So here’s one of the things I learned after nearly 6 years in business.
Businesses fail. Sometimes it can be for reasons out of your control. A key client goes under and you don’t get paid. Cashflow can be a real b*tch, never having the money in the business at the right time to buy supplies, pay staff. Or something coming completely out of leftfield. As I drive my husband to train station every morning we pass a thriving small business premises that has had to close because a young driver with no licence, no insurance drove into the building, killing his passenger, completely obliterating the shop, all the stock and taking out the upstairs flat too. The business remains closed.
But the thing I’ve seen over and over again is businesses failing or failing to reach their potential, not because of some catastrophic event, but because of the owners mindset.
As entrepreneurs we are the driving force in the business, and the state of our mental health has a huge, huge impact on the health of our businesses. Running a business is tough, really tough. It can be emotionally and physically draining, with huge highs and lows, constant worries about what’s going on inside the business and outside in the big wide world and how any of that might impact on our bottom line.
We entrepreneurs have a tendency to tie in our own self worth with our net worth, so when we’re doing well and making money we’re on a high. But during the quieter times instead of looking outwards at what we can do to turn things around, we turn inwards and question our abilities, second guess our decisions.
Add to that the challenges and juggling of every day life, relationships, personal finance, health, and its easy to see why poor mental health, depression and loneliness are so rife amongst entrepreneurs.
My 6 years of entrepreneurship have tested me to the limit. There have been huge, huge highs matched by periods when I have felt completely alone, adrift on a churning sea of turmoil, financial worry, disillusionment & despair.
And I know that at times this has had a knock on impact on the performance of my business. It’s been easy to blame this on external factors. But in reality it was because I wasn’t thinking straight. I was getting up and going into work day after day but not being productive and making progress. I’ve lacked motivation, direction and the energy needed to really move my business forward.
Because my judgement was clouded, my mind was all befuddled, by the huge grey squall hanging over me. The outlook wasn't quite as good as it should have been. At times like this it’s easy to panic and start thinking that you just have do more, be more, work more to turn the situation around.
Up until quite recently, I never really took the time to consider my own mental health and how it impacts me on a day to day basis. Because I wrongly thought that looking after your mental health was only really for people that suffer from anxiety or depression.
I’ve spent countless hours working on the health of my business. Tracking sales, leads, cashflow, but never thought of having a resilience dashboard to help me monitor the the state of my own mind so I don’t reach the stage where I start to struggle.
Nearly 6 years in, I’ve become aware that what’s got me to this stage in my business won’t keep me here. That I need to work on strengthening my resolve as an entrepreneur. I’ve been making some changes in the business and just as every new stage in your business requires a new you - a new set of skills - it also needs me to develop a more resilient mindset.
I’ve been really keen to develop some new habits. So I’ve started doing a few things on a daily basis, that to my surprise have had a huge positive impact. I’m sharing them here in the hope that they might help you, if / when you find yourself in a similar situation.
Check in with friends, regularly. I have one or two close business friends who I’m sharing the journey with. We regularly check in with each other, by phone or skype or meet up for coffee. Just to rant or offload or especially, to celebrate the wins. This helps to keep me accountable, makes me feel less isolated and lonely and the mutual sharing and support is a life saver. It’s great to talk to my husband, or my school/uni friends but its only my business friends who truly understand and empathise with what I’m going through and know how to kick me back into shape.
Keep a journal
I’ve started keeping a journal. To record the minutiae of daily life, the hilarity and frustration of being a parent to two teenagers, of the little things and big things that I don’t want to forget. To help me reflect on and make sense of what’s happening. There’s something so therapeutic and cathartic about the act of emptying out my brain and physically writing my feelings down on paper. Those niggling worries and concerns that have been floating around my head now have a physical place to be locked up for a time while I focus on how I’m going to overcome them.
This is a new one for me. For a long time I was very cynical about anything ‘woo woo’ I didn’t get visualisation (so I just visualise it and it’ll appear?) And could never get grips with meditation (so I just have to close my eyes and empty my mind of all thoughts? Impossible.) But I decided to bite the bullet and purchased a course 365 days to clear what's been holding you back - I didn’t have high hopes for it but it didn't cost too much, so I was happy to give it a go.
I get a daily teaching/learning/visualisation/meditation and because its drip fed - it's had this amazing snowball effect and is not woo woo at all. I’m only 3 and a bit months in, but I’m learning so much about how stress can be brought on by the flight/fight instinct and how much havoc this can cause, and importantly, the tactics to manage this. It’s in small bite sized chunks that over a period of time build up to a significant shift. And so much more. I’m determined to stick with it and can’t wait to see what doing a full year of the course will bring.
Track your habits
The habit tracker has proved to be a bit of a revelation. So, so simple and yet so effective. It’s a daily reminder to prioritise the right things. And a reminder to fit them in. Every day. It’s a simple checklist of things I should be doing, with little boxes next to them for me to tick off. On days when its grey or raining outside or I would really rather just catch another few episodes of Gossip Girl on Netflix rather than do the work, the lure of multicoloured squares is too much to resist. The 12 year old girl in me has so much fun colouring in the squares in bright colours - I love it! (I of course I had to invest in a set of beautiful gel pens). I can be a bit OCD, so sometimes just knowing that I’ll get to colour in another square and make my tracker look all pretty is enough motivation to stop procrastinating and get the thing done. Download your copy here.
This one is such a cliche but it’s so true. I've taken up walking. I now spend 45 - 60 mins walking, 3 or 4 times per week. I love to put on my earphones and do 3 circuits of my local park, either listening to music or a podcast. While I’m walking I’ll be thinking about and reflecting on what’s happening in my life or business, I compose blog posts in my head, do mental checklists, prepare to do lists. I always come back from my walk on a high, with lots of energy, ideas bubbling away, and a really importantly - a clear head.
None of these habits have particularly taken up much time. It’s not hard to find 4 hours in a week to exercise, if you can fit it in while doing your day to day, so much the better. Walk to the station instead of getting the bus, walk the kids to school instead of driving. I now try to make sure I’m in bed by 10pm and spend half an hour doing my journalling, meditation & habit tracker before turning the light out. I feel so much more relaxed and drift off to sleep much faster.
Doing all of this on a regular basis has led to huge moment of revelation. I think it finally dawned on me that my big fat juicy goals for this year aren’t going to be achieved by me throwing more time at it, burning the candles at both ends, working all hours. No. My growth will come because for the first time in ages I’m thinking more clearly, my decision making is swift and more efficient, I have bags more energy & motivation. I’m in a complete state of flow. Like the old me, but on Berocca!
Don’t get me wrong, businesses absolutely do fail because of finances. They fail because they don’t grow, or focus on bringing in more sales, because they fail to plan. But equally I’ve seen businesses fail or failing because the owner becomes burned out or unwell due to the constant stress and worry, failing to think clearly and take the decisive and precise action that’s needed to weather the storm. If you find yourself in this situation and want to make some changes then maybe some of my habits might be of help to you?
So tell me. What are your thoughts? What steps do you take to work on your own resilience and mental health? Do you have daily habits to help keep you on track?
Let me know in the comments below - I’d love to hear your story.
Beautiful photographs courtesy of Unsplash
If you're a creative or foodie entrepreneur looking to start or scale your business or looking to turn your hobby into a business then why not come over and join my members only facebook group Kitchen Table Entrepreneur where I regularly offer support, tips/tricks and training to help you grow and become profitable.
I look forward to meeting you over there!
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