Shawn Johal is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member and former chapter president in Montreal, where he is actively involved in mentoring young entrepreneurs. He is a business growth coach, leadership speaker, and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. Julia Pimsleur is a scaling coach, mindset expert, and best-selling author. Amid the second wave of crisis-fueled anxiety, we asked Shawn and Julia how entrepreneurs can enhance their mental health and happiness. Here's what they shared:
Remember when you first launched your business, and you were so passionate that you couldn't wait to get to work each day? You were going to disrupt your entire industry; no problem was too big or too small. Best of all, you were finally free to make bank and keep all the profits.
Then the reality of running your own business set in. You tried some things that didn't work. You underestimated how much to set aside for taxes and got a shockingly huge tax bill. You gave up workouts to answer customer emails and missed your daughter's tap dance recital when an important client needed a quick turnaround.
Staying positive and maintaining a "go big or go home" mindset became more of a challenge than anticipated. Then the pandemic hit. And your mental health took a nosedive.
Entrepreneurs just endured one of the biggest global mental health tests possible, where many owners saw revenues drop or had to shut down entirely for months. Business owners had to reinvent themselves and make quick, risky changes to stay afloat. We've been in fight-or-flight mode for over 18 months, managing unprecedented levels of fear and anxiety, which takes a toll on your nervous system and mental health.
Entrepreneurs are now experiencing a second wave of anxiety and depression as we realize that we're no longer in survival mode. The challenge now is that we have to make it all work again--often with a smaller financial cushion due to hemorrhaging cash during the pandemic, a new sense of fear that this could happen again, and many employees not wanting to return to the office or dealing with pandemic fallout themselves.
As coaches who work with hundreds of scaling businesses, we see how entrepreneurs often put off addressing their own mental health and happiness with the idea that one day "it will all be worth it."
How often have you thought, "I'll be happy when I sell my business," or "When I hire my dream team, I won't work so hard," or "When we land that next big client, I'll stop working weekends"? But then you land the big client or make the perfect hire, and you don't feel any happier or work any fewer hours.
As orator Paul H. Dunn famously said, "Happiness is a journey, not a destination." He went on to explain, "Happiness is to be found along the way, not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over, and it is too late."
Business leaders often sacrifice family, friends, and happiness to pursue their dreams. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you're ready to enjoy the journey now, implement these three practices right away:
Put your wellness first.
Make sure your mental health is at the top of your strategic plan. Seek out mindset practices and support systems so you can show up for your team as the leader you want to be. Your team will do what you do, not what you say.
Ramp up your own mindset practices such as gratitude journaling, yoga, or physical exercise four or five times per week, taking time for yourself in the morning before work, avoiding your phone and computer for set time periods to get a real break, and meditating or reading about how to have a more powerful mindset.
Clarify and share your vision for the next 1-3 years.
Be sure to communicate it to your team and get their input. People are feeling anxious about how the workplace and industries are changing. If you share your plans (and ask for input), it will help employees to come to work with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.
Create a place at work to talk about mindset.
Make it a priority to integrate a wellness program and make physical and mental wellness a part of your company culture. This could mean starting meetings by asking people to rate their current mindset on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best and 1 being, "Let's talk about getting you some help instead of having this meeting." Share what you've learned from mindset practices (see No. 1) with your team, or organize a monthly book club or brown bag lunch where you share best practices or bring in guest speakers. This sends a clear message that you believe mental health and happiness are important, and there's a place at work to explore it.