Shawn Johal is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Montreal, a leadership speaker, bestselling author, and founder of Elevation Leaders, a business growth practice helping companies 10X their business valuation. We asked Shawn how entrepreneurs can have both a successful business and personal happiness. Here's what he shared:
Entrepreneurs tend to consider big business growth and mental health as two opposite ends of the same spectrum. I've worked with entrepreneurs who confess that they "always just assumed" that building a major company naturally comes with sacrifices of one's time, happiness, and balance.
I venture to say that narrative is instilled in our minds by Hollywood movies where every "successful entrepreneur" seems to be either or all of the following:
- Up at 4 a.m. on a treadmill before working 16-hour days
- A non-present parent, spouse, and friend
- Narcissistic and lonely at best; an addict or sociopath at worst
Whenever entrepreneurs tell me that they genuinely believe they must choose either massive business growth or mental health and balance, I understand. I spent the majority of my entrepreneurial life thinking the same--until I realized the two could co-exist in equilibrium.
Statistics prove that mental health challenges directly affect productivity, profitability, and growth. Strong mental health and profitable business growth are not opposing forces; they are allies. The two must co-exist in a balance in order for either one to exist. Without question, the most successful entrepreneurs I know all actively work on achieving happiness and robust mental health. It's no coincidence: business growth and happiness are interdependent forces.
To be the best version of yourself, and thereby the most productive and profitable, you must have the energy necessary to avoid burnout. This energy comes from operating at your peak. Here are four action steps that helped me reach the highest peaks of business growth and happiness in my own life.
1. Celebrate Achievements
All organizations that plan to scale set objectives, KPIs, and growth metrics. Yet without acknowledging when you achieve these goals, you're locked in a cycle of continuously chasing the "next" objective. It's a cycle without end; before you know it, you've grown a massive business but have become desensitized to the mental and emotional payoffs. If you can't find joy in the process of business growth, you'll never find joy in the outcome.
The solution? Celebrate milestones and wins--big or small--rather than fixating on vague, ever-changing growth. Once you can appreciate how far you've come, you're sure to go even further. Celebrate the wins!
2. Join an Entrepreneur Group
One of my best moves as an entrepreneur was to join entrepreneurial groups, including Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). The best of such groups both contribute to business growth and act as support networks for mental clarity and happiness. They are vital to creating and sustaining that balance.
Aside from opportunities to learn from business strategies, plans, and habits of successful entrepreneurs, groups serve as sounding boards for challenges you face beyond business: personal, family, and community.
Some of my strongest friendships stem from entrepreneurial groups. These friendships have had the biggest impact on my happiness. Without them, I would never have achieved the levels of business growth I had always dreamed of. Entrepreneurs might have "lone wolf" tendencies-- but communities act as a layer of protection from the burnout that comes with entrepreneurship faced alone.
3. Engage a Business Coach or Mentor
A business coach or mentor (either helps; both are even better) offers another layer of support for entrepreneurial goals and mental wellness. The burden of solo decision-making is lightened once someone you trust deeply helps guide you in complex moments. An external perspective holds you accountable and addresses business growth alongside personal well-being.
Receiving mentorship is statistically linked to both higher professional performance and increased happiness--and can inspire you when you're feeling emotionally "low." No conversations with my mentor, Warren Rustand, ever explore how to achieve profitable growth without leading with my mental state and challenges in my personal life. Get a mentor or coach--and watch both business and happiness soar.
4. Develop an Intentional Mindset
It might seem intangible, but setting an intention around your internal dialogue is the most transformative habit an entrepreneur can implement. Dr. Laurie Santos, a Yale psychology professor, famously subverts the myth that happiness "comes from'' material conditions. Her research affirms the source of happiness is your mindset. Developing an internal dialogue that says, "I can and will be happy and profitable at the same time," intertwines the two within your mind. Happiness does not come from growth within your company; it comes from how you view, appreciate, and engage with that growth.
The constant pursuit of exponential growth led me to burnout at a young age--and changed my life. I originally thought, "I'll have to choose: sustainable health or building a big business." It's the same "story" we're told by business media. But eventually, I learned that the two can not only co-exist but are dependent on each other. All entrepreneurs can grow profitably and live a balanced life--it all comes down to mindset and the story you tell yourself.