Working for yourself is exciting, but it takes the right kind of attitude and the right type of person. Life can get lonely and you go through every day knowing that when you fail or succeed, there is ultimately no one to blame but yourself. It is a difficult road to travel, but the rewards, the lessons, and the connections you can make with others like yourself can make the journey well worth it.
Over the past 6+ years I have been an entrepreneur, I’ve been building up a list of the things that help me to maintain my sanity when things get rough. I’m finally to a point where I think I have enough useful advice to share some of it with you. I hope you can find some of this post useful and I encourage you to leave some of your own advice for me in the comments. I’m always looking for ways that I might eke out just a bit more happiness from each and every day.
So without further ado, here are some things I’ve learned.
The fight is mostly mental
This is a bit of a cliché, but it turns out to be true in almost every situation I run into on a day by day basis. When you are going through a rough time with something, take a step back from it and look at it from the outside in. Take a deep breath, remove the emotions and look at the situation logically. Fretting over something, or wasting your time generating hundreds of negative what-if scenarios is not going to solve the problem or make it any easier to deal with.
The most difficult things you’re going to have to deal with are self-doubt, situational doubt, and fear. You’ll need to face these head on, and be able to look at them from an outsider’s perspective to make it through the day. You’ll need to know, to really know that even if things don’t go quite the way you want, or not the way you want at all, you will still be there the next day with a new chance to do something great.
Family and friends
Dont take your family and close friends for granted. The worst thing for your mental heath would be losing your entire support system. These people are willing to put up with your wacky hours, your mood swings, and your need to vent. Treat them with the respect they deserve.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to your close friends about your problems. Talk to the people that really care about you and will give you honest and empathetic feedback. We all need some way to let it all out. Lean on them.
Force yourself to get out and disconnect
Bad news. Your problems will still be there tomorrow. Good news! Your problems will still be there tomorrow, and you can deal with them at that point if you just can’t push yourself to work one more minute on this Friday night. Get out of the house! Get out of the office! Go spend some time with your friends and family. Go find some fellow entrepreneurs to talk business with. Anything is better than beating your head on a wall getting nowhere because you’ve burned up all your energy and you’re running on empty.
Find people you can rely on
Nothing sucks worse than being responsible for absolutely everything yourself. Find reliable people that you can rely on to help out with important work and when important deadlines are about to hit. These may be contractors, employees, or even friends. Nothing will save your butt quite like a graphic designer that is willing to whip up an ad for you in a few hours, or a coder that is willing to sacrifice most of a Friday night to make sure something is ready for release after you’ve already spent one too many days with little sleep.
Celebrate (and remember) your small victories
This is super important. You’re going to have many more small victories than super large ones. The small victories count and add up to something much bigger. Don’t take them for granted and don’t forget them. Remember them when things are tough. Remember what it took you to get here.
Don’t rely on any one thing (or person) for happiness
Remember that sometimes your just going to need people to have fun with or things to do just to get away from work for a while. Don’t put all the pressure for keeping your sanity on one person or one thing. Make sure you have a few options of people and activities to turn to for when you just need to get away from work so that you’re not stuck disappointed (and working) if plans fall through.
Don’t fight for too long physically alone
If you’re like many of us, you are probably working from home most of the time since having your own office is rapidly becoming an unneeded expense. Working physically by yourself alone for years is a recipe for emotional disaster. You’re going to start to feel isolated from people and your workspace will start to seem lifeless and lonely. Regular skype calls with employees, coworkers, and founders can help this, but eventually you’re going to need to get out and talk to people who are physically there.
Getting out to a local coffee shop can help you to feel better by simply being in a social space. You might also find others with similar interests. Even better is getting yourself a membership or an office at a shared workspace like Geekdom. There you are sure to find other entrepreneurs and professionals who might need your advice or help, and from which you can receive the same.
Keep your chin up, and do the best you can to find peace even when things are tough. The journey and the lessons it teaches are well worth it.