For entrepreneurs, being discouraged from time to time comes with the territory. In fact, it’s virtually part of the job description. Entrepreneurship is filled with both peaks and valleys, but the valleys feel like someone has literally trounced on your body…while they were carrying an elephant. Maybe you’re having difficulty paying bills. Perhaps a key employee walked out, or you have lost an important customer. When these things happen, as an entrepreneur or principal, it can be difficult to separate the professional from the personal; you might like you’re not good at running a company, or even, in some cases, like you’re a bad person. Given the inevitability of these feelings, it’s important to identify a few activities that revitalize you and help relieve the stress. These can be activities that you do outside of work, or they can be woven into your daily routine. Below I’ve listed things that help me when I’m feeling discouraged:
- Read a book. If you like novels read novels. If you practice a certain faith, read yourscripture. Biographies have been particularly helpful for me. As bad as your situation seems, if you read enough history and biographies, you’ll find that all the “great” people in the world have had significant problems. In many cases, these problems greatly surpass anything I’ve had to deal with professionally: Winston Churchill was probably an alcoholic, it sounds as if Abraham Lincoln had significant problems with depression; John D. Rockfeller’s company was the target of much public ridicule and government scrutiny in the early 1900s. It’s good to read about other people who have had to struggle, because it helps to contextualize the challenges in your own life. It also gives you examples of people who have been able to overcome these obstacles.
- Watch an inspirational movie. There are lots of movies that are inspiring when you’re down. Some of these movies might be related to business, but others may simply touch and inspire us on a human level. I personally am drawn to movies about dreamers. To name a few examples: Shawshank Redemption, Nebraska, Warm Springs, and Rudy come to mind immediately. The point of good books and movies is to develop a well of water that you can pull from. You take these bits of wisdom, inspirational passages, and helpful themes, and they almost become part of you.
- Talk to another business owner. Everyone needs a peer group. Entrepreneurship can be a terribly lonely occupation. It’s important to speak to others who have gone through similar things professionally. You may even find it difficult to talk with your close friends about work-related topics, if they haven’t run a business themselves. If you know people who have run businesses, seek them out. Get coffee with them. If you don’t happen to know other entrepreneurs in your immediate circle, it may be worth seeking out Entrepreneurship groups. You may think that this is a waste of time, but I cannot stress the importance of having a network that you can relate to professionally.
- Go for a run. Nothing in the world makes me feel better than doing a little exercise when I’m down. Even little small increments can help. If you’re not currently exercising regularly, consider starting slow with small increments of activity and working up from there. Eating copious amounts of food also makes you feel better for about 20 minutes, but, from personal experience, I would not recommend this one too highly!
- Do something easy. Wax the car. Cut the lawn. Clean out the refrigerator. Do something that you have control over and that doesn’t require a tremendous amount of mental exercise. I love the feeling of crossing something off of a list. Anything, even if it’s something very small. Like most things, working effectively is a product of momentum. Even the simplest act of productivity can inch you in the right direction and initiate that momentum.