As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably struggled to stay positive and focused at one time or another. Starting a business requires you to manage thoughts of disaster and feelings of discouragement. It can isolate you. You must endure the inevitable ups and downs and make yourself vulnerable in many settings with many people. You must defy the warnings from naysayers and instead strike out and brave the free market.
Manage your thought life: to be successful, entrepreneurs must consider risks. They must allow these thoughts to play out in their minds, which means they must observe themselves in the hypothetical scenarios, challenged. If the entrepreneur doesn’t maintain objectivity when entertaining these thoughts, fear and discouragement can take hold. To manage your mental health and consider risk at the same time, learn how to play out possible failure without surrendering completely to it. This means trusting yourself to either prevent disaster, or weather storms with courage, serenity, and perseverance. Continually remind yourself that you’ve climbed bigger mountains, and this one will only make you stronger.
Say aloud and write down what you want to happen with your business: speaking goals aloud commits your mind to working towards them. Writing them strengthens that commitment. Consider having the written goals visible in your work area. These are more impactful than trite motivational posters, because they have special meaning for you. And whatever you do, DO NOT speak aloud your fears. DO NOT write down the things you are afraid will happen – at least not in graphic detail. This gives negative outcomes power inside your mind. You must consider risk, but that doesn’t mean you must meditate on possible disaster day after day.
Find other entrepreneurs and support them: entrepreneurship is isolating. To build an effective emotional support system, reach out to other entrepreneurs and help them where and however you can. Helping others helps you. It focuses your mind on the needs of others, as opposed to yours, met or unmet.
Play; oh my, yes. Play a lot. The whole reason you’ve done this is to make your dreams come true, and what could be more hopeful and childlike than that? You’ve decided to ignore the dangers and press on to success, to create new products, a new business, with the courage of a playful and industrious mind. Nurture that part of yourself every day by playing at things you enjoy. If you are a role player, engage in role play with your team when business planning. If you’re a storyteller, indulge in that for your marketing. If you enjoy taking care of others, do that at every opportunity. Volunteer in the community and tell people about it. If you love sports, do not give that up in favor of work. If you’re an artist, create for yourself, not just for your business. Do your best to integrate play with the work you do so you’re playing all the time, not just weekends and holidays. With the long hours entrepreneurs work, this is critical.
We once believed that we had to earn the privilege of play by working hard, but play is food for the brain. We can’t work well if we haven’t played. In fact, trying to do it the old way might be why mental health is at an all-time low around the world. We’re spending our energy working, but never replenishing that energy through play. It’s depressing.
Release tension in healthy ways: sometimes entrepreneurs have to do unpleasant tasks. Collecting overdue payments or resolving conflict with key partners is rough. Sometimes your most trusted employees leave to take advantage of an opportunity in their career. Sometimes a trusted mentor moves on or retires. Entrepreneurs must push through and meet deadlines with little sleep. They must often do all of it alone, because everyone else has their own family commitments and responsibilities. It is exhausting. Frustration builds. Find ways to release that frustration through creative projects, hitting a heavy bag, or taking long walks. Throw food at a drawing of that teacher who told you you’d never amount to anything – whatever you have to do to let it out. Steward your down time with the same militancy with which you guard your business.
Let it go: sometimes opportunities don’t turn out to be what they promised. Sometimes employees let you down. And sometimes employees are more capable of taking on some of your work than you think. Sometimes things that once demanded that you “helicopter” and micro-manage every detail don’t need you anymore. Sometimes a customer becomes more trouble than they’re worth. Sometimes a partner is more trouble than they’re worth. Learn to let things, customers, and employees go. You are only one person and you can only carry so many burdens. That creative drive and genius that made you leap out in the first place? Put that to work on finding ways to let go, delegate, and move on to bigger and better things.
Enjoy the journey as much as the destination: life is in progress! Allow yourself moments of unfettered joy. Lighten up! Laugh! Eat that macaroni with gusto, knowing that you are doing it for the benefit of your future and because you believe in your dream. Drive that old junker with pride. Make jokes about the life of an entrepreneur and have fun with the foibles and disappointments. Laughter is the best medicine!