Mindfulness for entrepreneurs.
Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star by his editor because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." Harland David Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, got his recipe rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.
Setbacks, uncertainty, failures, mistakes… they’re all part of the entrepreneur’s life. If you want to stay sane while starting and keeping a business going, it’s essential that you find balance in a chaotic and challenging environment, and mindfulness is an effective tool to keep your mind healthy and rested, while increasing focus, resilience and discipline.
In this article we share some mindfulness practices that we’ve found helpful in the roller-coaster of emotions that we’ve gone (and still going) through with our Kensho Life project.
Accept that bad things will happen. Accept that mistakes will be made. Accept feelings of fear and uncertainty. All this (and more) will happen and it’s normal, it’s part of the process of running a business, it’s also how we learn. Having an open attitude towards failure and difficult emotions can minimise the impact when they show up. Learning to stay with difficulty and embrace it as part of the process will put you in control rather than being dragged into a spiral of panic and desperation. Resistance will only increase the suffering.
Creativity runs wild when we develop our ideas, which is fun and a very important aspect of the creative process. Just as important as learning to let go of some of them. This can be difficult sometimes because now it’s personal, we get emotionally attached to our ideas and of course, we want them all! Knowing when to let go and the level of compromise you’re ready to allow, will help you define and focus on the core, important stuff.
Emotions play a huge role in everything we do and making a decision in a moment of anger or fear can have disastrous consequences. Equally important is learning to put aside pessimistic, catastrophic thoughts. Remember that thoughts, as everything else, come and go and the fact that they can be annoyingly repetitive and persistent doesn’t mean they’re true. When you catch yourself in a loop of negative thinking that is hijacking your brain, you can ask yourself the question: How is this thought helping me right now? If it’s not helpful, just let it go and focus on what you’re doing in that moment.
Mindfulness is particularly helpful for creating the space and perspective needed to see things as they are, not as we initially perceive them. Stepping back allows you to develop objectivity by not identifying yourself with the emotions and feelings of failure, anger or fear: you are not your fear, you are not your mistakes, your are not your thoughts, these are just things that happen. They belong to this experience and they will change. You can repeat this mantra when you find yourself in a moment of struggle.
STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF.
Keeping your true intention in mind is key to push through moments of doubt, uncertainty and confusion, so it’s essential to clarify your values and vision to remain focused and motivated. While listening to everyone’s opinion is necessary to stay exposed to good ideas and insights, at the end of the day it’s up to you to decide what’s the next course of action. When faced with challenging decisions, ask yourself: Does this compromise my deepest intention and my values? The answer will be clear. If it helps, you can have a post-it note with your vision and values always in front of you.
Multitasking is highly valued in our modern world and it sure comes in handy at certain times, but there are other times when you need to focus on what you’re doing. Focusing on doing one thing at a time can reduce the stress of trying to tick things off from your very long to-do list in one morning and you will avoid making more mistakes than necessary. With everything around you screaming for attention, staying put with the task at hand can create a good deal of anxiety. In such moments you can say to yourself: Not now. Now I’m doing this. Or if you find yourself getting distracted, asking yourself the question: Is this the best way of spending my time right now? can be very powerful to get you back on track.
Needless to say that the biggest distraction will be your phone, social media or a sudden urge to buy a special pen on Amazon. Be mindful of the use of technology and consider putting your phone in silence during periods of focused work.
Mindfulness nurtures the wisdom to know when to push and when to pause. They’re both equally important.
Mindfulness nurtures the wisdom to know when to push and when to pause. They’re both equally important. Not stopping when needed can make you feel drained, demotivated, burnt out and depressed. Learn to notice the first symptoms (sleepiness, tiredness, boredom, difficulty to concentrate…) and deal with them before they get too big. The following tips will help with that.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
When things go wrong we can feel we’re falling short, insecure, inadequate, angry, scared… and we tend to judge ourselves and talk to ourselves very harshly (How can I be so stupid?, I’m so useless…) If we said these things to someone else, we’d probably get punched. Pay attention to this self-talking, and when you catch yourself doing it, simply imagine what you would say to a good friend if they were in your situation.
Changing the way we relate to ourselves is a process that needs acceptance, understanding and kindness. We recommend you try the RAIN self-compassion meditation, specifically designed to cultivate these strengths.
REST, EAT WELL, EXERCISE AND ENJOY LIFE.
It’s so easy to glue yourself to the computer and do, do, do, that you forget to look after your body. Sleeping, exercising and eating well are key to keep your energy and focus going. But just as important is having time to appreciate a good cup of coffee, meet with friends and family and savour the small things. Furthest from being a waste of time, it will help your mind stay clear, focused and feeling happier, which in turn will make you more productive, faster at recovering from down times and stay positive for longer.
Remember to celebrate every little achievement: a new subscriber to your newsletter, an email from someone who liked your post, a phone call from someone interested in what you do… everything counts! Do it big, get physical even! And keep it up for at least 15 seconds, this will give your brain the time it needs to take it in and do its neural rewiring job properly.
Meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness, and by far the best way to help you achieve all of the above. Many entrepreneurs think that sitting for 20 minutes daily to focus on their breathing is a waste of time, when they could be productive instead. But then again, ask yourself this question: why have companies like Google, Apple, and Nike developed their own in-house mindfulness programs for their employees?
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
Being an entrepreneur is a huge undertaking in itself and in the race to achieving you might neglect your best asset: you. Ensuring you are at the top of your game is the key to long lasting success, and while mindfulness is not a quick fix and needs consistency, a little daily practice could become the best investment your business ever makes.
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