The Biggest Trap Of Entrepreneurship: Happiness ≠ Achievement

Entrepreneurs have been subconsciously programed to believe that the medicine for the issue causing them daily suffering lies in the next level of achievement.

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Being a transformational coach, I get to train superstar entrepreneurs, high performers, content creators, and leaders seeking to take their lives to the next level. I'll be honest- it's a privilege to be able to meet driven and highly ambitious people, and inspire millions, as part of my job. And it is even cooler to get paid to listen and guide them in their journeys. Yet, after working with many entrepreneurs and leaders, either in one-on-one or in group settings, it became clear to me that they all suffer from a common phenomenon- in fact, I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that almost every entrepreneur I meet suffers from the same belief system they adopted early on. So, what's the belief? It's that, if they just get to the next level, the next deal, the next 100,000 followers, the next million, and the next car, they will somehow find inner peace, happiness, and fulfilment. If you are one of those people, listen carefully: it's a trap!

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It's a trap, because entrepreneurs have been subconsciously programed to believe that the medicine for the issue causing them daily suffering lies in the next level of achievement. It's a trap, because the real issue has nothing to do with achievement in the first place, and has everything to do with a deep sense of lack of self-worth internally- something they are afraid to admit. And when they reach the next level of achievement and still feel a sense of lacking, they rarely reflect on what's happening, because of the speed at which their business is expanding. They think they need even bigger, faster, and louder achievements; that they need to 10x what they're doing to finally find the sense of wholeness and connection with who they really are.

This ends up with entrepreneurs doing outrageous things, like going to every motivational speaker on the planet, who in turn convinces them that the solution lies in the next achievement. So, they work harder, harder, and harder, sacrificing their health and relationships on the way, as many studies have come to show. Worse, they feel even more empty inside after completing the achievements that they deeply invested in. That's why such entrepreneurs come to me with an inner sense of exhaustion- a feeling of being stuck in a hamster wheel, and losing the passion that got them started in the first place. As someone who has been there and done that, I know the feeling first-hand. And I also know the liberation of waking up from that spell, for the lack of a better term.

Actually, many sages and enlightened beings have talked about that trap for centuries. In fact, many have spoken about how the accumulation of wealth and achievement can be used as a distraction from the inner emptiness and disconnection from one's soul. And not just that- even research in positive psychology has proven with scientific evidence that achievement has little to do with happiness. Funny enough, the other way around is more true- happy people tend to achieve and succeed more! This makes more sense, as happiness and well-being as a state are more attractive for opportunities, with people naturally preferring to deal with more optimistic people. So, what's the solution to the aforementioned trap?

Related: Why Your Mental Health Is Key To Your Survival In A Family Business

In my opinion, simply put, we need to release the link in our minds that connects happiness and fulfilment to achievement. It simply does not work, as it's not the purpose of achievement to make us happy. And if one feels happy after an achievement, it's actually from a momentary rise in dopamine, rather than the real inner peace and happiness that will carry you through life. Now, that does not mean, in any shape or form, that achievement is bad, or that you should abandon your desire for expansion. If you do that, you will lose ambition. Rather, achieve from a place of wholeness internally. From my own experience of coaching many successful leaders, I can say that, when they do that shift, they become more driven, with the right kind of motivation- the motivation to create, grow, and contribute to the human race through your business, rather than to prove that you are worthy of love and being alive.

I remember how I woke up to this fact, going through a process of healing, as it became clear at that point in my life that I was subconsciously trying hard to reach the next level of achievement to prove to my dad that I was worthy of his love. I even convinced myself that when I reach one million followers on social media, that will be the solution. I still remember that day, as I got out of the shower during a trip to Dahab, Egypt, and my wife looked at me and said, "Guess what? You just reached one million followers on Facebook." Did I feel great? Maybe for a couple of days. But then that feeling wore off very soon. At that moment, I fully released the idea that achievements in life will give me internal happiness. And I dropped my subconscious need for achievement and success to do so.

And let me tell you about the freedom that comes with that. The shift did not happen in a second. Rather, it was a very deep process of inner healing, going through the layers of insecurity around the sense of not being enough, until I found my true self-worth as a human and as a soul- to be completely separate from the need to hang my self-worth to success, achievement, and my ability to move and inspire an audience. Then, and only then, I felt freer and clearer in my mind, and the inspiration to create and serve started to flow even more gracefully through me.

That is the shift that I empower entrepreneurs to do: to operate a business from a place of wholeness, rather than using it as a way to cover fears and insecurities of not being enough. And what do I usually hear them say after going through that shift? Things like: "I started working with a more playful and relaxed attitude, and my authentic style for creating and leading starts to merge." Or: "I found myself less needy, and more opportunities started to flow." That makes perfect sense from an energetic perspective- anything we are needy for, we tend to repel, and anything we are detached from, we tend to attract.

When we aren't psychologically pressured to get there, when it's not a "life-or-death" scenario, and when we get in touch with our unshakable self-worth internally, we stop trying to get that through achievement, and that's when we flow easier through our business pursuits, and, more importantly, become truly happier. Only without exerting unnecessary pressure on the outcomes as a way to prove yourself can you lead from a genuine vision. But if you've fallen into such a trap before, do not beat yourself up, because, from a big-picture standpoint, it is all perfect- it is a step in your evolutionary path. We all learn and grow.

Related: It Doesn't Have To Be Lonely At The Top: Why Entrepreneurs Need To Take Charge Of Their Mental Health