I love the fresh start feeling that comes with the fall. For me, the fall (and especially  September), has always represented the signal of something new — something to look forward to. This year, my plan was to work hard until the end of July, use August as a planning and recharging month, and then kick off September with renewed energy and a motivation to really move my business forward.

Well, August arrived and my plans immediately changed. I wrapped up my last bit of work in July and then I immediately felt exhausted. I realized that I didn’t have the mental energy for planning. I did, however, have a huge capacity for recharging. So that’s what I did.

Then came September, and I didn’t have my usual fresh start feeling. What?! Turns out that the calendar rolling into September doesn’t guarantee a fresh start feeling. I think that I took for granted that I would feel a sense of renewal in September because that is how I had always felt before. Not feeling this way this year got me thinking about how fresh start moments happen and I wondered if there was a way to set myself up for it. This is what worked for me.

I listened to my body. Fin and I were on Hornby Island for 3 weeks in August. There is something about being away from home (and especially being on Hornby) that makes it easier to unplug. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed a break — a real break. For the first week there, I spent most of my time reading or knitting. I’d do this for hours each day, and I never got bored. And surprisingly, I also didn’t feel guilty about spending my time this way.

Last year’s version of me would have done these things for a week but I would have done them with guilt. All of the “should” phrases would be constantly invading my mind. I should be on a hike, I should be thinking about my business, I should be going to the beach, etc. But this time, I didn’t let that should-y voice in. My body and energy level were saying take a break (and give your brain a break), and I listened. 

A different kind of fresh start. I returned to Vancouver ready for a fresh start. But it was not the fresh start I had been expecting. I had been anticipating that my fresh start would look like a clean slate and feel like a readiness to get things done. Break time would be over and productivity and hard work would be in front of me.

I did return to Vancouver more rested than when I left. But my tank was not full. I’m not sure if it was even half full. So I decided to do something I’d never done before. I gave myself permission to use my fresh-start September as a well-being kick off. Rather than planning my life around work, I chose to lead with lifestyle. I prioritized the activities that feed my soul (meditation, walks with my dog, going to boxing class, social connections, etc.) and I then fit my work life around those activities.

I decided to take the pressure off of building my business (aka working all of the time) and instead, chose to manage my energy, fill my tank, and create the mental space to think more than do. The irony is that I am now more productive and creative than I would have been if I had led with work and then tried to fit in my lifestyle activities around my work schedule.

I’m playing with the edges. I’m well into fall and this fresh start moment (now rebranded as my fresh start quarter). It is restful and also an adjustment. I tell myself that this slower pace is what I need, that this will give me the space to create and build, and that this flexibility and freedom with my time is one of the reasons why I chose self-employment. And when I’m feeling good, I am proud of myself for honouring my boundaries, I am open to possibilities, and I feel energized and creative. But these reasons are frequently met with guilt for not working more, shame and embarrassment in admitting to others that I am choosing a slower pace, and fear that I will find myself in an unsustainable financial situation.

I’m trying to stay present to all of these feelings. It’s a process and a practice. I accept that I will toggle back and forth — a lot. I try not to let my inner critic get too loud. When it comes into my head, I tell it, “No thank you.”

How do you initiate fresh start moments? What’s one thing you can do to begin a fresh start process?