How taking a pause can spark joy in your practiceby
Life as a practice owner is busy. The last 18 months have only added to the day-to-day stress. That’s why it’s important to pause every now and again and reflect. Lucy Cohen explains the life-changing magic of capturing moments of joy.
As I write this it’s 8:30 am and I’m on both the 8:22 to London Paddington and my third coffee. And I am full of joy (and caffeine).
I’m en route to the Accounting Excellence Awards and I’m unbelievably excited about seeing people in real life again, as well as meeting people who I have only ever known in 2D on my screen, for the first time.
This little fizz of excitement in my belly got me thinking about how, as practice owners, it’s only too easy to forget to take a breath and feel the joy. Especially over the last couple of years, where many of us have been frenetically busy and feeling like we’re fighting fires rather than making tangible progress.
Even if you’ve had an arguably terrible year (raises hand), I bet that there have been moments of genius, or joy, or hilarity that you may not have been present enough to tap into. I’ve certainly realised that I haven’t made the space in my brain to properly appreciate the little moments of joy that make this bizarre life worth the effort.
So, here are the little things I’ve taken the time to absorb as things that, in the words of Marie Kondo, bring me joy - and why they do.
Younger me hated being alone. I felt that if I hadn’t seen another person in a day then that day was a waste of time. I think it boils down to having not been entirely comfortable with myself - having my worth validated by an interaction with another human was very important to me back then.
When I started Mazuma and needed to travel I still hated doing it alone. Famously, I have the world’s worst sense of direction and I found navigating the world as a solo young woman overwhelming and scary.
Now though, it’s something I cherish. The feeling of setting up camp on the train and getting my laptop out still makes me smile (look everyone, I’m a real grown-up!). Checking into a hotel alone makes me feel empowered. Eating dinner at a restaurant or enjoying a solo glass of red wine makes me feel sophisticated and in control.
Lucy Cohen will be speaking at AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December. Register now to attend her sessions.
I can’t quite identify when my shift in perception of these activities changed, but I think it’s probably around the time that I felt the business had started to have a really strong brand identity. The business, just like me, had grown up.
So now, whenever I do these activities I take a moment to pause and think about how far I have come - both personally and in terms of the business. I no longer see myself as a scrappy 23-year-old scraping by to make ends meet. I’ve grown into my identity as a leader and adult and these little moments make me feel proud of that.
Chairing a meeting
In my life before Mazuma in my early 20s, attending meetings was such a novel thing. The thrill of the meeting rooms, the little cups of slightly burned coffee, the rustle of packets of biscuits - I loved it.
Then when I started running a business, meetings became a source of great inconvenience. They always seemed to be on other people’s terms, they interrupted getting the work done (we all know the balance of working both in and on the business), and every hour spent in a meeting felt like I had to add an extra hour to the start or end of the day to make the time back.
Even now, some meetings don’t feel all that productive when you don’t get the agenda or control the timings correctly.
But every now and again I chair a meeting that is just an absolute barnstormer. All the participants have brought their A-game, the conversations are productive and engaging and we all leave with clear actions and an understanding of how much progress we’ve made since last time.
That feels sooooo good!
It’s another one of those moments where I feel like I can see myself from outside my own body.
“Who is this accomplished and articulate professional woman running that meeting? Oh - it’s me!”
That moment brings me real joy. I can see how much I have developed as a leader over the last 15 years. It’s not often that we stop to think about our own personal development outside of the necessary CPD, or away from the development of our teams. But those moments where you feel like you’re absolutely bossing it should be bookmarked and cherished to call upon when you have a rough day.
It recently occurred to me that I have spent my life avoiding silence. In the car, at home, as I work - I’ve always provided myself with background noise under the cover of saying that it helped me focus.
A couple of months ago I figured out that actually, it’s so that I don’t have to spend too much time alone with my own thoughts. As a person with anxiety, I’ve had to learn to manage intrusive thoughts or catastrophising of situations in my brain - so being in silence has always felt a little too risky.
Lately, I have started to try to allow myself some time in silence. I’ve never quite managed to get good at meditation (noisy brain!), but I feel like this might be the first step to it. And you know what? I’ve started to enjoy the silent moments - because it feels like a real privilege to have silence in a world that is so loud for most of the time.
As a child, I never understood why my Dad, a professional musician, used to enjoy driving without the radio on. His whole world was full of the noise of a literal orchestra and the cacophony of his children. A moment of silence was a treat. Dad - I stand corrected.
What brings you joy?
So what are the little things that bring you joy that you could tap into? If you’ve never thought about it, then this is your sign to take a pause and figure out just a few things that will ground you and keep you present.
It won’t make your life any less busy, but it will give you a pause and permission to see how far you’ve come
Don't miss Lucy Cohen at AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December. She will be debating timesheets with Reza Hooda and Alastair Barlow and will be discussing proven mindfulness tactics you can put in your practice every day.