You’re a young entrepreneur on a mission. You’re setting out to build a career, boldly stepping into your own space, like an artist set on outdoing the people who influenced you. There’s one gigantic problem: You’ve never done this before. There’s no safety net, and the stress is palpable. Everything is on your shoulders in a sink-or-swim environment. Either learn how to cope with the stress, focus and excel, or fail.
It’s exactly this type of thinking that can lead to a breakdown. Stress get worse when you think about the consequences of succumbing to stress. This is a vicious feedback loop. By admitting the idea of failure into your brain, you’re opening yourself up to failure, and your heart races as anxiety overcomes you.
Before you reach for the Xanax, realize millions of entrepreneurs have been through this before. There are mentors out there who can help. There are tactics you can use to cope with stress. Learn how to solve the stress problem, and you learn how to do what entrepreneurs do best: solve problems. Stress may never entirely go away, but believe it or not, it can be the impetus for learning a whole new set of skills.
Striking the Work-Life Balance
Like a tightrope walker, balance helps you achieve your goal. Try crossing the Grand Canyon on a rope without paying any attention to how the rope feels beneath your feet. You’ll fall. Try looking down at the rope the entire time. You’ll fall. The key is to strike a balance between a view of the end game and the immediacy of each step. The same applies to the life of an entrepreneur.
Here are some essential tips on achieving a work-life balance as an entrepreneur:
- Learn how to say “no”: You can’t do everything; choose priorities based on a combination of instinct and calculation, and say no to requests that aren’t high priority
- Exercise, meditate, and breathe: Set aside time each day to forget about work and take care of yourself; exercise, meditation and deep-breathing are all excellent stress relievers
- Use apps: With the right combination of apps you can save time on fundamental tasks— such as setting appointments—which will give you more time for higher-level thinking; make a list of basic tasks that take time each day, then search for apps that can help
- Think passion: What part of your goal really excites you and stokes your passion? Concentrate on your passion and use your passion to motivate your day-to-day routine
- Surround yourself with the right people: Even if it’s just one other person at the beginning, find someone you can work with who can handle some of the day-to-day responsibilities and stressors
With people in Silicon Valley working 80 hour weeks and constant calls to innovate, a positive work-life balance isn’t in vogue right now. But if stress is driving you up the wall, work-life balance will help you achieve more in less time because your brain will be a more fertile ground for productivity.
Mindfulness is a big part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is an alternative therapy counselors often use with their patients. Meditation is also part of the alternative/complementary therapy mix, and it’s great for those times of day when you’re taking a break. Think of mindfulness like meditation during activity. In that sense, mindfulness is well suited to the entrepreneur. It allows you to be highly active and helps you cope with stress at the same time.
Mastering mindfulness is very much like learning how to play music or sports. In fact, there’s very little difference. Here’s a breakdown:
- Start by closing your eyes and noting the texture, smell, and other sensual attributes of an object; try having someone hand you the object while your eyes are closed; do this without applying any sort judgment to the object’s attributes
- Now note your bodily sensations in and of themselves; start at the top of your head and go down to your toes; no judgment
- Extend mindfulness to your own thoughts, recognize the nature of your thoughts, even categorize them, but don’t judge them; let them go
- Extend further to your surrounding environment; note attributes of each thing, apply no judgment
This method of being “in the moment” will help you accomplish your goals without holding onto stress. When stress is there, note it, but know it’s neither good nor bad. When you find your mind wandering away from your immediate surroundings, gently call it back like a lost child in the woods.
You’ll find the more you strike a work-life balance and practice mindfulness, the easier things become. This is not setting your ambition and your goals aside. Rather, you’re diving fully into the lake and measuring each stroke towards the other side; you’re on the tightrope with your eyes on the end and your feet on the twine. With a balanced, mindful approach, you have no choice but to make it to the other side.