Research shows that when we feel good we are more likely to provide help to others. I lived in a startup community the past four years, where I witnessed many new and seasoned entrepreneurs give large amounts of their time to both their business and others in the community. I then watched many of these same people begin to feel stress, frustration, and in serious cases depression. If giving makes you feel good, why were all of these entrepreneurs so unhappy?
The answer was they were giving too much to others, and not enough to themselves. Below are 11 gifts entrepreneurs can give themselves to help sustain both success and balance in their life.
Give yourself permission to fail.
There is this societal stigma tied with the idea of failure that it should be avoided at all costs. In order to succeed we must give ourselves permission to fail. Take it from billionaire Sara Blakely, who attributes her success to a simple question her father asked her at dinner time, "What have you failed at this week?". The gift she gained from that simple question was realizing that failure was not in the outcome, but rather in not trying at all. Allow yourself the opportunity to fail, and in the words of the singer Aaliyah, "If at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again."
Give yourself belief.
If you don't believe in your idea and abilities, why should anyone else? Living in a startup focused community I engaged with many different investors. My greatest takeaway from those conversations was that one of the key elements of gaining funding for an idea or company is whether or not the investor believes that the team is capable of successfully executing the idea and 100 percent believe in their product or service. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and believe that you are talented enough to do amazing things on this planet.
Give yourself a break.
Many of us feel guilty for taking some time to regroup, and feel "lazy" if we aren't hammering away at our work for hours on end. Science continues to show that taking breaks actually leads to higher productivity. A productivity app called DeskTime reviewed its user data and found that top performers tend to work 52 consecutive minutes on average followed by a 17 minute break. The takeaway: breaks increase productivity.
If that isn't enough of a reason for you, what if I told you your health may be at risk? "Excessive sitting," says Dr. Levine of the Mayo clinic, "is a lethal activity." His research shows that excessive amounts of inactivity like sitting at your desk all day can lead to increased chances for obesity, shorter life expectancy, and a decrease in the enzymes your bloodstream needs to stay healthy. So be kind to your body and mind, and be sure to get up and move.
Give yourself good habits.
I've watched many entrepreneurs hit breaking points from stress, exhaustion, and depression. Stop checking your email every five minutes, working 15-hour days, forgetting to eat and drinking 10 cups of coffee as a replacement, multitasking 5 things at once never accomplishing any of them, and planning your next vacation 5 years from now...maybe. The key to forming good habits is to identify bad ones, replace them, put the new ones into your schedule, and stick with them. According to research by a team at University College London, it takes about 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Remember that small steps each day lead to lasting results.
Give yourself lifelong education.
Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and realize that you know everything? Me neither. As the very successful life coach Anthony Robbins says "If you're not growing, you're dying." Every successful entrepreneur has realized that their continued success relies on lifelong learning. Continue learning about your industry, read books, talk to people smarter than you, question what you know, and always be curious.
Give yourself a push.
There is a reason having an accountability partner or posting goals publicly works. It's because we are not afraid to let ourselves down, but we are afraid and feel shame when we break a commitment to others. This says a whole lot about how much we actually care about ourselves. If you have a friend you truly care about, you push them to take action because you want to see them succeed. So why is it that when you slack off a few days or don't take the steps you said you would, you let yourself off of the hook so easy? Re-frame your mind, take a good honest look in the mirror, and start holding yourself to the same standards you would for someone you care about.
Give yourself time to connect.
Sometimes we are so focused on our own beliefs that we forget that the only reason we are in business is because of other people. This is a humble reminder to take the time to get to know the people who are your customers and employees. Find out what matters to them, what they like, how they speak, what they need, and really listen to those answers. Connecting is also about remembering to nurture important relationships in your life, both work and personal. Plan a date night with your partner or take the time to go grab dinner with a friend or family member you haven't seen in a while. Feeling connected to others and having others feel connected to you are vital in creating sustained happiness and success in your life.
Give yourself focus.
In the book Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, he describes how the happiest people are those who focus their energy towards some end-goal and are working towards something meaningful. Take some time both at the beginning and end of your work day, and remind yourself of the greater vision behind all the smaller tasks and meetings. Remind yourself of what your goals are, what their timeline is, and most importantly why this goal is so important and critical to your mission and vision.
Give yourself empathy.
When a friends struggles your heart goes out to them, and you let them know you are there for them. Why is it then, when you are struggling that you are such a jerk to yourself? You wouldn't tell your friend to bottle up their feelings, suck it up, and move on would you? Why do we not allow ourselves to feel our emotions or talk about our struggles, but instead tell ourselves that is weakness? It's time to bring empathy inward. You need to have empathy towards yourself and your struggles. This allows you to have better control of your emotions, and a strong foundation for empathy towards others.
Give yourself the ability to be heard.
It is no secret that every great world leader and change maker we think about is a great communicator. There is a plethora of knowledge on the web that you can research and utilize in your communication practice. An effective way I learned to hone this skill was taking time every single day to watch one public talk given by successful entrepreneurs and world leaders, and keeping track of things like the structure of their message, body language, vocal tone, and content. Remember that the only way to truly grow this skill is through practice.
Give yourself freedom by giving others trust.
Ever hear a story about an entrepreneur who left their job for more freedom, launched a successful company, couldn't learn to let go, and ultimately ended up creating another full time job for themselves? One of the greatest gifts any entrepreneur can ever give to themselves is creating a rockstar team and allowing them to spread their wings by trusting them to take over some of your responsibilities. I've witnessed many first time entrepreneurs fall victim to holding on too tightly, and end up burning themselves out. Give your team the trust they deserve, and in return you will gain freedom back to live the life you have always envisioned.