome was? Was it as terrible as you thought it would be? Was there intact an energised, empowered feeling that often shows up as a result of pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone?

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails" - Mark Twain

Apple tree in blossom over a style in the Hampshire countryside

Strengths, Skills and weaknesses

On a big piece of paper draw two lines down the middle, making three columns. Name one strengths, the next one skills and the final one weaknesses. The reason I separate strengths and skills is because they often get mixed up but in fact they’re very different things. For example you might have great presentation skills but you’ve picked those up after years of doing presentations at work, even though your palms are sweating all of the way through and you come away feeling exhausted. This would make presenting a skill, but not necessarily a strength.

Write as many strengths and skills on that piece of paper as you can. It doesn’t matter how big or small these are, it can be anything from making a great brew to being community minded or nailing the interior design of your friends living room. Next write down your weaknesses, i’m guessing this bit will be easier because we’re so used to seeing our weaknesses and calling them out, so I suggest you challenge yourself to write down as many strengths and weaknesses. Note them all down, no one else needs to see your list but you.

Mood board it out

If you’re a creative thinker this one is for you. Head to Pinterest or make a physical mood board with old-school cutting and sticking (I’m a big fan of both scrapbooks and Pinterest).

Start thinking about the lifestyle you want and put images that reflect it onto your mood board. Once you’ve got a load of images, take a break from it for an hour or even a day. Later go back to it and take away images until you’re just left with a maximum of 8 - that should give you a more focused idea of what you want to be aiming for in the lifestyle you’re creating and the work that you do.

Ask yourself what you really want from your business

What's your definition of success? Is it to support yourself in having a simple but fulfilled life or is it to grow a team and create a legacy that you can pass on to your family. You might want to create a brand that’s recognised across the world or to support your family while having more flexibility. Whatever it is you want from your business it’s really important to have this nailed down and being aware of this can help you with all sorts of opportunities and business decisions that come your way.

I hope some of those pointers have been helpful and shed some light on a few things for you. Maybe you’ve even had a big light bulb moment? The big takeaway from this is to keep an open mind and stay conscious of what experiences you enjoy and don’t enjoy. Be willing to adapt and change, it’s not always easy but every little snippet you learn about yourself is another step towards creating the fulfilling lifestyle you long for.

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