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You are dreaming of taking the next step. Start a business. Take another direction. More freedom. More fulfilment. More in line with who you are and what you can do. But you keep being stuck in your current position. You are not sure what exactly that “next step” is. What you could do. If you have the talents for it. Or what idea or way would work best for you. It is too much. Too daunting. So you stay where you are.

Been there, done that. It took me almost two years (yes, two years!) to take the next, giant step I needed to take. Because it was frightening. Because I kept hiding and playing it small. I wish for you that it won’t take (another) two years, so here are four important factors that have helped me a lot with finally understanding my true powers and starting the business I have today.

1. Ask yourself: What do I want

This question works in two different ways. The first one is about focussing on what you want, instead of telling yourself what you don’t want. This new perspective really helped me out a lot. I was actually stuck in negativity because I kept focussing on all the things I didn’t want anymore in my life. It was difficult at first. If you don’t want ice cream for dessert, do you then want apple pie or chocolate mousse or fruit? What helped was writing things down every day. In the beginning, I could only come with vague ideas, but gradually I started to be more specific. By writing it down, I could see themes and words that kept coming back, giving me more clarity on what I wanted. So don’t say: I don’t want to feel tired and upset anymore. But formulate how you do want to feel: happy, fulfilled, energetic. And try to describe what that means to you. Don’t focus on: I don’t want to work for a crappy boss. Describe how you would like to work in the future: in my own office, with a team, flexible hours.

The other way this question works really well is that we tend to focus on what we want to do. That question is framing our brain to think about specific jobs and types of business. What you want is about designing your new life specifically to your wishes. Also, what you want might be easier to answer then what you want to do. If you knew that, you would probably already have done that.

2. Know yourself wholeheartedly

I always loved retail. My grandparents were in retail and so were my mother and uncles. I was actually this close to opening a shop in children’s clothing years ago. Luckily, just in time, I realised it wouldn’t make me happy. I love having flexibility and a store has fixed opening hours. It would never have worked for me. Understand your needs and desires as a person, so you can work with that (or around it) in your business.

The same is true for understanding and owning up to your talents. Many women start a business that feels safe. It is something they have done before, so they know they can do it. But is it a true talent, one where you can flourish and grow? Step out of the safe zone and start discovering what else you can do. Think about what you have done so far and write down what you truly loved. Where you were successful. Now try to identify why. What specific talent did you use? What result was so rewarding for you? One thing I discovered, was that I was the happiest in situations where I could make a difference in someone’s life, especially when it was about helping them to feel more positive about themselves. This has become one of my leitmotifs in everything I do. Make a list and try to unravel what makes you happy and where you provide value.

3. Leave your comfortzone

The biggest reason women keep doing work they don’t like (or stay in marriages that don’t work, for that matter), is that they are afraid to leave. Sometimes, knowing what you have – even if it is not working for you – is easier then taking a step into the unknown. Years will pass and you still didn’t take the plunge. You keep being stuck in your work, in your life, convincing yourself it is not that bad or you are just waiting fort hat perfect moment. The perfect moment will never come.

I was stuck in my comfort zone as well. Till one day I thought: if I stay in my comfort zone, what will my life be like five years from now? I was not happy about that perspective. If I would continue to do the same thing that I had done for so long, the result would stay the same: feeling unfulfilled and unhappy. It was scary, but I kept thinking about the vision I had for my life and with that in mind took leaps and jumps till I got where I wanted to be.

If you want to change, if you want to grow there is only one thing you can do: get out of your comfort zone and start taking action. If you are not ready yet to take big steps, start with smaller ones. Practice until you are ready for the big leap. So make the decision to leave your comfort zone today to move towards the bright vision you have for your life.

4. Find the right support

Talking to your friends, asking advice from your husband and family members, might seem a good idea, but in reality, it is not always the case. Friends might know you and sometimes they even really get you, but they have their own way of looking at life, their own fears, their own stigmas. That doesn’t make them the best advisors.

I have experienced this as well. I had a friend who’s input I had always admired. Till one day, she basically told me to stay put because life was hard and I just had to deal with it. I realised that this was her own way of looking at life, her own fear for change. This put her advice in a completely different perspective. Friends might not understand your need for change and personal growth. Or even worse, advice against it because they are afraid that when you grow, they might be left behind.

This is why I tried to figure it out all on my own. Thinking I should be able to since I was a business consultant and coach. But nothing is further from the truth. Even the best tennis player in the world still needs guidance to improve, to grow. When I decided to get help from a group coaching program and after that working 1-on-1 with a coach, I was finally able to see what I needed to see and take the right steps. Even now, I am still involved in a group coaching program with women from all over the world. It is a great support system that helps me in a way my family and friends never could (though I love them and could never do without them).

Find your business support system that will help you and support you with an open mind. Whether it is through online communities, local networking or finding a coach or group coaching program (like I did). Know that doing it alone is not giving you the best results.