As it turns out, #entrepreneurlife isn’t all glitz and glamour. For entrepreneurs, ups and downs are inevitable. It’s one of those career paths that have an alarmingly high possibility of experiencing depression of some level sooner or later. But here’s the good thing! When you know what you may experience, can analyse it, and can adjust accordingly, you already have a giant edge going in and know what to expect.
The Purpose Driven Life
by Rick Warren
⏱ 14 minutes reading time
🎧 Audio version available
You Aren’t Where You Think You Should Be
No one, of course, goes into business expecting to fail or not achieve their goals. However, there’s a common saying that the bigger the gap is between you currently are and your expectations of where you should be, the higher you stress you experience.
That’s the thing with entrepreneurs. Unrealistic expectations are often accompanied by comparing yourself to others.
We see all these signs– whether they’re success stories of billionaires, blogs posts, Instagram captions– of other entrepreneurs who seem to have it all together. Then, upon seeing all these happy, stress-free, and seemingly easy lives these successful figures lead, self-doubt and crushing expectations start to weigh in.
You start to think why haven’t I reached this level of success yet? Why aren’t my products selling as well as I thought? Why is my competition doing better than me? Why aren’t I successful enough, rich enough, happy enough? and et cetera.
The higher the goal you set out with, the more miserable you’ll end. It could also be that the young entrepreneur in question adds new goals whenever they accomplish the last one, so they feel like they’ve never achieved enough. And when you don’t live up to this version of yourself, of your business, stress and depression set in.
Stress and Lack of Self-Care
There’s a shocking phenomenon among entrepreneurs called “Founder’s Blues.” 72% of entrepreneurs experience it– at least compared to a mere 7% of the general public.
“Founder’s Blues” is easy enough to explain. Entrepreneurs experience a crushing sense of weight, pressure, and stress when they’re first starting to build and grow their vision.
As to what causes the stress, at this point, it seems like the answer is “what doesn’t?” Young, just-starting-out entrepreneurs get trapped in a bubble of work, stress, and not taking care of themselves.
And that brings us to a central reason why novices often experience the blues. Entrepreneurship is one of those career paths that are notoriously linked to overly-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, overworked, and money-tight individuals. The little to no attention to self-care, which is replaced by putting in extra hours of work, ends up actually contributing to the stress you feel.
Humans have a knee-jerk reaction to uncertainty, and that is fear. Starting a business is almost synonymous with uncertainty. You certainly hope but you never know if you’re going to achieve the wild success you once imagined.
It’s a lose-lose situation. If things start getting out of your control, the uncertainty around profits, your employees, the effectiveness of your product and service, that uncertainty is something you live with 24/7, and that takes a toll on a person.
There’s even uncertainty that comes with success. Things are getting out of hand. Your company is growing too fast. You may feel like you’re not good enough or that you won’t be able to catch up or come up with something equally impressive for the next launch.
That’s why one word of advice that should always be offered to new go-getters is that uncertainty is one of the few things that you can be certain of, and that’s okay. Sure, it would be nice to know that your company is going to achieve x amount of success and bring in x amount of money, but that’s not real life, nor is it how business works.
There’s a scary statistic you may come across. The divorce rate for entrepreneurs is 5 or 10% higher than the normal one. That means if the divorce rate in the U.S. is 38%, that means the entrepreneur divorce rate is between 43 to 48%.
In other words, the fourth top reason why young entrepreneurs experience depression is social isolation.
And it’s not a side of entrepreneurship that is often talked about either. You hear about the long hours, the money struggles, and failures, but rarely do you hear about the amount of vulnerability and isolation in this career path.
Some find themselves slowly becoming disconnected from the relationships they do have, growing detaches from their friends and family. And in the name of success, they sacrifice their social lives.
Loneliness, even to the most successful person in the world, can be worthless. Especially in those early stages, now more than ever, entrepreneurs need a strong support network. Social isolation is both a precursor and an outcome of depression. If you say that you’re constantly surrounded by business people, then do these really count as a support system? Or if you do have loved ones around, but they’re just ones that don’t believe in your vision, you’re probably already experiencing loneliness or frustration.
Poor Time Management
So far, you may have drastically high expectations, a tendency to compare yourself to others, long hours, and a lack of self-care. What’s the next reason soon-to-be “movers and shakers” experience depression in their career?
It ties in with the rest of the causes: poor time management. Everyone puts “time management” as a skill in their resumes, never minding the fact that being super efficient at your job may mean you’re doing it at a personal cost. The long hours, the insane amount of mental and physical exhaustion…they have a price. Your mental wellbeing.
Curious as to whether or not you have a not-so-strong grip on your time? Answer these questions: do you often find yourself groaning about how it feels like there aren’t hours during the day? Do you work over 70 hours a week and still feel like you should still be working more? How many hours of sleep have you sacrificed so far?
You’re not alone in this boat. According to the Harvard Business Reviews, 484 professionals, managers, and executives from 37 countries work an average of 72 hours each week. 60% of them are connected to their work 13.5 to 18.5 hours a day. The majority of executives reported working an average of 12 to 15 hours a day.
When it comes to causes for depression, decision fatigue may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it sneaks up on you. “Decision fatigue” is basically your mind overloading from having to relentlessly make stressful choices.
If the average person makes around 35,000 decisions a day, imagine how many young entrepreneurs who are launching their company have to make. This abundance of decisions drains a person’s mental and emotional energy. Decision fatigue may also sneak up on a person. Most of the time, we’re not aware of the toll of consistently making decisions because not all of them qualify as “life-changing,” but there’s a cumulative effect.
These thousands of decisions, when your brain’s finally had enough, lead to irrational thoughts and actions.
Not Being Equipped to Handle Rejection
It’s in the job description. Starting a business comes with a scary amount of rejections; whether that’s from potential investors refusing to hand over much-needed funding, customers you couldn’t succeed in wooing, loved ones not supporting your vision. Everyone wants to be the exception, but rejection is inevitable in every entrepreneur’s journey.
If you haven’t dealt with rejection before, repeated negative feedback can have devastating negative effects on yourself. It can cause you to self-doubt, to question what’s wrong with your skills, your product, your idea.
But you know what? You’re joining the ranks of the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, and hundreds and thousands of figures who experienced rejection one way or another along their journeys. Some were outright fired from the same job that would earn them millions later on. Some were told they weren’t good enough or their product/service would never make it. They experienced depression, but they also got back on their feet.
That’s why it’s important to anticipate, to brace yourself, and to prepare for any scenario. Know that having unrealistic expectations from the start may just end up hurting you. Know the signs and have a plan. Remember that there is no such thing as failure; there are only success and learning opportunities.
Rally a strong support network around yourself if you can. Mentors, family, friends, coaches, advisors, partners. People who will comfort you when the going gets rough and who will celebrate when you reach a milestone.
And finally, know when it’s time to take some time out. Your identity doesn’t solely revolve around your business. If things start to feel overwhelming, give yourself a break. Take a break, take a day, a weekend, or even a month if you feel that you need it. Your health and wellbeing always take first place.
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