Money doesn't buy happiness. And neither does being your own boss, apparently.
To what extent an entrepreneur feels satisfied (or unsatisfied) on the job has to do with a variety of subtler factors, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, which parsed key studies in psychology and economics conducted over the past few years. Sure, revenue and profit margins tell part of the story, but business owners are similarly affected by their prior experiences, as well as by their motives for pursuing entrepreneurship to begin with.
Here's a breakdown of the best happiness indicators in the startup world--and how you should reframe your thinking to better manage your emotions:
1. The pursuit of autonomy is overrated, but feedback and job variety are not.
The majority of entrepreneurs may be in it for the sake of freedom, but other factors contribute just as much to your happiness, according to experts.
A 2009 study from the Indiana University South Bend, conducted by associate professor of management Leon Schjoedt, finds that entrepreneurs care deeply about things like variety at work and professional feedback. Schjoedt surveyed a group of founders and average professionals, who were both asked to rate their job satisfaction across four discrete categories.
What's more, the study found that entrepreneurs feel the effects of a job more acutely than their peers do. This is likely due to the fact that entrepreneurs are more personally invested in the business overall. It's probably harder for you to let things go, but you also feel the highs more distinctly than the average worker does.
2. Your education may have given you unrealistic expectations about success.
Research finds that your past is critical in shaping your view of the present--and if your expectations are too high, you're likely to be disappointed.
That's according to a 2011 Netherlands study, co-written by assistant professor of entrepreneurship Ingrid Verheul, which found that entrepreneurs who were educated at Ivy League universities are often less happy than their counterparts: "People tend to have high expectations when they are highly educated... They expect to be good at things. They have higher opportunity costs, and often expect to be working higher-level jobs," Verheul told the Wall Street Journal. By contrast, individuals with more specific expertise, say, with financial management, could better anticipate what business ownership really looks like, without overestimating themselves in the process.
Verheul also noted that second-time entrepreneurs are more likely to be unhappy, given that it's difficult to replicate the success of your first venture. What worked then probably won't work now, as the market continues to shift and evolve--so beware of that initial overconfidence.
3. Your motives matter.
It may seem obvious, but the reason an entrepreneur decides to go into business is also a good indicator of how happy you'll be on the job. A 2009 study, aptly titled "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," found that early-stage entrepreneurs were 12 percent less satisfied when they started a company because they were unemployed, rather than because they identified an opportunity in the market.
4. Mentors can either help or harm, depending on when they enter the business.
A recent study from the University of Quebec finds a positive correlation between an entrepreneur's self-esteem and their relationship with a mentor, but it's also important that the mentor came on with you at the very beginning. If they enter in too late, says study author Etienne St.-Jean, both parties risk feeling helpless if and when the business is floundering.
For more on entrepreneurial satisfaction--and how to manage your own expectations--head over to the Wall Street Journal.