People are drawn to the entrepreneurial lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Some dislike having a boss or dealing with office politics. Others are tired of the cubicle monotony or feel like they can do it better on their own. And most entrepreneurs are driven by a passion for what they do and a desire to carve out their own future.
Yet too often, that initial passion is dampened by the realities of running the show. Working for yourself or starting a small business is difficult work. There’s no guidebook or map to show you the way. You might encounter a few bad customers, people who don’t pay their bills, competitors who undercut you, and business partners who don’t treat you fairly. With too much work, entrepreneurs can become tense, anxious, and unhappy.
If you think that happiness is overrated in business, think again. Research from the University of California, Riverside found that people who are happy are successful in many areas of life, and this success is partly due to their happiness (not vice versa). When you’re in a good mood, you’re more confident, energetic, and better able to work toward new goals. In short, a happy entrepreneur is a better entrepreneur.
With that in mind, here are five tips for staying happy amidst the inevitable stress and challenges of entrepreneurial life:
1. Don’t be afraid of failure
If you’re scared of failing, you’re going to be miserable as an entrepreneur. Failure is practically a rite of passage for successful entrepreneurs. Valuable lessons can be learned through the experience; you’ve probably heard that some VCs won’t invest in an entrepreneur who doesn’t have one failed business under his or her belt.
If you’re anxious about what might happen, think about the worst-case scenario. If your business or app falls flat on its face, how long will it take you to recover? How long will it take you to find a new job? Start a new business? In most cases, the worst-case is not as bad as you may think.
2. Don’t get bogged down in the negative
When you’re passionate about what you do, it’s hard not to take each critique personally. However, as an entrepreneur, bad news and rejection are just part of the game. For example, you might be rejected by an investor or incubator program. Your latest release may get a lackluster press review or your blog post got a few negative comments.
You can’t waste your time dwelling on each rejection, or honing in on the one negative comment. That’s a recipe for bitterness. Most importantly, by removing emotion from the situation, you’ll be better able to take away valuable lessons from each critique in order to tweak your product, pitch, etc. as needed.
3. Silence the inner critic
If you have perfectionist tendencies (as many entrepreneurs do), you’ll have to learn to let go. As an entrepreneur, success is tied to actually launching a product, a website, blog, mobile app, etc. If you try waiting for perfection, you’ll never make any headway. Once you’ve gotten something to 80% or 90%, it’s time to put it out for the world to see. Waiting to get that final 10% can significantly impede your progress – you might miss a market opportunity or let a competitor enter first. Remember that perfection is unattainable; sometimes ‘good enough’ is actually the smartest target.
4. Make time for yourself
Many people become entrepreneurs in order to have more control over their career or life, yet soon find themselves pulled in countless different directions. Instead of one boss, you’ll need to answer to ten different clients and investors. When you’re facing too many deadlines and too many people wanting your time, it’s easy to become tense and grouchy.
It’s important to take charge of your own schedule and set your own agenda. Instead of trying to please everyone, focus on the things that are a priority for your business. Actively manage people’s expectations; you can still say yes to everything, but frame it in terms of what’s realistic for you. And if you’re working seven days a week, you’ll burn out sooner and lose the passion you originally had. At least once per week (if not once per day), make some time to do something you love.
5. Remember why you started the business in the first place
When times get tough, it’s important to tap into that original passion that drove you to start a business in the first place. Maybe you wanted to build an awesome game or content curation tool. Maybe you wanted to make it easier, faster, or cheaper for people to do x, y, or z. You started your business because you wanted to share something with the world and you wanted to make a difference. When the stress or negativity is starting to drag you down, just step back and remember what has been driving you in the first place.
Editor’s Note: This was originally written by Nellie Akalp for Open Forum.