The answer to both of these questions is very few. Most founders seem to have something in their DNA that pushes them to create, build, and take on new challenges over and over again. They dream of a lifetime of innovation and pushing the envelope.
Unfortunately, few entrepreneurs behave as if they're in it for the long run. Most can only see as far as the next purchase order, the next deal, the next funding round. Given how intense the start-up journey is and how much energy it takes just to survive, this is understandable.
But the consequences for such a short time horizon are very real, and more immediate than most of us would like to admit. We are human; we are limited. And, until anti-aging technology becomes widely available, we are not getting any younger. It should come as no surprise that 72 percent of entrepreneurs admit to some kind of mental health challenge, from depression and anxiety to substance abuse.
When you give everything you have--and beyond that--into problem-solving for only today, your loved ones suffer as well. Spouses get put on the back-burner, setting the stage for eventual divorce. Children are given minimal attention, leading to a distance that can last into their adulthood.
The key to extending your entrepreneurial career while prioritizing your health and loved ones is pacing. No one can sprint through a marathon and actually finish the race. Nor does it make sense for entrepreneurs to try to cram a lifetime's achievement in a couple years.
No matter where you are in your start-up journey, here are a few simple way you can approach the work you love in a sustainable way:
1. Know your business priorities.
Many company founders are tempted to go after every opportunity or possibility that comes up. But this spreads you too thin, and ultimately prevents you from focusing well on any one thing. By narrowing the range of options you pursue, you can use your limited time well and give yourself more breathing space.
If you don't know what to say yes to, and what to turn down, ask a mentor, advisor, friend, or your spouse for input.
2. Learn to let go.
One of the hardest things for entrepreneurs is to release control. When you have done everything to start and scale a business, it's difficult to trust someone else with the work. But learning to delegate to others--and eventually handing the reins to someone else--is an extraordinarily healthy practice for founders.
Delegation is also really good for the business, infusing the company with new energy and ideas, and allowing it to grow further. A company can only meet its full potential when it isn't fully dependent on one person.
3. Take sabbaticals.
Whether it's during a slower period or in between businesses, taking extended time off can make a world of difference for your health and mental clarity. I'd recommend taking at least a month off to rest and do some favorite restorative activities, such as reading, exercising, traveling, or hanging out with friends.
Whenever you choose to return to work, you'll have greater focus, energy, and creativity. And you'll probably be a happier, healthier version of yourself on the job.
4. Listen to your body.
We're all wired differently. Some of us have more energy and stamina, some have less. Part of the entrepreneurial journey is learning your own limits--and learning to recognize when you reach them.
Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you losing your temper more? Are you experiencing aches and pains? These are just some of the signs that your body may use to tell you it's feeling overwhelmed. When these signals are communicated, it's time for you to slow down and focus more on your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
The good news is that if you build your business at a sustainable pace, you can do what you're most passionate about for that much longer. And you--and your loved ones--will be able to look back on your life with far fewer regrets.