Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. The pressures of the day and the stress of managing the unknown are likely to spur unwanted gray hairs and shoot up blood pressure that would make a doctor dry heave.
The good news is you can learn to manage the stress associated with working in constant change by managing your mind — specifically, your level of optimism. Here are six ways to stay optimistic amidst the inevitable entrepreneurial blues:
1. Be thankful.
I ask my coaching clients to do the following exercise for 30 days if they’re in a less-than-optimal state of mind: Write down three things every day for which you are thankful. These must be new things, which means nothing can be repeated. No cheating.
So, if yesterday you wrote, “I’m very grateful for my kids” then you cannot write today, “I am very, very grateful for my kids” or “I’m grateful that my kids are grateful for me.” That’s bogus.
The purpose of the exercise is to train your brain to constantly search for positive angles, because, believe it or not, finding three new things every day to be thankful about isn’t easy.
2. Surround yourself with good people.
Just as we tend to adopt another person’s yawn, we also assume the attitudes of those around us. Optimism is contagious. We all have friends who it just feels good to be around, and it’s because they emit positivity. Of course, the opposite is true, too.
I know plenty of people (who shall remain nameless) that I try to avoid at all costs, or at the very least put them on a talking timer of sorts, so that, once they reach the 5-minute mark it’s, “Oh, hey, I’m about to go through a tunnel. I may lose … [click].” Sometimes you just need to pull the cord before you reach that unhappy place of no return.
3. Be mindful.
Mindfulness is big today. Health practitioners of all backgrounds embrace it, as do coaches and now organizations as a means of boosting employee engagement and productivity. The book One Second Ahead offers an expansive look into the “always on” culture that exists in business today, as well as its impact upon the brain and how we can leverage the mind to work optimally amidst a sea of distractions.
4. Exercise — consistently.
Science shows that exercise releases chemicals that reverse the effects of stress. Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard and a bestselling author, says that “physical activity is crucial to the way we think and feel.”
Try it for 30 days. Exercise for 20 minutes three times a week for one month and I guarantee you’ll feel better at the end of the month. If you don’t, feel free to call me names.
5. Set and achieve small goals.
There’s something in the power of goal setting that boosts self-efficacy. When you set stretch-goals for yourself — and achieve them — you tap into an unknown part of your character and competence that had previously flown beneath the radar. You excavate an untapped source of potential.
Goals are a powerful thing, but they must challenge you. A goal is not something you write down and check off — that’s a to-do. Goals should pull you out of your comfort zone so you grow, improve and feel optimistic about overcoming the next challenge.
6. Choose your words carefully.
I cannot express the value of positive self-talk enough. Replace negative words and phrases such as “can’t,” “I need to” or “I have to” with positive ones, such as “I am,” “I choose” or “I am being.” It takes a large mental shift to adopt such a proactive mindset, but once you do, nothing can hurt you without your permission.
Optimism, much like anything, is a choice. The sooner you choose to embrace it, the sooner you can ditch the entrepreneurial blues.
By Jeff Boss