When I first embarked on an entrepreneurial path, I constantly felt bombarded by a range of self-inflicted insecurities.
Some were small (“How much glitter is too much glitter on a company website?”) and others were big (“What if I fail and run out of money and become homeless and die alone?”).
The most daunting, however, was the inability to rely on anyone else for assurance. There was no supervisor to tell me if I was doing a good job, making the right decisions or prioritizing the right things.
There was no one giving me structure. For the first time in my life, I had to solely depend on my own intuition in order to succeed.
And while this was mildly exciting at times, it was mostly scary and isolating. In these early months, I learned a lot about what it takes to motivate myself, stay organized, accomplish my goals, and stay healthy. Here is what I wish someone would have told me when I was stuck in those early self-doubting moments.
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Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
I admit that I am a Gary Vaynerchuk addict. He was one of my greatest inspirations for breaking out of the traditional employment structure and embarking on my own path.
But, it took me a long time to differentiate Gary’s ideas from Gary’s habits. His perspective, leadership, and charisma were tremendously valuable. But, when I tried to emulate his lifestyle, I immediately felt like a failure. Many entrepreneurial influencers proudly flaunt their 18-hour work days, 5 a.m. workout routines and non-stop enthusiasm for their careers. So, when I tried to adopt these habits, I crashed. Hard.
Working such long hours, getting so little sleep and prioritizing work over my relationships made me feel terrible. Nothing, not even the financial payoff, was worth the exhaustion. I quickly became resentful of my work, my clients, and myself. And for what? To prove to myself that I was a “real entrepreneur”?
What I eventually had to learn was that successful entrepreneurship isn’t solely dependent on a set of habits. It’s dependant on a certain mindset, passion, and unbreakable drive to succeed. What you do in order to accomplish that is different for everyone, and that’s OK. So, stop comparing yourself to others and go at your own pace. Be self-intuitive and identify what motivates you and what doesn’t.
For me, getting 10 hours of sleep a night, even if that means waking up at 9 a.m., is OK with me. It makes me more focused and energized for the entire day, and overall improves my quality of life.
Focus on Short-Term Goals
When I first started my business, I was overwhelmed by the amount of big goals I wanted to accomplish. So, I obviously failed at most of them.There were too many moving pieces and it was too much to expect from one person.
Like many early-stage entrepreneurs, I lacked a steady client list. I was constantly meeting new leads, trying out different projects, and adjusting to each month’s changing workload. And although it was exciting, it also disabled me from accomplishing these concrete, unrealistic annual goals I’d set for myself. How was I supposed to meet my these stagnant goals if the overall structure wasn’t yet stable?
That’s when I realized what my problem was: I was putting so much pressure on my major goals that I forgot to set the little ones. According to GoalBand, “92 percent of New Year’s goals fail by January 15”. But would the results be different if people hadn’t made it their yearly goal, but a weekly or monthly goal instead? Would it have been more attainable and motivating? I like to think that the answer is, yes.
This is when I started prioritizing goals for each month instead of each year. It was easier to plan, predict, and accomplish these small, realistic milestones. It also boosted my confidence, lessened the pressure, and showed me how much I could accomplish if I solely set actionable tasks for myself. Of course, I still refer back to my long-term plans for reference, but I no longer depend on them for daily guidance. Instead, I focus on one step at a time.
Constantly Check-In With Yourself
This might sound obvious, but it still has to be said: You won't be able to do anything if you're not healthy. I’m not just talking about getting enough sleep and eating your vegetables; I’m talking about real, serious threats to your health that the business community rarely addresses.
So many self-starters turn to less than holistic methods to keep themselves energized, motivated and focused. I personally have a family member - someone who had just launched his own business who succumbed to addiction without even noticing it was happening. And since he was working so hard and accomplishing so much, no one stopped to think if he was abusing drugs or alcohol.
But within a year, his addiction turned into depression and things spiraled out of control. If he had only turned to healthy outlets to deal his with stress and anxiety, this tragic consequence could have been prevented. “It’s estimated that roughly 6 in 10 substance abusers also have at least one mental health disorder,” says the Recovery Village. It’s more common than most of us realize, and it’s crucial that we continue talking about the importance of wellness within the business community.
So, long story short: Check in with yourself regularly and listen to your body. Find healthy outlets for stress and depression, whether it be therapy, medication, exercise or meditation. Just because you've started your own business doesn't mean you have to deal with the hardships alone.
Take Care of Yourself
What it comes down to is quite simple: Even if it feels like it, you are not alone in this self-starting journey. Reach out to others who are having the same experiences and seek advice from those you admire. Ultimately, the entrepreneurial game doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Gain the right support and mindset, and nothing can stop you.