Not everything is yours to do

By: Rebecca Liston

Every once in a while, I sit back and take stock. I do this quite often, really; I take stock of a lot of things, from my finances to how my furnace is running. But for the purposes of today’s Letter, I want to talk about how I take stock of “What I Am Hearing On The Street.”

Also known as: What’s everyone around me talkin’ about these days? (And I do not mean the horrendous situation at the U.S. border with the children…God help us…what a nightmare!)

I like to look for common messages. Themes. Trends. What do I find my clients saying to me? And what am I replying, more than once? Because if one person needs to hear something, cool. If two need to hear the same thing? Well, then we’re on to something. And if I say something three times? Yep, that’s a trend. And that’s what I often like to write about.

Today’s Letter is about knowing what’s yours to do, and what isn’t.

It’s about discerning which things are happening in your life for YOU, and which things are happening in your life for your WORK.

And it’s about noticing. And making changes only when certain criteria are met; consciously, not reflexively.

And frankly, none of this is particularly easy…so it’s also about communicating THAT, too.


Whoever first coined that phrase, “Make your mess your message” didn’t necessarily do us that many favours.

Maybe this helped forge a way forward in business for those of us who really didn’t have any idea what we wanted to do in our work. Maybe it supported some of us to make a forward move when we’d been stuck for years trying to figure out just what the heck our niche actually was. Maybe it was just simpler to imagine that we would always be helping people who were “3 steps behind us on our journey” as it gave us something to hold onto as a client avatar when really, we weren’t certain of our Purpose in our work…

Because on the face of it, there’s value to it. It’s true that we are able to help people with the very issues we ourselves have dealt with in ways that those who haven’t, can’t. And it’s also cool to think of taking a rather crappy thing that may have occurred in your life, and spinning it to the positive in order to help others with those same things.

So yes, there is value in that directive. But it’s the type of directive that has an expiry date. And here’s why:

Life is ever-changing. As people, we will be impacted by a constant and steady stream of Life Events that will forever change us in ways both subtle and not-so-subtle. We are, as adventurers, also Gatherers of Experiences, and as such, we are no strangers to discovering new things, new ways of being, new ways of doing.

So what happens if “Make your mess your message” is your guiding principle in your business?

Well, dear reader, it means that the constant and steady stream of Life Events that impact you personally will also impact your business, and while you may be growing as a person based on these Events, your business, on the other hand, will suffer.

Not all Life Events are meant to impact your work.

Sometimes the shizzle that happens to you in your life is simply meant for YOU, not for your work.

You are a financial planner. Your mother dies in hospice. You are not necessarily meant to sell your company and become a hospice worker.

You are a chiropractor. You have a baby. You are not necessarily meant to only serve pregnant women forevermore.

You are a photographer. You get a dog. You are not necessarily meant to only take jobs that involve taking photos of folks and their pups.

You are a life coach. You take a course in Reiki. You are not necessarily meant to do Reiki with all of your clients from this point forward.

The things that happen?

Sometimes they just belong to YOU. For YOUR growth. For YOUR learning. For YOUR development. For YOUR life experience. Your clients aren’t YOU.

The things you learn?

Sometimes they’re just for you. For your understanding. For your entertainment. For your benefit. Your clients may not be served by them at all.

The things that excite you? That thrill you? That inspire you? That make you look at the world in new and exciting ways?

Yep. Often just for you.

You are not your work.

Sometimes stuff happens just for you, not your clients.

And frankly? It’s important to learn to discern the difference.


So which messes, exactly, should find themselves impacting your message? Which things that you learn or discover will actually serve your clients, and therefore make it worthwhile to change your web copy or your program or offers?

The ones that won’t “go away.” The ones that feel like your “Calling.”

When I started my career as a Homeopath, it made sense that I would take what I had learned in my life to date and apply it to my practice. So I took my former work in high-risk obstetrics and gynecology and focused my practice on women’s health and fertility. It MADE SENSE to do this, because, as noted above, I didn’t know where else to start, so the directive of “make your mess your message” worked for me!

Now, what some of you know (and many of you don’t), is that I was also navigating life with anxiety and depression, which, based on later events, would culminate in severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Did it occur to me to work with folks with anxiety and depression since, well, I would be “making my mess my message?”

You bet it did.

But I was keen not to change everything and act reflexively. I wanted to be sure it was the right thing to do before I changed my entire marketing plan and message. I was well-known for my work in women’s health. Was now really the time to change all that?

So I stayed the course, kept my focus on women’s health and fertility, and I watched what would happen next.

Slowly but surely, the clients I was working with who came to me with hormonal issues began talking about their panic attacks. Women began sharing stories of having been suicidal in their teens, and never fully recovering.

Clients with anxiety and depression just kept showing up. It would not “go away,” and so, it seemed to me, that obviously it was a change worthy of being made, and I ended my career as a Homeopath with a practice dedicated to the treatment of anxiety and depression in trauma survivors because, well, they kept coming, and so I just knew it was mine to do.

Now at some point in my career, I also learned a few other skills. I studied Reiki, Regression, Shamanic Medicine, and more modalities than I can even recall.

And in these cases, in every single one of them (!), I didn’t do so well in making conscious choices for my business and my clients. I was so freakin’ excited about everything I was learning that I leapt out of each course and immediately created new programs! New offers! New marketing materials! My enthusiasm for what I learned was over-taking my judgment: “I have to get this out into the world! Everyone will benefit! This will be so amazing! People will love it! I am going to change the world!”

But I was wrong.

If enthusiasm about a new modality was all that it took to sell it, then I would have been booked solid for years. But no. Hardly anyone signed up, ever.

You see, these things never really “stuck around.” I was always looking at the next course, the next modality. Eventually, I tired of trying to market 1000 different tools and realized I needed to stick with the thing that DID stick around, and I retired from Homeopathic Practice as a Homeopath. Period. Full-stop. Not a Reiki Master, not a Shaman, not a Regression Facilitator. Almost no one ever came to me for those things. They were not mine to do. Period. Full-stop.


Making these decisions wasn’t always easy, and sometimes, as you can see, I got it all wrong.

So here’s what I learned to ask myself along the way:

1. Is this “thing” going away? And give yourself time to watch and actually SEE if that new thought, that new course, that new way of working really sticks — and I don’t mean a few weeks! I mean years!

2. Does this “thing” feel deeply personal to me? Because if so, then it likely really IS just for you and you alone.

3. Would what I have learned actually benefit the people that I am meant to serve, or am I just thinking that it would because I am so excited by it? An easy way to play with this is to test it, lightly, gently, with your clientele. When I first learned to do Business Intuition, I was hesitant to use the tool with all of my clients as I had learned by this point in my career that sometimes, things really aren’t for my clients and I wanted to be sure. So I did demo sessions and I did them for free, separately from my normal coaching work. I tested it out. Followed up with each person and asked them their thoughts about it. And then made the decision to incorporate it fully into my model when I knew it was truly of value to them.

4. Is making a change in my work and how I offer my services/market my business etc. advisable at this time? Frankly, there are times to make such changes, and times that you would be ill-advised to do so. Make changes only from a place of stability, not from a place of desperation. Changes like these will impact you financially, mentally, and emotionally. Make sure you’re prepared for that (and in doing so, you’re buying yourself more time to ensure you’re acting consciously, not reflexively).

5. Does this new thing, this new passion, this potential new path, align with my Mission in my Work? Does it align with my Vision for my Business? Because if not, then let it be just for you, and you alone.

Ask yourself these questions before assuming that the things that are happening in your life are really meant to impact your work, and see where things go from there. Remember, not all is yours to do. And that’s quite okay.

Rebecca Liston is cofounder and business intuitive at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. She specializes in anchoring folks in a clear-eyed understanding of which path is theirs for the taking. She’s got one foot in the land of the subtle and unseen, and the other foot firmly planted in the land of ruthless pragmatism. Oh, and she swears like a sailor, which makes us love her more.

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