Finding Balance — How to Pursue Your Entrepreneurial Ideas While Prioritizing Your Well-Being A question for entrepreneurs: Are we planting seeds or burying ourselves in work?
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Natural-born entrepreneurs are often bursting with creative ideas, new innovative thoughts and — more often than not — pretty enormous dreams. We can't help it. For better or worse, it is how we are wired.
One of the first characteristics of an entrepreneur is our curious nature. Think about it: How often do you wake up at 2:45 a.m. with a new idea that you want to start immediately in the morning? I've been there hundreds of times — really, you should see my notes app on my phone! Entrepreneurs love ideas. We love building on our ideas over and over again, hoping to create something bigger than we can even imagine. We say things like, "I'm building for the future" or "I'm planting seeds for growth" every time we pile on some new project. It's exhilarating — until it's exhausting.
At some point, the go-go-go nature of our ideation patterns can begin to feel heavy or burdensome for some of us. So the question is, how much of this "planting of seeds" is really just the burying of ourselves in heaps of work that may be hindering our ability to actually grow and succeed?
We're already busy
Small business owners need to always be planning for the future — how else will their business grow? It's an integral part of business ownership. Everyone wants to succeed. Planting seeds for growth, for example, spending on marketing or public relations, recruiting top-tier talent, attending networking events and so on, are extremely important. But how much time is being spent on planning for these activities versus the amount of time entrepreneurs spend on everything else necessary to run the show?
A recent study showed that 39% of business owners are already working over 60 hours per week. And you better believe those work weeks are packed with all the stress and pressure that every business owner struggles with, from employee concerns to client concerns and everyone's favorite, "economic uncertainty." Maybe cash flow is tighter. Maybe bills aren't being paid as fast. It stinks. This, however, should not stop that creative, tired mind from coming up with fresh ideas.
But what if I miss out?
The conundrum is that we fear letting these good ideas go to waste. Or that if we don't pursue the new ideas, we're risking not achieving the success we'd surely have if we were to make it happen. As a fellow entrepreneur with high hopes and dreams, I refuse to enable dream-killing. It's not in my DNA. I believe every and all dreams can come true. I also believe that nothing is possible if we aren't well enough to take it all on.
My mother used to say to me, "You can't fill a cup from an empty well." It took me years to fully grasp what she meant. Then one day, while I was running my first business back in 2016, I had a complete meltdown. I hadn't been sleeping much, I was under so much pressure having two children under two, and I had a list of things I wanted to do with the business. And I cracked under that pressure. I ended up in the ER, thinking I might've failed at everything — motherhood, marriage and entrepreneurship. It dawned on me then that I was DTM (doing too much) and I had not dedicated any time to filling up my own well so that I would be able to give from it.
Fast-forward to now. My current business is thriving. My children are the best of the best (I could go on, but this would end up being another 15 paragraphs!). My marriage is as strong as ever. But most importantly, I am full. I am full of energy, joy, ambition and yes, ideas. The difference between now and then is recognizing when to admit that I am full and to only take on what I can. We have to make an effort to discover new ways to manage our stress and emotional well-being, or it will rule —and ultimately ruin — our lives. However, managing that stress and sometimes realizing you can't control everything isn't easy for us. As entrepreneurs, we would rather play by our own rules. I still struggle with how to properly maintain that balance between spilling over with ideas and keeping myself well. It takes practice.
Earlier this year, I had huge plans to take the business to new heights. It was project after project. Except, this time, I had the strength to say, "One thing at a time." I started keeping an organized list of ideas prioritized by importance, relevance and urgency. And I've allowed myself room to really focus on one seed in my garden of ideas.
This is the kind of advice you'll often get when going to a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy. Focus on the things that matter today. The more we get caught up in the things that may affect us tomorrow (or six months from now) the more we lose sight of the moment in which we can make a real impact as an entrepreneur.
Don't stop. Pace yourself.
You must continue planting seeds. I will fight for this, always. But before that, you must not bury yourselves in work for the sake of saying, "I did it." Your loved ones won't care what you did if it breaks you. We chose this path of entrepreneurship for various reasons, be it for financial freedom, flexibility or to make an impact on the world. We are in control of our destinies. And if we remember that fact and hold ourselves accountable, not only to our businesses but to our whole selves, we will always be capable of making the impossible extremely, undeniably and wildly possible.