What do you think of when you hear the word entrepreneur? I used to think of a bold, confident, and ambitious person, driven to succeed and virtually unflappable. The world was their oyster and they had full control of their destiny. That’s what society seems to tell us about them. But when I became an entrepreneur myself, I realized how glamorized this image is. What about the problems faced by entrepreneurs? Where are they in the stories we’re told? And how can we get through them ourselves?
It’s no wonder that when I chose to leave my corporate job to pursue self-employment full-time, my beliefs were distorted. Yes, I knew there would be stumbling blocks along the way, and that every day may not be perfect. I was prepared to have doubts and shed a few tears.
But I expected the vast majority of my time to be happy and shiny, giving me a feeling of fulfillment, watching my Etsy shop and blog grow faster than ever before, and seeing other opportunities follow. I mean, I was finally dedicating more time to my passions, isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? Isn’t that what the motivational quotes promised?
Boy, was I wrong.
Two months in to my new journey, I was feeling pretty demoralized. While I had definitely learned a lot, challenged myself, taken risks, and accomplished brand new things, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. The financial metrics I was obsessing over were pretty flat and I started thinking about how naive I must have been to think I could do this.
Enter: the mind gremlins. The negative self-talk factory spun into action faster than you can say “worthless”, and while most days started well enough, I felt pretty down by the end of the afternoon.
The thing was, deep down I knew that I had made the right choice, and that challenges were just part of adapting to a very new routine. I knew that entrepreneurship involves a tremendous amount of uncertainty, ambiguity, and overwhelm. And I knew that the problems faced by entrepreneurs were big and scary and challenging to overcome. It just wasn’t fun to experience it first hand. I had sailed far, far away from my safe harbor of known stability, and the waves were not pleasant.
Entrepreneurship is hard. But like most challenges, it holds tremendous rewards, self-discovery being one of them.
If you’re a budding entrepreneur or are experiencing something similar, I’d like to share my advice for getting over these humps.
Practice self care.
I can’t underscore enough the importance of loving yourself and treating yourself with respect. Given I felt so lucky to be pursuing my dreams, I would be hard on myself, not letting myself take breaks, have an off day, or really enjoy my time. While I thought this approach would lead to productivity, it instead led to burnout.
Give your mind, body, and spirit the care they deserve and the fuel they need to support you being at your best. Go for a massage, read a great book, take real breaks away from the computer screen. Go for a walk, listen to some inspiring music, and take a few hours off on a random Wednesday afternoon if you need to. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, and you need to invest in the CEO of your business. Who else is going to steer the ship?
Self care also involves fostering an attitude of self compassion and empathy. My post on how to prevent yourself from sabotaging your goals has some insight on this. And my post 18 of the Best Self Care Strategies Every Woman Should Try has tons of other ideas and inspiration.
Celebrate the wins, however small.
It can be easy to work through a to-do list and cross items off, but at the end of the day feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.
Instead, at the end of each day, look at the items you were able to complete. Celebrate that success. Were there only 2 key things you got done? If those were the 2 key priorities for the day, that’s cause for celebration!
One of my favourite sayings is “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Just like any large task, there are many small pieces that comprise getting things done. Every small item is one tangible step, and every to-do is a win.
Make a conscious effort to let go of any expectations that aren’t serving you. When you catch yourself in perfectionist mode, be more gentle with yourself. Remind yourself of why you’re pursuing this path, and what the bigger picture is. Put things into perspective by asking yourself whether certain details or disappointments are going to matter in the next day, week or month. (For more on beating perfectionism, check out my post How to Let Go of Perfectionism and Find More Joy.)
Now when I think of the word entrepreneur, I still think of a strong person, but now I see a someone with ups and downs, challenges and setbacks. They have had their fair share of failures but are separated from the average person in their desire to succeed and hunger for growth.
And let me tell you, that’s the type of person I’d be proud to be.
While not every day is easy, shifting our mindset and practicing productive habits can make the journey much more enjoyable. Leave me a comment below with your advice for navigating the ups and downs of a new experience.