When I first met women’s financial guru Barbara Stanny, author of Overcoming Underearning and Secrets of Six-Figure Women, she was in the process of researching her next book Sacred Success. As part of the research for this book, she was interviewing 7-figure women, researching whether there were any common trends the rest of us might learn from. What Barbara found is that women who make more than a million dollars have very similar life trajectories that got them from A to B.

The Life Cycle of Seven-Figure Women

When the life cycle begins, the woman is going about her business, living her ordinary life, doing her ho hum thing and usually not earning seven figures. Then something happens. She gets thrust into the life cycle, and a very predictable series of steps ensues. I’m paraphrasing what Barbara told me when we chatted about this, so I’ll use my own words, but in essence, this is her juice. (Hint: Barbara’s work is aimed at women, but I have a strong hunch that this is also the life cycle of 7-figure men!)

Step 1: The Fracture

First, something ruptures. She gets fired. Her spouse or child dies. She winds up with cancer. She loses all her money. Tragedy strikes. It may be subtle. No one but her might be able to see the fracture. But somewhere, it’s there. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Step 2: The Retreat

Shaken out of her complacency, she takes time off and goes into retreat, either literally or figuratively. She leaves her ordinary life, goes on an “Eat, Pray, Love” quest, moves to a cottage in the country, quits her job, leaves her family, climbs a mountain – something that takes her away from it all, at least mentally, so she can heal from the trauma. Again, it may be subtle. She may stay in her comfort zone in ways others can see, but internally, she’s crept out of it into a new place. Her life will never be quite the same again.

I call this time “waiting and becoming”. My friend Amy Ahlers calls it “awaiting further instructions.” Found at this phase of the life cycle, the woman probably earns little and may be confused with what Barbara calls an “underearner.” But the money is coming. She’s just spending it to live off, travel, retreat, and heal. This will wind up being money well invested, if she plays her cards right. But most likely, she won’t be certain of this at the time. It’s a risk she’s taking, with no guarantee of a payoff, either emotionally or financially. She just knows she MUST do it. 

Step 3: The Mission

While retreating, she comes through what I like to call “the narrow place”, a rebirth process that transforms her from one who wanders aimlessly to one who knows exactly where she’s going. She is richly rewarded for being courageous enough to venture into the narrow place, not so much in dollars at this point, but with an even more precious gift – clarity around her life purpose. At this point, she knows her calling, and it’s not just a calling to earn money (though that may be part of it). It’s a calling to be of service, to help people, to change the world – in essence, to be a visionary.

Step 4: Disciplined Action

Once she’s clear on her calling, it’s time to put her ass in the chair. She now knows what she’s here on this earth to do. She’s a woman on a mission. She’s got a world to change. And in all likelihood, she’s flat broke at this point, having spent her money healing, retreating, and finding her calling. So now is the time to write the business plan, create the website, draft the book proposal, get on social media, find the investors, go to networking events, and do whatever it takes to bring her vision to life. (This is the phase of the life cycle that inspired my business partner Amy Ahlers and I to create Visionary Ignition Switch, a step by step guide of disciplined action for visionaries ready to get their asses in the chair.

In Step 4, a visionary may start feeling discouraged. After all, years may have elapsed since The Rupture. It may even be years since The Retreat. She may start to doubt her mission. She may be ready to throw in the towel and go back to how things were when she was complacent in her ordinary life. She may be tempted to get back together with the husband she divorced. Or go back to the soul-sucking job she quit. Or do something – anything – to end the pain of the uncertainty. Because she doesn’t yet know she’s about to earn seven-figures. She’s terrified… but something in her has faith. In her gut, firmly planted right next to her fear, is a deep inner knowing that she’s on the right path, even if she doesn’t know where she’s going.

If you catch a visionary in this phase, she may look like a crazy person. Most likely, she needs a haircut, a massage, a good long bath, and possibly, some really great sex. She’s probably broke, exhausted, and seeming a bit ungrounded. But mind you, this phase is temporary. It’s a means to an end, and it’s absolutely critical. If only she knew then what was about to happen in Step 5… 

Step 5: The Payout

After a measured, often extended period of disciplined action that may feel like it’s getting her nowhere – Voila! The money starts rolling in – and we’re not talking about just a little money. She goes from $10,000 to $100,000 to $300,000 to 7-figures-plus, not because she’s focused on making a boatload of money, but because she’s doing what she loves, in service to Source, helping others, bringing her calling and vision to life.

The Life Cycle Of A Visionary

When I heard Barbara describe this, I had just transitioned from Step 3 to early Step 4 in my own visionary life cycle. I had just found my calling and had finally started taking action steps towards bringing my vision to life, but I was still in the broke, slightly frustrated, often fearful, frequently paralyzed stage, knowing there was no guarantee that I’d ever make it to Step 5. Some in my online community had confessed that they were watching my journey like they were watching a train wreck, unclear whether I was an inspiration or a cautionary tale.

Now, I’m certainly not a 7-figure earner yet, but I’m well into six-figures in Step 5, so I can finally take a deep breath and look back with a smile, wishing I could go back to the Lissa of Step 2 and give her a pep talk. If I could do that, I’d tell myself to relax and enjoy the waiting and becoming, to surrender into finding my calling, instead of trying to force my way into it, to feel peace even as I’m implementing disciplined action, and even to feel grateful for Step 1, knowing the gifts it brought me.

Making Peace With Where You Are

If you’re a visionary – whether you’re male or female – and you find yourself somewhere before Step 5 on the life cycle of a visionary, take a deep breath. You may feel like you should be in Step 4, when you’re only in Step 2. You may be yearning for Step 3, when Step 1 just happened. You may be jonesing for Step 5 when there’s still more Step 4 work to do.

It all has to happen in perfect timing, and although things don’t always proceed in a linear fashion, they often do, and you can’t skip the steps.

Instead, trust that you’re on the right path, even if you’re not sure where you’re going. Be willing to take the risks you must take in order to move from step to step, knowing that the payout is worth it – emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

Remember, like the life cycle of a butterfly, to be what you must, you must give up what you are. This process can be scary, painful, disorienting, and lonely. Like the caterpillar going into the chrysalis, you might feel like you’re dissolving into nothing but goo with no guarantee that you will come out the other side.

But you will, darling. I promise.

Fly, butterfly, fly!

Sprouting wings,

P.S. I’ve been blessed with so much support and mentorship along my journey, but much of it came much later than I wish it did. I’ve made hundreds of mistakes – BIG mistakes, career-threatening mistakes, bank account-threatening mistakes, sanity-threatening mistakes. Some were so big I almost threw in the towel. 

That’s why I co-created the FREE Webinar: Red Hot Secrets to Fire Up your Message, Money and Meaning in the World so you can get on your visionary path, learn from my mistakes and fly! Register for free now and take off into full flight.

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  1. Shasta

    Beautiful summary Lissa! I read this blog and it was the perfect encouragement I needed to hear. My Fracture was so huge and life-changing ten years ago…. but every step you described mirrors the path that I’m on. Hard to imagine 7 figures coming, but I can already see the joy and abundance that comes with knowing you are doing what you were meant to be doing. Thanks for being one of those women, too.


  2. Allison Crow

    After our talk I had this vision…. and now with this post can CLEARLY SEE… that at this moment I have one foot on the shores of step 4 and one on the SHIP ABOUT TO SET SAIL of step 5. The ship is moving on out and the straddle is getting wider! It really is time to think it, feel it, see it, BE it! I wanna sail on that ship!
    xoxoxo and a beautiful post. Can’t want to encourage the world to join you and Amy in the next round of VIS!

  3. Joanna Warwick

    Wow this was like reading journey – I’m in my mission step and working my butt off.. It was so good to read this, it came beautifully at the same time as I was reaffirmed elsewhere that I’m on the right path and keep having faith and hope.. Thank you fellow butterfly and I look forward to the reward for my labours and the pure joy and freedom of living my destiny 😉 x

  4. Wren

    I have just made it into Step Three. I have the Purpose, but I am still trying to figure out the manifestation of that purpose – pick the road to drive my ass in the chair down. I have an idea, but not an all-encompassing obsession yet as to how to best achieve my purpose. Thank you for this post – it gives me hope that I’m NOT losing my mind! 😉 I will check out the seminars you linked!

  5. Kuda

    Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your weblog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing in your feeds and even I achievement you get entry to constantly rapidly.

  6. Kat

    This is Completely, Exactly, Precisely what I am experiencing right now. This posting is Uncanny. I left Step 2 (during which i quit my job. Twice.) and entered Step 3 along with the super moon at the end of September. wow. Barbara as always is _Awesome_.

  7. Mandy

    Oh man! Thank goodness there is a name for this process and I am so grateful to hear that it can end in 7 FIGURES!! I’m still in Step 2…wanting and wishing and waiting to move to Step 3…but you along with my wonderful mentors have encouraged me that everything will happen in time. The paralyzing, completely overwhelming feeling of your whole life turning upside down is crystal clear to me…and so is the hope and vivid sense of something bigger about to cross my path. Can’t wait and thank you so much for this article!!!

  8. Aurora Rose Truth

    Thanks so much for sharing this Lissa, delivered by the Universe at the perfect time 🙂 With one foot in stage 3, the other in 4, looking forward to the big bucks and enjoying the ride with love & gratitude 🙂

  9. SomaCeleste

    I’m in step 4. Yaaaaayyyy! I already knew it in my soul, but it’s also sooo encouraging to have the steps plainly spelled out like this– this post is mega positive affirmation. Looking forward to what comes next! 🙂

  10. Lady Cee Cee

    Well said, this speaks volumes to me. I am in the beginning of Step 4. I know why I am here and what my calling is, just need to know what to do with clarity to manifest it.


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