13 things I’ve learned in 6 years of growing my private practice ~ part 2
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
On 2nd March 2022, Tranquillo Counselling was 6 years old. This ‘business birthday’ seems one to celebrate, as it means I am still here, working with clients and doing what I love, despite the pandemic which has now spanned around two years and has had life-changing effects on all of us in some way. I feel really fortunate that Tranquillo Counselling has survived and that I can continue to counsel clients, and supervise and coach other therapists who are passionate about counselling too. I’ve learned a lot in the last six years, and I’m sharing it in this two part blog series. You can find the first seven points in part 1 of this series here.
8. Comparison isn’t helpful
It’s not called ‘the thief of joy’ for nothing. Some of my biggest crises of confidence have come from comparing myself to other therapists and coaches and finding myself lacking. Because of course, the times that I seek out comparisons are the times when I’m already wondering if I’m ‘good enough’ and go looking for evidence to back up that negative self-talk. I never go on a comparison hunt to make myself feel better! These self-deprecating thought patterns create a barrier to me being able to move forward because they keep me stuck in a place of feeling small; like my contributions don’t matter and aren’t valuable. They prevent me from seeing the good and valuable things that I am doing and being able to do more of them. It’s back to thinking about values and taking a holistic approach.
So while it is interesting to check in on your competitors, it’s not helpful to focus your energy on what they are achieving in their businesses that you’re not. You’re not the same, so their achievements don’t change your values and don’t change your goals.
9. I am more capable than I think I am
It’s true. I can do things that I never thought I would be able to do. And I’m good at them! And that still amazes me. Looking back through my life there was never a time that I truly believed I could do anything I put my mind to, until I became my own boss and started challenging some of my limiting beliefs. It is definitely a process - and an uncomfortable one at times - and I’ll continue to learn and grow through that. Which brings me on nicely to the next point…
10. I don’t grow in my comfort zone
I’ve learned that working with an ‘I can do anything I put my mind to’ mindset means that I have to accept that I’ll be stepping out of my comfort zone on a pretty regular basis. Doing new things and putting myself out into the world where I’m open to scrutiny and public opinion can feel really vulnerable. I’m feeling it now, even as I write the first draft of this blog post. I’ve felt it as a guest speaker at online events, and when I develop and deliver workshops on setting up in private practice.
All of these things have taken me away from where I’m comfortable - quietly working away in the background - into an arena where there is sometimes an expectation that I will be the expert who knows everything, can answer all the questions, and who is worth listening to. Or at least that’s what I believe people’s expectations are if they are investing their time and money in me as their therapist or coach. It can be a real test of my self-belief, and managing my own feelings around this is an uncomfortable but huge area of growth.
11. I have to stop to keep going
In my work as a counsellor and a coach, and in my personal life too, I talk about selfcare a lot. So much that I wonder if people get sick of hearing about it! But the reason I do that is because I know the life-changing effects good self care can have on all areas of life. What every individual needs to take care of themselves is unique to them, but whoever you are, working to burnout is not a healthy way to live, and sometimes it can creep up on you without you realising it. In order to be able to show up for my clients and grow my dream practice I had to learn to take time to stop and attend to my own wellbeing.
Because I love my work, and because my goal was to build a private practice that would eventually be my full-time job, I threw myself into growing my business. I enjoyed it, so it didn’t feel like a chore, but it did mean that for a couple of years my brain never really stopped to rest. I was doing this while still working three days a week for an agency as a counsellor. So there was a lot going on. And it took a while for me to realise how tired I felt a lot of the time and how busy my life had become. It took other people pointing it out for me to recognise that I was working more or less all the time. I hadn’t seen it for myself, because much of what I did outside of counselling clients felt like fun - creating content, networking, CPD, reading interesting books. And so I had to make some changes. The first step was re-evaluating my work-life balance- my private work, paid employment and how I used my ‘downtime’ (is it downtime if you use it for fun work stuff???). Setting some boundaries around my working hours, what I would agree to in my personal life and honouring my ‘me time’ were others. And this led to reconsidering how realistic my timescales were. Being intentional about my own selfcare impacted on all areas of my life, not just how I approached my work and growing my practice.
If, like me, you have a tendency towards taking an ‘all or nothing’ approach you are likely to throw yourself into your new business project and neglect the people and things that make your life what it is. And where’s the fun in that? Yeah, it’s important to keep going and get things done to help your business grow, but it’s also important to plan time to step away from that and attend to the people you love and the other things you need to do. Because surely they are what life is all about? This is easier if you take your whole life into account, and set realistic goals.
12. It takes a village!
‘It takes a village to raise a child’. No doubt you’ve heard this before, right? But it also takes a village to build a business. The process of setting up and growing a private practice can be a bit like parenting - it’s emotional and fulfilling and you love this ‘baby’ you’ve created, but can also be frustrating, exhausting and can interfere with your sleep and your social life!
The pressures can be eased by finding your village: the people in your life who you can delegate to, who can support you emotionally, offer practical help, and can pick up some of the balls you might drop in the times that things are overwhelming. Knowing who these people are and being able to reach out to them will help you manage in the difficult times. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so this village is not always family, but think of the people around you who might be helpful. Friends, colleagues, your supervisor, business contacts you have met through networking, a neighbour - many people might have something they are able to offer you, whether that is advice, contacts, time or some other practical support. You’ll never know until you ask.
If building my practice has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes I just have to accept that I have to be flexible. Along with patience, this was possibly one of the most difficult things for me to reconcile. Because actually, I learned that I can be quite rigid when it comes to my own goals and my own self-expectations. I love a plan, and when I have one I have an end date in mind. And when I meet that deadline, that feels like success…and when it doesn’t it can most definitely feel like failure. But I’m not in control of everything, and sometimes things happen that I have no influence over, so that tested my rigid thinking (and my patience) to the limit.
It’s frustrating to wait when there’s a hold-up, whether that’s the other person..the glitch in the process…the stuff that hasn’t been delivered…the course that’s been postponed… When that next step feels so near and yet so far away and the arbitrary deadline is coming closer, remind yourself that this isn’t a catastrophe. This is your business - you make the rules, you set the boundaries and you can change these whenever you like. If you keep your destination in mind and keep moving towards it at whatever speed you can, you will get there in the end.
I hope you find these blogs interesting and helpful. If you’d like to read more of my musings you can subscribe to my blog at https://www.tranquillocoaching.com/ or follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tranquillocoaching