Starting your own business is much like a Spartan race. It is riddled with walls to scale, mud to sludge through and ropes to climb. It’s not surprising, then, when clouds of negativity start to circle about your head, taunting you, pressing down on you to admit defeat. (By the way, this would be a great time to remember that “can’t” does not exist in your vocabulary.)
Everyone I know, at one time or another, has found themselves in a dark place such as this. . . a place that feels too deep and thorny to pull themselves out of. Know that these dark times will inevitably come, but decide ahead of time to refuse to give in. Recognize them and have your shield ready for battle. The trick is to decide instantaneously that you will not play it’s game.
“Think of the most discouraging thing that you are currently carrying or the biggest project you can’t seem to tackle. Forget about how it happened, forget about how you got there, just look at the clock, and before that number changes, do one little thing to make it better. After you do, enjoy your moment of victory, and then do it again. In less than the time it takes you to blink, the past will burden you no more.” ― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
But when you can’t simply “blink” your stress away, it’s important to have a few tools in your pocket to pull out to help ward off negativity. Jess Ekstrom, Founder and CEO of HeadbandsofHope and Entrepreneur contributor, suggests five simple tools that will help keep the bitter bugs of negativity at bay.
Create a “Sunshine” Folder: You can title yours whatever you’d like, but Ekstrom calls hers “The Awesome Folder” and has it readily accessible should a quick dose of positivity be necessary. In it she has put inspiring quotes, uplifting letters from friends or colleagues and good deeds her company has done. Perhaps you can also put awards or degrees you’ve earned, your favorite jokes and pictures of places or people that bring you joy. The idea is to gather little rays of sunshine and pull them out when the dark clouds start to hover.
Support Groups: Join an entrepreneur group that meets locally to discuss the challenges of startups. Google “entrepreneur groups” in your area and you’ll be surprised at what is available. Sometimes just being validated by someone who is in a similar situation will help drown out the negative vibes. If there isn’t a local group, join an online community.
Meditation: Take time each day, preferably in the morning, to center your thoughts and clear your mind before you jump in for the day. Perhaps you can find a few moments to read or simply be alone each day. Whatever you choose, make sure you are regular and consistent.
Do Something Completely Unrelated to Business: What do you enjoy? When things get hairy at work, instead of putting in more hours, take a step back, recharge, then come back ready for battle with a renewed perspective. Maybe it’s exercise, spending time outdoors, or simply watching your favorite movie. Decide ahead of time what “your thing” is and go to it on those particularly difficult days.
Don’t Check Email after 7 p.m.: This could quite possibly be the most difficult tip to implement, especially when you are the “go-to” for your company, but it’s also the most necessary. Always being connected is not only tiring, but will eventually wear you down completely, opening up more space for the negativity clouds. Allow your body and your mind to wind down before bed so that you can be fully recharged for tomorrow’s task. Whatever is in your inbox can wait until morning.
In addition to making your own load lighter, eliminating negativity can have a powerful effect on your business. A study done by Badbossology.com claims that the majority of employees spend over 10 hours a month complaining or listening to others complain and as much as one-third spend over 20 hours! That equates to hundreds of hours of productivity lost each month to negativity. This could potentially do major damage to any organization. No startup can afford such huge losses.
It is also important to keep your goals in mind when negativity attempts to blur your focus. When golfers play golf, do they focus on all the bad shots they’ve had previously? No, they keep their eye on getting that one great shot--after all, it’s what keeps them coming back.
Similarly, at what mile do you suppose most runners quit a marathon? Many might believe mile 26 when their energy is most spent, but it is then when their last final drive kicks in because their goal is in sight, attainable. Interestingly, most runners lose sight of their goal and quit at mile 20. Whatever you do, don’t quit before you reach your goals. NFL coach, Tom Landry said, “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”
Don’t get caught up in the billowing clouds of negativity that will threaten to pull you into the abyss of failure. Instead, knock them down permanently with your shield of positivity. A belief in what you’re doing armed with a few great quotes should do just the trick. In fact, I think I’ll go tape this one to my head:
“It’s impossible,” said pride. “It’s risky,” said experience. “It’s pointless,” said reason. “Give it a try,” whispered the heart.
Let me Know: What has worked for you? How have you been able to keep negativity at bay?