It’s a world where unmarked goalposts keep shifting. Our couples and their venues are at a loss to know how to plan for the year ahead and beyond. As business owners, our mental resilience is some days pressed to breaking point.
So, this is your public service announcement. It’s 100% OK to embrace your inner control freak. A sense of control (even in the face of opposing reality) is a fabulously effective self-defence strategy. It’s a rope ladder to the security we crave.
Control freakery should not be underrated.
You absolutely have permission as a business owner to embrace your inner Marie Kondo! Tidy house, tidy office, tidy diary. Creating peace, formulating a plan, making a schedule, organizing boring daily routines. We’re all for it.
Why? Because orderly habits create a crucible of calm. A place in which we can think more clearly. Make decisions based on facts, not feelings.
After our second child arrived, our family life was significantly disrupted for a year as a result of postnatal depression. I (Christine) was utterly convinced I was a dreadful mother. The worst. The tiniest things were just too much. Getting out of bed, making a meal, deciding what to do with the thousands of hours each day seemed to take. It was all utterly overwhelming. The doctors and community nurses were lovely, yet I was in a hole that I felt powerless and hopeless to get out of. Phil felt powerless to help me out.
In the midst of the darkness, and the medication, I stumbled on a random book called Fly Lady. Someone had read my mind and described how I was feeling in sharp and telling detail. The book asked me to do one thing.
*Clean the kitchen sink before bed.
Nothing more. Just the kitchen sink.
Don’t get dressed, don’t wipe the surfaces. Just this once, clean the sink.
Turns out, environment and small orderly changes actually do have a huge impact on our productivity, attitude and ability to think in a straight line.
I started cleaning the sink every evening. Just the sink.
It gave me room to breathe. It accomplished something I could point to and call a success. A success that greeted me the next day.
Calm and order
After a few weeks, I wondered what might happen if I cleaned the countertop next to the sink. So I did. Day by day the order and calm around me grew, and with it, the order and calm grew in me too. After a while I tackled the whole kitchen. I still had a new baby, and still I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be a good mum, but I had a clean kitchen to great me every morning and strangely, that gave me just enough head-space to step gingerly onto the onramp to wellness.
Here’s the point from that patch of personal history.
Even in the overwhelm of a global pandemic, of a business in free-fall, of the great unknown, there are things we absolutely can control. They may be small, or feel insignificant, but those are the things we should do something about.
Send the email, make the call, fix the lock, paint the wall, do the work, learn the stuff, clean the sink.
The other stuff, the uncontrollable big stuff that no amount of energy, or shouting at the telly, or wishing away will change? That stuff we leave in the Not-My-Business box. We choose to do what we can do, not what we cannot. There’s a deep humility in it.
If ever there was a place where the Prayer of Serenity had complete jurisdiction, it’s here.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.
There’s no need for faith to understand the fact that none of us is almighty. We don’t control the world.
However, we do have real and actual power to change some things in our world. That knowledge requires us to accept our limitations, and put our substantial energies into the places we can control.
There, we’ll make real and lasting differences to our wellbeing, and our businesses as a result.
Given the current pandemic, this article is part of a focused series on wellbeing for small business owners. Before their careers in cake, Phil served as a pastor in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, where he supported people through periods of grief, financial hardship, and addiction recovery. Christine worked in the NHS in mental health, and following her post grad degree, as a trained counsellor.