April 1, 2019 marked the 5th birthday of Adaptive Alternatives. (The IRS tax letter that made the business official was dated April 1, 2014. No fooling.) Five years of being in business as a solopreneur feels like a milestone to celebrate. I am overflowing with passion and gratitude as I reflect on the past 5 years. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned along the way in case it’s helpful to your journey.

Here are 5 lessons from 5 years in business as a consultant and coach:

1) Conversations matter more than content. No amount of content that I could write about leadership or strategic planning or fundraising can replace candid conversations within teams. I’ve learned that my role as a consultant and coach is not to figure out or fix any organization or any person. My purpose is to model and facilitate candor. I’ve noticed that when I put my own fear aside and reveal something that I might otherwise withhold, others may summon the courage to reveal themselves as well. If I can help create a safe space where candid conversations can unfold, then I am fulfilling my highest purpose.

2) Giving feedback is about revealing myself rather than trying to change others. Very few of us learn to give and receive feedback in a way that can support meaningful growth in ourselves and others. I’ve recently gotten some stinging feedback that was offered out of love. It stung because it was true. While I have sometimes avoided giving tough feedback, I have learned that sometimes the most caring thing I can do is to provide feedback that may sting. When I provide feedback from a place of love, it is a gift to myself to reveal myself to another person. I don’t have control over how anyone else receives feedback. By revealing myself, I share my experience and model revealing instead of concealing.

3)  I am enough in this moment. Choosing a career path as a consultant often means having a point of view and expertise to share. It can be tempting to spend a lot of energy proving my worth and value. It’s tempting to think that I need another certification or I have to read the latest strategy book to stay on top of my game. This past week I asked friends and colleagues to share what they value most about me. Things like positivity, kindness, curiosity, compassion, and generosity have come up most often. It’s a blessing to notice that these traits are more about who I am rather than what I do. To be able to show up as I am in this moment without being motivated by fear that I’m not enough is a new kind of freedom that I am starting to experience.

4) Boundaries now create less drama later. I have experienced that when I state my preferences and create clear boundaries up front, lots of would-be drama dissipates. I may notice fear arise as I write to a potential client, “I am no longer offering weekend and evening meetings due to family impact.” I also notice that my energy rises every time I stand for a boundary now that I didn’t honor previously.

5) Gratitude is everything. When I am grateful for what is present in this now moment and do not waste energy resisting what is, I am open to experiencing peace and abundance. I am truly grateful that my 5-year journey as a solopreneur has included so many amazing collaborators and colleagues along the way.

As an expression of gratitude, I want to acknowledge that the lessons shared here reflect many of my recent experiences of embracing conscious leadership. In 2017 I started to apply The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership in my life and in my business. My path to choosing to become a practitioner of conscious leadership started with this video and then followed when I read the 15 Commitments book. My learning deepened when I joined the 15 Commitments coaches training cohort in October 2018. It’s been a thrill to get to train directly with Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and other dedicated Conscious Leadership Group (CLG) coaches and practitioners.

Thank you for being part of the journey so far. Who knows what the next 5 years will bring? I don’t know, but I trust that even more abundance and collaboration will emerge.

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Stephanie Blackburn Freeth is the creator of The Strategy Tango.


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