Six Ways To Manage Loneliness As An Entrepreneur
Ultimately, keeping yourself happy and fulfilled will help you to sustain your passion and energy for your business, and steer it to success.
Starting or running your own business has a lot of downsides. You are working long hours to make your dreams come true, and you are the sole person responsible for keeping that dream alive. If you are starting up on your own, there is no team to connect with, and if you do have a team, they will look to you to motivate them, not the other way around. On top of all this, socializing is often the first thing to get jettisoned when we are really busy, and there aren't many entrepreneurs in the world who are not constantly really busy. It is therefore extremely common to be hit by loneliness at some point in your entrepreneurial journey; you could even say it is inevitable.
So, what can you do? Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Recognize your feelings, and accept them as part of the process First and foremost, recognizing that this is happening is really important. It can be easy to push away bad feelings and just keep working, but if you don't acknowledge your emotions and give yourself a chance to sit with them for a while, you could be storing up more problems down the road. As you allow yourself to feel your emotions, remember to do so without judgment. Being lonely is not a sign of failure or a harbinger of doom for you and your business. Remember that it can creep up on anyone, and as I said earlier, more so if you are very hard working. Also, remember that you can turn this around.
2. Prioritize mental health Many entrepreneurs are used to prioritizing the success of their business above all else. They put it above health goals, relationships, and sometimes even eating and sleeping! But you can only do this for so long before you will start to suffer from some serious consequences. If you don't take care of yourself, then you will have no energy to run your business. Therefore, you must make sure that your wellbeing comes first. Ask yourself what are some ways in which you have been putting yourself second to your business, and start by improving those areas.
3. Nurture current relationships, and create new ones Relationships need constant nurturing, or they will wither away. If some of yours are wilting, now is the time to invest some quality time in them. Doing so will pay you back a million-fold in terms of your own wellbeing in the long run. Establishing strong connections means you have people around who can offer you emotional support when loneliness strikes. If you don't keep relationships strong in the good times, it makes it much harder to reach out to people when you are feeling low. If you have been struggling to find the time, take out your phone right now, and set some alarms in your calendar to remind you to contact the people you love. Put in people's major upcoming life events, and make sure you make contact them at those times.
Check in on how they are doing, regularly, and they will be reciprocate by being there for you when you need it. Having said that, sharing your business highs and lows with family and friends who don't "get it" can be tricky. This is where connecting with other likeminded people can be so valuable. There are plenty of other business leaders out there facing the same challenges as you. There are dozens of networking platforms that you can look at to find them- MeetUp, Shpr, and Everbrite are just a few. The range of activities you can do is enormous, from purely online chatting to hiking in the Himalayas, there is a group activity for everyone. It can be especially helpful to make connections with people who don't work in the same industry as you. This will help you see how universal some of the issues you are facing are, thereby helping you feel much less alone.
4. Create some new habits to make "everyday" connections If you work from home, or are lucky enough to have a private office space, your everyday social contacts can diminish pretty quickly. Many of us found out during the COVID-19 pandemic how easy it can be to tap away at a computer all day, and not speak to a soul. Commuting, working in a public place, or getting your lunch outside the office are daily routines that involve contact with others, even if it is just a brief smile and a hello. If you don't have that kind of workstyle, then you may need to actively build in these small interactions.
The reason that they reduce loneliness is because they remind our brains that there are other people out there. Even though most of the time the contact is short and superficial, on some level, we know that we could forge a new connection at any moment. It tells our brains "you never know who you might meet," and that results in us feeling less lonely. So, if you don't regularly bump into people in a coffee break room, consider using a communal office or visiting a coffee shop, if only once a week. If communal office spaces are not your thing, there are other ways to build in these "automatic" connection habits. Walking your dog in the same park at the same time every day will inevitably mean you see the same faces to say good morning to. Similarly, getting your lunch in the same place, or going to the gym at the same time can have the same effect.
5. When things go wrong, don't avoid people You might find that your social connections fluctuate according to your current success. When things are good, you want to hang out with people and celebrate. On the other hand, when things are not going well, you might shy away from that party where everyone is going to cheerily ask you about your latest ventures that you don't feel like talking about. However, continually following this pattern is a recipe for loneliness. When times are tough, this is when we need connections the most. This is when we should turn to our most nurtured relationships, and get that emotional support that we need. Next time you find yourself turning down an invitation, ask yourself if it is because of how you are currently feeling about your business. And if so, is this a habit that is serving you or making you feel lonelier?
6. Get help Your entrepreneurial spirit is what got you where you are today. Striking out and going it alone is all part of the deal. Even the word "entrepreneur" means (in French) "the one who undertakes." Notice the solo "one". But when it comes to loneliness, the "go it alone" mindset is exactly the opposite of what you need. Facing the problem with the help of other people will get you much better results. So, reach out and ask for help. One form of help is to ask someone to be your accountability partner. This could be a friend, family member, or peer.
All they have to do is to agree to check in with you regularly, say once a week, and ask you how you are doing with your goals. These could be business or personal goals, like taking more time to relax and unwind, for example. Knowing that someone else is monitoring our progress is an enormous motivator to stay on track, and it is also another form of regular connection. Make sure you ask them if there is something they would like you to be an accountability partner for in return. For example, maybe they are trying to stick to a new diet, or quit smoking. This kind of reciprocal help makes us feel good about ourselves, while staving off feelings of loneliness. Another great way to get help is to talk to a life coach or therapist. Leverage their expertise to get where you want to be quicker, or help you cope with the inevitable setbacks you will face while building your business.
In summary, entrepreneurial loneliness is something that we should take seriously, and do our best to address. If not dealt with, it is a sure road to burnout, and it might make you want to quit altogether. So, recognize the signs early, take action, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Ultimately, keeping yourself happy and fulfilled will help you to sustain your passion and energy for your business, and steer it to success.