Is Going 'All-In' On Your New Startup Going to Cost You Your Family and Relationships?
It's important to stay focused on what matters most.
For the past 16 years, I have had the privilege of working with entrepreneurs on two things. First, optimizing human performance; helping them to be the happiest, healthiest, strongest and most fulfilled versions of themselves. Second, business growth strategies; assisting them in growing their revenue and profits while cutting costs and optimizing their company culture.
Over the years, I have noticed a trend that has caused many men to lose the most important parts of their life while striving to grow or scale their business. The justification was always, "If I can just invest a few more minutes, hours, days into this with 100 percent focus, I really feel like the ROI will be worth it." The sad part was when they finally turned off work and headed home ... there was no one there waiting for them. Their partner had filed for divorce, their kids hated them and they were left unhealthy, unhappy and trying to figure out how to put their life back together.
Here are four tips to make sure you don't lose what is most important to you while starting or growing your business.
1. Know the strength and weaknesses of the life stage you are in.
In the audio book The Amazing Development of Men, relationship expert Alison Armstrong says that men go through stages of development (Page, Knight, Prince, King and Elder). Women have stages as well ... I will save those for another article.
Problem: The Knight (18-30 years old) and Prince (30-45 years old) are more prone to having blinders on and losing track of the most important parts of their life. Men in these stages work 24/7 only to find themselves losing their health, marriage and even relationship with their kids.
If you are in one of these stages, just be aware that it is highly likely that your strength is the ability to be focused on your business. Your weakness is that you are easily carried away and can lose track of the most important parts of your life.
Antidote: Make time to check in every week or month and self-assess on each major category of your life. Give yourself a score on a 0-10 scale and then make sure you have a clearly defined plan of the minimum investment you can make for the maximum ROI in each major category of your life.
2. Become a master of relationships versus a disaster.
According to therapist and relationship researcher John Gottman, there are seven simple things you can do daily to ensure you become a "master" of relationships versus a disaster. These tips are based on Gottman's study of 3,000 couples for over 30 years in what he referred to as the "love lab." Here are a few to practice with your partner (or future partner):
Turn toward your partner. This is one of the hardest tips. It involves being able to stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and lovingly turn toward your partner each and every time he or she makes a bid for your attention. Gottman found that couples who regularly practiced turning toward each other versus ignoring each other had a much higher chance of a loving relationship versus those who ignored their partner.
Make your partner's life dreams come true. Each year I strive to turn one of my wife's bucket list items into reality. This has included holding a koala in Australia, swimming with pigs in the Bahamas and even snuggling a panda in Chengdu, China.
The good news is you don't have to take your partner around the world and it doesn't need to involve animals. Just take time to learn what is on his or her bucket list and each year make it a goal to help turn one of the items on the list into reality. It's not the size of list item that matters, it is the fact that you are invested in your partner's dreams and care enough to help make it happen.
Share fondness and admiration. I often tell my clients to "turn on the appreciation faucet, break the handle and leave it that way." This is my way of letting them know they need to practice complimenting their partner 24/7/365. An easy way to do this is to just take a breath and ask yourself, "What do I love or appreciate about my partner right now?" -- wait for your brain to come up with an answer and then share it with him or her.
3. Use your breath to reset.
Oftentimes we can become emotionally hijacked. The reptilian part of our brain takes over and causes us to go into "fight or flight" as reacting to something our partner did versus staying logical and responding to our partner. Reacting oftentimes is the cause of fights and responding oftentimes leads to constructive conversations and growth.
Your breath can save you in moments where you are emotionally hijacked. Here is a simple breathing technique from breathing expert Dan Brulé that he shared with me in an interview on our podcast, that can help you let go of all that is on your mind and quickly reset your entire nervous system.
Step 1: Take a deep breath. The best way to do this is to breathe in through your nose slowly like you are enjoying the rich fragrance of a freshly picked rose. Count to 10 as you breathe in to ensure you are going slowly enough.
Step 2: Once you feel like you have maxed out every inch of space in your body with this breath ... take one last gulp of air through your mouth to top it off.
Step 3: As you are counting to five in your head squeeze every part of your body including your face, hands, shoulders, legs, abs,etc. Squeeze as tight as you can.
Step 4: Open your mouth and drop out 100 percent of the air all at once. While you are dumping out all the air, you want to drop your head and shoulders down while squeezing your diaphragm to ensure you push out every last bit of air that you can.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 three more times.
You will find that your head is tingling and that you are ready to take on the next task with full mental clarity.
4. Flood your mind and body with all of your favorite moments.
I was invited to do some training for the United States Air Force Special Operations Pararescue group. These brave men are some of the toughest, strongest and brightest men you will ever cross paths with in the armed forces. They asked me to help them increase their overall performance. As I poked around, it was extremely difficult to identify anything that would help them perform any better than they already were. Until I noticed one small area that they could improve upon: their family life. The tip I shared with them has been one that many of my other entrepreneur clients have found extremely useful as well.
On your way home, make a quick pit stop. It can be at a park, around a lake or even just pulling into an empty parking lot for a few minutes. Once you are in a safe place, do three quick reset breaths (mentioned above). Once you have cleared your mind, do what we call an "emotional flood."
Step 1: Think back to your earliest and favorite moments with you and your partner (the day you met, the day you knew he or she was the one, the day you fell in love or even your very first date).
Step 2: Focus on your favorite parts of those moments and begin to stack them. Meaning as soon as you fully feel one favorite moment immediately bring up another and another and another.
Step 3: Continue this process for 10 minutes or until you feel that you have a giant smile on your face and warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart.
Step 4: When you head home and connect with your partner or family, make sure to keep these magic moments in your mind; it's good to even share a few with them.
I hope these tips help to ensure you are able to keep what is most important to you, while you are on your journey to build your startup and scale your business. In the end, we never look back and say, "I wish I would have spent a few more hours in the boardroom." It is the time with loved ones, the magic moments filled with laughter, love and fun that we cherish. Stay focused on what matters most.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor