Don’t get it twisted – mental and emotional toughness isn’t optional. It’s a requirement for you to persevere and build your new business in your first year. The truth is – you will struggle if you aren’t ready for the challenges that come with entrepreneurship. And trust me, they will come. There’s a reason why many entrepreneurs don’t succeed, and it’s not always as simple as ineffective marketing or poor product. It comes down to resiliency, grit, and emotional intelligence; qualities that will power you forward and prepare you to handle the wins and challenges.
When I first launched my business several years ago, I had no idea just how challenging the down times would be. There’s no safety net. And there’s not always someone there to tell you, “Everything’s going to be OK.” But the rewards for trying and making progress are always worth the effort. Success is very much in your control. Resilience means moving forward each day toward your dream without stalling or stopping. It’s about getting better without feeling like every minute needs to be a masterpiece.
Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens writes in his New York Times bestselling book, Resilience:
“You don’t need to know what perfect looks like, just what better looks like. Better is your bearing. Better is enough to point you in the right direction.”
Think about it – an entrepreneurial dream is like signing an oath of commitment to excellence to yourself. That commitment is to follow your vision and bring your best each day by refusing to give in to fear, limiting beliefs, and worry.
By increasing your intrinsic motivation and striving for continuous growth, you push back on the dry periods, doubt, and adversity in looking to acquire new clients. In the same way you need a business plan and marketing strategy, you need a self-care strategy as an entrepreneur.
Seth Godin says, “If it doesn’t move you forward, hesitate then walk away. The short run always seems urgent and a moment where compromise feels appropriate. But in the long run, it’s the good ‘no’s that we remember.”
Be willing to say no to the time-wasters that will drain you mentally and emotionally. I’m talking about unnecessary phone calls, emails, and sales calls that don’t benefit you and certainly don’t align with your goals. By understanding your potential and what you can do to reach it, you’re better able to focus on handling adversity and fear. If you’re going to get started on something, make sure you’ve done your homework and given it a fair evaluation. Nothing is worse than beginning, hesitating, and throwing up your hands in dismay. This leads to dejection and an unwillingness to try again.
It’s important to make smart decisions that empower your spirit and fuel your mindset toward growth and improvement. I’ve found there are five barriers in particular that can absolutely derail an entrepreneurial dream.
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Stress is the accumulation of too many things that cloud our minds and affect our judgment about what’s right. It’s why you’re so much better off focusing on achieving only a select few things at a time. Don’t spread yourself too far thin, or you will live with regret. Learn to delegate to others and focus your energy on what matters most.
Stress is a killer for your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Physically – we’re overwhelmed and less likely to want to break into our workout. Heart racing and muscles tensed up, this can affect our mental health. We’re less likely to believe in ourselves, have confidence, and want to take initiative when we’re stressed. We find distractions and we look to procrastinate. Spiritually – things like finding quiet time in reflection and for meditation are what we need, but the weight of stress affects us emotionally leading to things like worry, doubt, and self-pity.
Stress can cause you to lose sleep and end up less productive the next day. Don’t believe me? Ask one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.
“Mostly, as any of us go through our lives, we don’t need to maximize the number of decisions we make per day,” Bezos explains. “Making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions. If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion.”
Stress is no joke and it’s something to always be mindful of as a major barrier to achieving your dream. The Mayo Clinic talks in particular about uncertainty and also internal and external stress factors that can slow you down. Remember, stress leads to limiting beliefs being major causes of internal stress. Let’s explore what it means to have limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs stop you in your tracks before you even get started. It’s the self-talk you play back in your mind that dooms you and imperils any worthwhile dream. Worse, it’s what you communicate to others that has a compounding effect. What you believe becomes what you say, think, and do. You must speak positive affirmations over your life if you expect to drive positive results.
My publisher gave me a deadline of four months to write my most recent book. The first thing I did was visualize the end result and each day I told myself I could do it. This visualization became an incredibly empowering belief in myself. This belief enabled me to get to the finish line of a tight deadline. Without believing it was possible, I never could have achieved it. If you don’t believe you can do it, you’ve created a self-imposed major barrier to success.
Taking a step back for reflection and processing your emotions is imperative. This reflection and ability to decompress is essential to maintaining momentum and positive energy to overcome the significant barrier that anxiety presents.
You can mix in more relaxation activities. Dr. Cornelia Cremens says in Harvard Health Publishing: “Incorporate mind-body training like yoga, qigong, and meditation. “Anything that slows your body and mind can help manage anxiety and keep it from building up.”
Anxiety will come and go. It really comes down to how well we can manage it. Slow things down and mix in things like meditation and breaks to get fresh air. You deserve it.
Let’s face it, fear comes for all of us. Whether it’s our self-esteem or simply the “Can I make enough money?” question that crosses everyone’s mind, there are always viable, legitimate fears. It’s about using emotional intelligence to our advantage by maintaining self-awareness to understand our emotions. We must stick to a plan and set goals that are guided by time. By doing so, we’re less likely to find emotions steering us strongly toward dejection and doubt.
As we see in this article from HBR: “Emotional self-awareness is a skill that can be learned, and it involves becoming aware of the signs of emotions intruding upon consciousness through feelings and moods, anticipating their impact on thoughts, and using this awareness to limit their effects on decision and action.”
Be willing to look at fear for what it is. It’s only a barrier if you allow yourself to fall victim to negative thinking and worry.
Let’s start out with what this is: a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Impostor syndrome is doubt multiplied. It’s not uncommon for successful, ambitious people to feel this way before they’ve tasted real accomplishment. I’ve learned in studying successful people and interviewing them for my book research that every successful person experiences some degree of impostor syndrome. Keep reminding yourself of what you do well and speaking positive affirmations over what your accomplishments have been and what they will become.
You’ve seen the barriers. Here are five ways to counter each one of these.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Play your vision and definition of success back in your mind each day by communicating this to yourself and others, and by writing invigorating thoughts to revitalize your mind. This, in turn, provides affirmation and hope for what you’re looking to do. When you begin with the end result of what you’re looking to achieve, it makes it easier to focus on the process. When you’re committed, taking action, and reducing wasted time, you’re eliminating stress.
Create “quick wins” each day and you’ll find yourself achieving goals and building momentum. There’s truth in aiming high and setting lofty goals, but there’s also power in setting achievable tasks you know you can knock out with some effort. Sometimes, when we set hard to accomplish goals that have longer timelines, the day-to-day can feel very daunting. While it’s important to have long-term goals, it’s even more important to generate tasks that you can “check off” your list to ward off mental fatigue.
Study the success stories of those that have come before you through mediums like:
- Blog posts
- First-hand conversations leveraging social media tools and your network.
- You may even be able to achieve this by purchasing the product of an entrepreneur you admire or becoming a shareholder in a public company. There are opportunities to connect with the greats you admire.
You can find inspiration, certainly, but most importantly, you can find practical guidance and direction that will help you overcome any barriers that stand in your way.
Isolate Your Fear and Get To the Root Cause
A sure sign of emotional intelligence is using your analytical mind to understand why you feel fearful, then create action around how to address it. In some instances, this may mean accepting the fear for what it is. There are good kinds of fear! Fear can motivate you to do amazing things. But at times, fear can cripple us. Understanding why is so important. It could be:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of what others may think
- Fear of succeeding so much that you won’t know what to do next
Get clear on why this is the case. Then, you can stare it down and conquer it through reflection, journaling, changing habits, or discussing your struggles with fellow entrepreneurs.
Self-Empathy and Nurturing Feedback
Be kind to yourself and ask others to give you empathetic feedback. This will restore your mindset for maximum productivity and inspiration. Don’t undervalue the part about getting feedback from others. Quite like successful companies have rewards and recognition programs, you need to feel rewarded and recognized with positive feedback from people around you. Great leaders and entrepreneurs seek feedback from people they trust. Be committed to seeking the truth and using the feedback to catalyze your next action.
Most people don’t think about the potential barriers to a successful entrepreneurial venture until after they’ve started. Come in prepared as much as possible by gathering the experiences of others and understanding the likely challenges and adversity that can come your way. The world’s most successful entrepreneurs aren’t immune to significant roadblocks to their mental and emotional well-being. Especially now, in a much more remote world, you’re best to have a self-care regimen that sets you up for success. Awareness is the start. Management is where you go for the win in gaining self-control and discipline as an entrepreneur. This is what successful entrepreneurs know and practice each day.
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