Life as an entrepreneur can often feel like being in the middle of a natural disaster. There are daily fires to put out, endless lists of things to do and relationships to build, both within your company and outside. You’re constantly looking for where you can push your company’s growth, as well as your own.
Feeling like you’re constantly being pulled in a hundred different directions isn’t just the norm—it can be seen as an achievement. But when you’re trying to focus on so many different things at once, are you really devoting your full time and attention to each one? Having worked on Wall Street and founded my own company, I can safely bet that the answer is no.
In my own path, I’ve found that starting a practice of mindfulness has been a game changer in directing my scope and finding clarity in my decisions. If you need proof, just ask my team. Really, it’s no surprise that there’s such a strong overlap between mindfulness and building a business. A lot of things can—and do—go wrong in the entrepreneurial process, but it’s the ability to step back, take stock of what happened and learn from these failures that is key to any company’s success.
No matter what you’ve heard about mindfulness, making it a regular part of your life doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task. Even setting aside just five minutes every day can help you be a more present and effective leader. Here are three ideas to get started on a more mindful entrepreneurial path:
One of the most centering ideas in my mindfulness practice has been the idea that we are all enough. As a founder, it’s all too easy to spiral into an endless series of comparisons, impatience and negative thoughts—especially when every five minutes, there’s an article about a company that has raised 10 times the amount of money as you have or is encroaching on your space. Instead, it’s important to be grateful for how far you’ve already come. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have these thoughts or that you don’t want your company to be competitive. It means that no matter what others accomplish, you’re able to take a step back from the hustle and acknowledge what you’ve achieved so you can set your sights on your next goal.
Generosity is often thought about in the context of money or time, but when it comes to mindfulness, setting an intention to be generous with empathy and compassion can have a serious impact on the people and energy around you. With hectic schedules and continual high stakes, founders often don’t realize when they get into a space where the energy they’re putting out isn’t productive for themselves or their team. Rather, being generous with forgiveness actually cultivates a better, more balanced workplace where everyone is empowered to push themselves and take risks. In the long run, this not only allows you to focus more clearly on the work that still needs to be done, but it can also fuel your business’s creativity and growth.
Founders are often taught that you can’t be emotional, that you can’t ever breakdown. Or if you do show emotions, the only acceptable ones are anger or joy. The reality is that in high pressure environments, like starting your own company, all sorts of emotions are going to come up—and that’s not a bad thing. But what can be detrimental is trying to stomp all of them down.
At a recent Squad Talks panel on mindfulness and meditation, Steve Schlafman, a partner at Primary Ventures, shared that “meditation isn’t the absence of thoughts and feelings, it’s the recognition of those thoughts.” Similarly, “letting go” suggests an alternative to subduing whatever it is that you’re feeling—making room to acknowledge and address the emotions that come up, no matter what they are.
In conclusion, being mindful as an entrepreneur is all about finding balance between hustle and patience. With so many balls rolling at once, it’s too easy to feel like you’re constantly behind. But practicing gratitude, generosity and acceptance along your path will help you find alignment so you can bring all of your talent to your company’s growth.