The worst decision I ever made in business came during one of the most important times in my life.
In November of 2010, I had my first child. I had been in business for a little over a year making websites for clients project-to-project, crafting the perfect business model to be a stay-at-home mom. When my son came along, I fully expected to be able to manage my workflow, my work-life-balance, or at the very least, my emotional stability.
None of this happened.
Within six months I had guilt tripped my husband into quitting his job, moving from Southern California (the only place he had ever known), and becoming my business partner 3,000 miles away in Virginia – away from where we met, married and had started our new family.
My business was in no place to support our family as the main source of income. However, the biggest problem and the one I was in denial of for many years was that I had made this life-altering decision while suffering from postpartum depression.
It's only in retrospect that I actually know what it was. At the time it just felt like a crippling inability to do anything or be happy. It was like waking up in a fog, and not like the normal fog that you have as a mom with sleep deprivation, but a tremendous sadness that made it impossible for me to see clearly and make rational decisions.
Postpartum depression (also called Postnatal depression) can onset after the birth of a child and greatly affect your mood, creating high anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, and irrational decisions. It can last for months.
Unfortunately, I didn't feel comfortable speaking about how I felt with other people at the time. I wanted to be able to fix it myself, but I quickly found I was just wandering around in the dark, crashing hard into everything. I didn’t know which way was up.
In the fog of my postpartum depression, I couldn't see clearly that many of the solutions to my problems (which were common issues that many work-from-home moms have), could have been solved with the simple act of hiring a babysitter, hiring part-time staff, or just simply having clearly defined boundaries for my clients and customers.
The Right Decision at the Wrong Time Is the Wrong Decision
At any other time in my business, this move could have been a really good idea. If I had had Agency Mavericks back then, I can only imagine how better prepared I would have been.
But either way you slice it, I was making the decision out of a place of poor mental health. Instead of actually having the conversation about my challenges, seeking therapy or business mentorship, I went to the maximum extreme of running from my problems with emotional impulsivity. I was drowning and gasping for air when all I needed was for someone to call me out, help me stand and show me the pool was only 3 feet deep.
I emerged from my depression after a few months into our new life with an ability to see the tragic consequences of what I had done. We had almost drained our savings, had the worst fights of our entire marriage, and lost my father-in-law to a sudden heart-attack 3,000 miles away, unable to be there to say goodbye.
This story does have a positive ending. Through a lot of communication and couples therapy, my husband and I pulled through. We got through it together. Today my husband is happily employed by a great company (not mine, clearly ;), I have a fantastic babysitter and part-time staff, along with two more kids!
My Three Common Rules When Making Decisions
Through my experience, I’ve come to construct three of rules that I now live by when I make decisions. I want to share them in the hope that they will help guide you when faced with difficult choices or stressful situations in your life.
1. Find Accountability
The first rule is to have accountability. It starts with being clear about your goals, needs, challenges and roadblocks with someone who is your main support (a spouse, partner, best friend or parent). The accountability doesn’t mean that they are there to give advice; they are just there to be your eyes and ears and to call you out when you are not following the path you’ve communicated to them that you want to be on.
My husband knows my challenges, and if he sees I’m opening the computer late at night, he calls me out. Because I’ve acknowledged that he is my accountability partner, and we’ve had this discussion, I don’t snap at him, I snap my computer shut.
2. Seek Out Like-minded Community Support
The second rule is that you need to have a good, solid support group of like-minded individuals, specifically in the business/industry that you are in. At the time of my postpartum depression, I had no community. I had no outside support from people who truly understood my business and my situation.
If I had had the people in my life then that I have today, all of them would have unanimously told me not to make a move across country (and hire my husband) to escape my problems. The advice would have started with asking questions about resolving my business issues, helping me to see past my personal struggles and solve the business issues first before a massive location and business partner change.
When reaching out to the community, however, keep in mind that if people don't know what you're struggling with personally, they can easily give you the wrong advice. It's up to you, to be honest, and convey if you are in a state of mind that could affect your decision making. This should be among a trusted group that you feel will support you being transparent.
3. Give Yourself the Gift of Time
The third rule is to give decision-making it's due time. I know that if I’m feeling rushed, that's never a good indicator, especially if it's coupled with a poor mental state.
People tend to make rash decisions out of the emotion of the moment. Forcing yourself to use this rule of time also gives you perspective.
Apply this to your emails as well. Never fire emails off emotionally the same day you receive the trigger one (if possible). Save the draft of the email. Give yourself some sleep and some time to allow perspective on the situation and the ability to approach it with a better state of mind. I can guarantee that when you come back to the email the next day, you’ll be glad you did!
Having that someone in your life – whether it's your spouse, your partner, your best friend or a parent – know the rules that you have set for yourself helps to hold you accountable when making decisions. Being part of a larger community and a group of like-minded people is also key to getting that perspective on the decision and whether it's right for your business. Finally, time is the ultimate aid to taking a step back and not making a rash decision at the moment.
Action Steps: Write it Down!
To better aid, your “accountability partner” and the community you are a part of, make a list of all the challenges that you're currently having in your business, the ones you find greatly affect the decisions you make. Share that list with someone you trust. Don’t ask for the advice, rather ask that they make sure to speak up and hold you accountable when they feel you succumbing to struggles that compromise your business.
These are not easy conversations to have, and I recommend you do them via email if it's hard to have a conversation face-to-face. The important thing is that you be receptive to those you trust to help guide you on navigating your delicate decisions. Reach out to community, reach out for help and know that even when you are struggling, those who care for you will always rise to support you.
A Note From the Author...I’ve shared information in this post that I’ve previously kept very private. My intention for doing this is to raise awareness, reduce stigma and start to reach as many people in the WordPress community as possible who are affected by mental health issues.
Please share this post, or leave me a comment if it resonates with you. It’s our intention at Agency Mavericks that all the content we publish as part of our Mental Health Month reaches as many website consultants (and beyond) as possible.