For years as an entrepreneur, I wasn't just frustrated or exhausted, but I had literally lost the ability to feel joy in my personal and professional life. Joy feels indulgent. And it can be hard to experience joy, while your company is struggling. I would tell myself, perhaps tomorrow will be joyful but not today. Today must be a grind.
This joylessness makes you a miserable partner, friend, and family member. Research shows it makes you less empathetic as a person and less effective as a leader. It's counterproductive to success. The worst part about it? It's a prison of your own making.
If this idea of joylessness affects you, as it did me and so many others, here are four suggestions to turn it around:
Separate yourself from your business.
Using a journal, rank how your company is doing on a scale of one to 10, and describe why. Next, rank how you are doing as a person. Do this consistently, making sure to differentiate "you" from your business. With practice you can learn healthy boundaries between your feelings and the financial state of your company.
I hold myself accountable to journaling 21 days a month and use that practice to make sure I am constantly assessing how I feel about myself as a person, compared to how I feel about what's happening in my professional life.
Stop fearing failure.
You may find you have a fear of failure lurking deep in your psyche that can only be tamed by looking it straight in the eye. Talk to your loved ones about how they'll feel about you if the company fails. Talk to entrepreneurs who have failed and ask them what happened in their lives post-failure. Speaking from experience, I can tell you life is often much easier post-failure, and you are also much more likely to succeed the second time around.
Commit to stillness.
Balance comes from the combination of action and stillness. As the Tao says, the only way to achieve clarity in water is when it's still. Meditate. Rest. Turn off your phone's notifications and ignore email for minutes and then hours. Indulge for a moment in the uncomfortable luxury of quiet.
I found when I turn off phone notifications, my mind is far less exhausted at the end of the day. I also incorporate 10 minutes of meditation per day using the app Headspace, and that has made a huge difference in reducing my anxiety levels.
Join a peer mentoring group.
Peer mentoring with other founders is absolutely critical. Find a group of other founders to help you contextualize what you're going through on a confidential basis and commit to meeting regularly so you can assist each other in the journey. There are countless groups like this, from EO (Entrereneurs' Organization), Vistage, or one that you can probably find at your local incubator.
I was able to found a consistent group of startup founders who had raised money from the same venture fund, and we met in a forum every six weeks for almost two years. Every meeting, I left with a much better perspective on what it is to be a CEO, and with much better context for my job and my life.
Remember, you chose to be an entrepreneur and you have every right to enjoy the journey, even when it's hard. The more you grow, the larger the challenges will be over time, so it's important to become comfortable with the current stage of the journey, rather than waiting for someday when you hope things will be better. Give yourself permission to feel joy again today, even as you continue to wrestle with the challenges.