Find Me At My New Blog!

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My new blog is finally ready! You can now find me actively blogging at bethanygrow.com where I’m experimenting with food, design, and creativity. Again, it’s been wonderful over here at Love Grows Design, but I’m so excited about this new venture. Feel free to follow me now on Bloglovin or Feedly if you’d like to keep up with my work!

On Fresh Starts

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I love starting over. When I was in sixth grade, my parents were contemplating moving way across town into my grandparents old house. With six kids, this was no small decision as it would change elementary, middle, and high schools for all of us, not to mention our church and neighbors and grocery store. The idea thrilled me. I would get to start middle school in a whole new place! No one would know me! I’d have a fresh start! I couldn’t wait!

Unfortunately for me, we never did move and I spent the first nineteen years of my life in the same house, neighborhood, school zone, church, and grocery store.

My first fresh start was moving away from home for college. I didn’t know a single soul in the new city I was living in. And it was glorious. I got to recreate myself, try new things, figure out what I really wanted and who I was without friends and family around to influence me. I embraced the new and ditched the old, including finding new friends, leaving behind my not-so-good friends from home that I stayed with out of habit. I started anew.

Since then, I’ve fully embraced every chance I’ve had to start over. I started my lifestyle/newlywed blog but when I felt it was no longer a reflection of me or the person I wanted to be, I ditched it completely and started over to focus on my new life as an entrepreneur and designer. We’ve moved homes many times, sometimes near sometimes far and each time I’ve felt myself change just a little bit, seeing each move as an opportunity to become a new person. I completely changed design focuses as I started out with wedding stationery, but then dropped that completely to focus on web and brand design. I love the New Year and making goals to become a better person. Do you see what I mean? I LOVE STARTING OVER.

That being said, starting over doesn’t come without it’s stresses and worries. There have been many times I’ve wondered if my old high school friends get together and talk about what a jerk I am for ditching them (yes, a terribly egotistical assumption to make) or I’ve worried that people will think I’m a flake for not sticking to something for long before moving on to something else (and thanks to my parents, I’m aware that people do in fact think that). It’s especially difficult in the online world where all of my many changes can be tracked by the people that follow my life. Each time I change what I do, I feel like I’ve failed these loyal readers and followers, even though I’m aware these changes are for the best.

Because change I must. At twenty-two I’m still growing and changing as a person. I’m fully aware that I have not found my “forever career” yet, just as most kids my age haven’t. But unlike most kids my age, instead of hopping from job to job I’m creating job after job for myself. It has it’s freedoms and also it’s pressures, but thankfully I love this path and I’m glad I’ve found a way to make it work.

So what’s next? That’s the question I keep asking myself. Sometimes it plagues me, binding me up with it’s “what ifs” and telling me I’m a failure for not having it figured out yet. Other times, it’s a whisper in the back of my mind as I move about each day. What am I doing with my life? Where will I be in five years? What do I really want, deep down? These are scary thoughts, but ones that eventually have to get addressed before life passes you by (or you have one too many what-am-I-doing-with-my-life panic attacks).

The next thing is certainly coming. My mind is already made up, as the clothes of two years ago tighten and make me uncomfortable as I grow. The more I work on The Collaboreat, the more I realize my focus has changed, something that many emails in my inbox remind me of as I turn down design inquiry after design inquiry and continue to neglect this here blog. I’m in the process of creating a new space for myself, ready to shed Love Grows Design like an old winter coat. It served me well, but it’s a new spring and with each season I’m growing up and becoming a new person.

Who is this new person? What does she want? More importantly, what doesn’t she want?
I don’t want to share any more advice or tell you what to do. I want you to trust your gut and ignore what everyone else is doing. I don’t want my life to revolve around making money with this business. I want to relax and live a calmer life. I don’t want to feel boxed in by what I do, but rather to do what interests me at the moment, whatever that might be.

I want to move on.

This may, in fact, be my last post on this blog, as I busy myself with new things for The Collaboreat and get ready for this new venture of mine. I’m excited to feel comfortable again, to have found a new space that fits the new me. I’m excited to see where it takes me. I’m excited by to begin again and have more room to grow.

And if you’re not excited, that’s okay. I’m not offended. You can gather around with your friends and talk about what a jerk I am for ditching you. It’s okay to grow apart. That’s life. We all will change. But I hope you’ll look back on these days and see the good, maybe that I taught you something or simply made you laugh and nod your head in agreement. It’s been a good run and I wouldn’t change it for anything. You and Love Grows Design have taught me so much.

So here’s to change and growth and starting over. Here’s to going back to zero followers. Here’s to alienating my old followers and watching them leave. Here’s to battling feeling like a flaky failure. Here’s to having fun with a new design. Here’s to brainstorming and planning fun new things. Here’s to refreshing my love for my work as a designer. Here’s to finding myself in the things that I do and the choices that I make. Here’s to making choices that feel good for me and my life. Here’s to the scary but exciting parts about growing. Here’s to fresh starts.

And where will my fresh start be and what will I be doing? Don’t worry. I’ll keep you updated.

 

Soft & Sweet Moodboard

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Once the Collaboreat got going, I cut back on design work as I spent all of my time trying to figure out processes and reach out to people and get the new blog off the ground. And then I took a good Christmas break. And now I’m back. And it feels oh so good! I’ve started a few new projects, some small some large and long-term and I’m so happy to be working with some incredible bloggers and small businesses.

One of these clients has been an absolute dream to work with and we’re already almost done with the process! It’s a beautiful design that I’m pretty excited about as it’s right up my alley- classy, clean, soft, and sweet. It goes perfectly with the client- a lifestyle blogger who is sweet and professional and sophisticated. I can’t wait to share more!

And now that I’ve got good processes in place for the Collaboreat and have more time for design, I’ll be working on a few fun self-initiated projects. I haven’t done those in ages! It will be loads of fun. Here’s to designing and doing what you love!

Establishing Your Sweet Spot

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I’ve recently been reading what could possibly be my favorite book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As I’ve been reading, I’ve been underlining and taking notes, seeking out the information that helps me better understand myself and the way I do things and why. I highly recommend you take a read and see what you can discover about yourself.

A section that really spoke to me, especially as far as my business goes, was one where they discussed finding your “sweet spot.” They discussed how extroverts and introverts need different levels of stimulation to feel totally comfortable.

“Introverts have wide-open information channels [the mechanisms that send signals to parts of our brain causing us to feel energetic or calm], causing them to be flooded with stimulation and over-arouse, while extroverts have tighter channels, making them prone to under-arousal.” Cain goes on to discuss how introverts tend to get overstimulated rather quickly in comparison, leading to an uncomfortable “I’ve had enough” feeling, while extroverts tend to need more stimulation otherwise they get “cabin fever.”

To feel most comfortable in our environments, we need to really study ourselves and figure out what our “sweet spot” is- where don’t feel understimulated or overstimulated- you have the perfect balance to focus and get things done. Once you figure out what this sweet spot is, you can put yourself into environments that work best with your personality and make you feel most energetic and alive.

While reading this, it occurred to me that most of what I hated about my past jobs and most of what I love about this job has to do with that sweet spot. At a past job I worked in a very open environment where my coworkers could come up behind me at any time to ask about projects or simply chat. We had meetings just about every day where we would be asked to “group-think” or even do team-building exercises. It was a rare day when I could put on my headphones and work by myself from nine to five, something I always craved.

And while this environment wasn’t necessarily bad, it wasn’t my sweet spot. Far from it. I needed quiet and planned interruptions (lunch breaks, scheduled meetings, etc.) so I wasn’t caught off guard and my day thrown off. I needed a closed off space where I could bask in the silence of an office and get my work done, not a ginormous cubicle that I shared with my entire team who might ask me to watch a funny YouTube video at any moment.

Then I quit my job to work on this here business full-time from home. Without even realizing it, I set up my processes, workspace, and schedule to create my “sweet spot.” I don’t hand out my phone number to clients so they can’t call at any time to interrupt my workflow. Instead, I tell them they can email me anytime and then when I am ready, I can check all my emails at once and respond. I turn on music or background noise on my computer so I can be lightly stimulated while I work, but when my brain needs more room to focus I can completely shut it off and concentrate. I can adjust the temperature based on my own body and can go work at a cafe if I need the presence of other people. This is my sweet spot.

So for all you solopreneurs out there, where’s your sweet spot? How much stimulation do you need to be most productive? Do you need to find a friend to work at a coffeeshop with or do you need to create a separate quiet space at home for yourself to work? Do you need your clients to stop calling you so you can focus or do you thrive on the spontaneity of it all? Do you need to schedule lunches with a friend on a regular basis so you can have some social interaction in your day or would you prefer to save that for the weekend?

Pay close attention to how much stimulation you need and what things give you any sort of anxiety when you’re working and then put processes into place so you can create your own sweet spot. We solopreneurs are so lucky to be able to create our own work spaces and call all the shots- use that to your advantage and create that environment that will work to your advantage and help you be productive!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

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This past year was a big turning point for me.

I started out making goals and plans and filling in every hour of my brand new planner that was without question my favorite gift of the year before. I had big dreams and goals about getting published, speaking, teaching, and getting rich off of the work that I loved so dearly.

But as you may have noticed, somewhere along the way I lost momentum. I stopped filling in every detail of my planner. I was failing to send out newsletters every month, let alone every week. My blog posts had slowed down nearly to a stop. I took on less and less design clients. As much as I hated to admit it, I didn’t love the work as much as I used to.

You see, somewhere along the way, I took a step back and looked around at the life I was living. The evenings spent in tears or ranting to my husband because this or that wasn’t working out and I was a complete failure. The late nights trying to meet deadlines I shouldn’t have set. How every conversation with my husband ended up being about my work. The way it was taking over my life, but I couldn’t keep up.

When people would ask me what hobbies I had, I would come up blank. Does work count? No? Well then… Sleeping? Binge-watching TV while I work? I realized I hadn’t read a [non-business related] book in ages, when just a few years back I was carrying around two books in my purse at all times. I rarely saw friends and had a hard time keeping the conversation away from my all-consuming work when I did. I was turning into those workaholics you see in movies that desperately need a life adjustment but don’t know it yet.

That was me.

This dream of doing what I loved and doing it incredibly well had consumed me. But I kept on, knowing that my job was awesome and I was doing fine, so why change that? I wanted to be like the bloggers and authors and designers that are on top of the world and loving it and preaching to the dreamers below them that they can do it too! That it will be totally worth the late nights and hard work and will be incredible. But the pressures of all the work I was doing and the promises I’d made and just the sheer fact that I had started and was running my own business were making my job un-awesome. It wasn’t fun anymore. I wasn’t on top of the world. I wasn’t loving it.

As much as my dreams had always been to work work work all the way up to my grave, I didn’t want it anymore. I wanted fun. I wanted relaxation. I wanted me time. I wanted to remember who I was before my business took over my life. I wanted, no, I NEEDED balance.

So I took a step back. I started the Collaboreat, a website focused on two things I loved and have fun with- food and travel. I started reading books again. I got back in the kitchen to experiment with food. I pulled out my dusty camera to improve my skills. I designed stuff just for fun. I spent a lot of time with my husband, talking about non-work stuff.

And yeah, my business took a hit. We had to learn to live with less money as I took on less and less clients. I struggled with the guilt of blogging less and never sending out my newsletters. I felt bad spending money when I wasn’t making a lot. I got less design inquiries and interest as my marketing efforts were weak at best.

But I am oh so happy. I crocheted a scarf! My photography actually looks decent! I’ve created some new recipes for myself! I designed some fun prints for my house! I’m having lots of fun and feeling more like myself than I have in a long time. It’s wonderful.

So where does that leave my business? It’s still trucking on, I’ve just downgraded from a semi to a Toyota Tacoma. I never have more than three clients at once, I blog when I have something to say, I send out newsletters when there’s news to share, my Twitter and Instagram are no longer arms of my business, I stop working at five every day and don’t work weekends, and I’m working on new projects that will bring the fun back into my design work.

And it’s wonderful, guys. Here’s to looking back, looking forward, and making life changes that feel oh so good. Thanks for sticking with me through my inconsistencies and changes that ALWAYS seem to be happening. You’re awesome and I love you.