You're an entrepreneur. You're up to your eyeballs in work. Even when you're not working, you're thinking about tomorrow's tasks, next week's deadlines, customer development, marketing, new ideas, and sweet potato fries (that last one is probably just me -- I wanted to make sure you were paying attention).
One of the many challenges of this lifestyle is staying physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Better yet, the goal should be to juggle your workload while improving in all three of those health areas.
One amazingly fulfilling way to do this involves adding another duty to your already-full plate.
Get a dog.
Did you just say "Yeah right!" or "I don't have the time!"? Understandable reactions. But bear with me...
Speaking from experience, getting a dog is an amazing investment in your whole self. I rescued a puppy at the same time I started my first business and there's no doubt in my mind that my dog has been a crucial player in the development of me and, as a result, my business.
Here are five arenas in which you're guaranteed to see improvements -- both as a person and an entrepreneur -- with the help of your four legged best friend:
1. Responsibility and Time Management
Your dog cannot live without you. You are your dog's source of food, water, shelter and exercise. You must take your dog into consideration when planning trips -- or even just a night out.
Now that you have this extra (wonderful) responsibility, you must fit it into your already hectic schedule.
The entrepreneurial benefit here is that having a dog forces you to reexamine your day-to-day flow and develop and stick to a more regimented schedule. After some practice, this will eventually translate to inherent time management prowess and foster a sense of responsibility that will carry over into your approach to leadership and management.
2. Patience and Restraint
Dogs are smart and quick learners, but they will inevitably (and almost always unintentionally) test your patience -- some more than others.
The middle-of-the-night potty breaks and early-morning wake-up calls, the chewed shoes and shredded pillows, the soiled carpet -- depending on how you choose to react, these things can either wear your patience thin or strengthen it.
Take my advice here and choose to look at these slight inconveniences as opportunities to grow as a person and entrepreneur. Practice restraint when your dog makes a mistake and have the patience and clarity to know that it is your responsibility to train your dog over time to not make these mistakes. Just like with anything else, the more you practice these things, the more they will become a part of who you are.
3. Mindfulness and Stress Reduction
Not only do you get to stretch your legs and get in a bit of exercise while you walk your dog 2-3 times a day (for 30-45 minutes!), you can take advantage of this time to reflect, reset, reassess and re-energize your brain. Even just these short breaks and light physical activity can do wonders for reducing stress and returning to the "now." Just ask Harvard:
"Perhaps one of the greatest psychological benefits of interacting with a dog is the opportunity it provides to be more mindful -- to purposely focus your attention on the present moment...By learning to focus on the here and now, you may find yourself less likely to get caught up in worries or regrets." --Harvard Medical School
The entrepreneurial so-what of this: eliminating mental clutter, returning to the present, and reducing stress might help you come up with new ideas. Some of my best ideas come to me while I'm walking my dog (also while I'm in the shower, but that's for another article another time).
4. Meeting People
I once heard somewhere that entrepreneurs quit their 40 hour workweek jobs to work 80 hours a week so that they don't have to work 40 hours for someone else.
I'd say that's fairly accurate, wouldn't you? But even if you're an introvert like me, quality human interaction is an important part of growing as a leader, thinker, and person.
Having a healthy obsession with building your business isn't a bad thing, but if not appropriately moderated, it can take a toll on your social life! A dog, despite the added responsibility, can actually help in this area.
You'll be out and about at least three times a day in your neighborhood and everyone likes to talk to dog owners (so they can pet the pup, most likely). And if you've got a dog park nearby, go to it a few times a week -- you might meet some amazing, like-minded people.
This is the single most important and valuable thing a dog can teach you, full-stop.
The love you'll develop for your dog will be undeniable. The positive effect this kind of love for another creature will have on your physical, mental, and emotional health is invaluable.
And imagine how much brighter each and every day would be for you as an entrepreneur if you strived to love your friends, family, employees, self, and business as unconditionally as your dog loves you?
If you choose to look at dog ownership as an opportunity to grow rather than an obligation, you'll become a more accountable, patient, mindful, well-rounded, and caring human -- qualities that will serve you well as you nurture and care for your business and your people, too.
So, if you want to take your personal and business development to the next level, consider adopting a dog. Take a look at these two resources to see if there are any animals near you looking for home: