From the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

"If I don't get one new customer today, I'm a failure." "I can't go to the movie; I have to update my Web site." "I don't have time to work out; it won't increase my sales." "If I fail at my own business, I'm worthless."

Over the course of my career, I've met business owners who literally are their businesses. Their identities and self-worth are so enmeshed with their business goals that a small failure can stop them in their tracks. Their personal and professional lives have collapsed into a singularly defined area that represents who they are.

A lack of identity outside your business produces a "roller coaster" effect. The intensity of every business decision becomes greater because of this void in personal space. When business is doing really well, you're on cloud nine. But when business is slow or a customer is unhappy, you feel devastated.

It's natural to overinvest emotionally in something you love. To make it easier to move forward in both good times and bad, you can still be heavily devoted to your business, but you must also create success in your life. To stay sane, make sure to:

1. Set personal and business goals. Position yourself as separate and distinct from your business by setting goals for success both in your personal life and in your business. There may be overlaps-recognize them, but do not let one overshadow the other. If at the end of the day you miss a sale, but you have a wonderful bonding night with your friends, recognize that you're still continuing down the road to success.

2. Derive self-esteem from multiple sources. You are more than your business. Continually learn new skills and explore new worlds not associated with your work. New experiences bring perspective, objectivity and clarity. Since your personal life and business life are linked, an unexpected reward is that you'll discover new ways to grow your busi-ness. By expanding your world, you'll uncover contacts, marketing partnerships and even new product ideas that will help your business grow.

3. Celebrate your successes, while not defining yourself by them. As a new business owner, you are constantly learning. If you have a success, recognize it as a milestone, and celebrate-but do not let it define your business or yourself. Use what you learn to take your business to the next level. Goals change. You may be selling accounting software today; however, as your business grows, you may add consulting services. Recognize that you are achieving something unique in the world, and enjoy the process.

4. Know how to step away. You've nurtured your business from the ground up, and the mere thought of stepping away can be stressful. Your business is like your child. You have financed it, poured emotional support into it, watched it stumble and enjoyed its growth. It will be difficult to step away from it. You don't have to; just be ready to. This simple action will help you realize that you are much more than your business, and that your personal life is equally important, if not more so.

So stand up and shout, "I love my business, but it's not all of who I am." Take care of your most important business asset: you. Find time to have fun with friends and family. Realize that you are in control of your own life and business. You know your business goals. Go after them, but do not be controlled by them.


Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is the author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.