Entrepreneuship & Mental Health
Entrepreneurship is an exciting career path with potentially unlimited rewards financially, personally and socially. Entrepreneurs help shape the world of tomorrow, and they exert great influence on the direction of public opinion and thought. The mentally stimulating exercise of coming up with ideas and then building an organization that can execute on them is both courageous and terrifying at the same time.
An unfortunate truth though is that entrepreneurs tend to run faster than their mental health can keep up. Many therefore crash and burn, potentially dragging the entire organization down with them.
As entrepreneurs, we are doing perhaps the most exciting jobs in the world. We enjoy the luxury of getting paid for playing with our creativity. We get to overcome the challenge of putting our ideas into concrete facts in the outer world, and we may ultimately reap a huge reward financially, personally and socially. We prove to ourselves and the world that we can come up with an idea and then make a working reality of it, and the financial compensation enables us to write our own ticket from here on and out.
But entrepreneurship is intensely stimulating to the brain and mind, regardless of how our project is currently doing. There is a lot of talk these days about mental health and how to nurture and protect it. The general idea is that we want to eradicate sadness, pain and guilt. I definitely agree with this, but I also want to emphasize the importance of taking personal initiative to limit any overstimulation of the mind. When you are “high on life” due to a success story, a relationship that just works, or any other desirable condition in your life, you can definitely overstimulate and exhaust your mind with the good-feeling thoughts and emotions linked to the condition in question.
One time I was doing good in life. Like REALLY good. Everything just worked. I was proud of myself and I looked towards my future with great anticipation. There is nothing wrong with this. I think we should encourage anything that adds to the increasing enjoyment of life. What I’m getting to is the fact that this constant “moving forward” emotional source of energy made me lose proper sleep at night. I became hooked. I couldn’t let go of the addictive feeling of the success I was creating. I wanted to be awake as much as possible to build my ‘thing’ and move higher. Eventually, this took a toll on my head and the rest of my body. I began to feel numb in my back and arms. I felt more tired throughout the day than I usually would. Despite this, I felt amazing mentally. I wasn’t concerned at all. I could definitely have gone on like this, but that’s when I realized that I shouldn’t have to. If I’m destroying my body and mind by not giving them time in the quiet, then what is the point?
Let me tell you right now that if whatever you do has an impact on your health and your sleep cycle it might be time to cut back. The mind needs the quiet, or “the silence” as it is called in spirituality.
“Over-work or over-play or over-bodily activity of any kind produces conditions of mental apathy and stagnation, which makes it impossible to do the more important work that results in a realization of conscious power. We should therefore seek the silence frequently.”
- Charles F Haanel
This is where the world gets it wrong. There is a tendency in our culture that happiness is the purpose of life. That we should seek and consume all that life has to offer. I agree somewhat. I don’t believe that frivolous happiness is the purpose of life. I believe that life is an unfoldment and that increasing enjoyment of life is a better way to word the purpose of existence. Humans have within us the capacity for expansion. But our bodies function in such a way that absolute rest from any kind of stimulation is needed.
Another problem with the “seek happiness” idea is that, if I’m sad one day, then I am a failure. I have failed to attain life’s purpose. This is a very dangerous and toxic idea to try to live up to.
Another prevalent idea that is related to “seek happiness” is the “grind” idea. Everything should be a grind. “Aim for the highest! You can be what you want to be. You can do and become what you want”.
Absolutely! I believe that. But I also believe that observing your life from a rigid and judgemental vantage point, with unrealistic expectations of yourself, is incredibly uhealthy. The problem is not aiming to be the person you desire. The problem is expecting yourself to live up to it every day. If I come to work or the gym one day and despite my greatest efforts, I fail to live up to and surpass yesterday’s momentum, then I am a failure.
I believe instead that we should seek to find a middle way every day. Whatever happens one day in regards to our potential, momentum and capability — accept it. Take it as it is — for what it is. We cannot force things to become what they currently are not. Secondly, we might immerse ourselves in the potential that we live in knowing that ultimately we might attain the thing we seek. Next week’s workout might be better. The business meeting in 3 days might turn out better than this one. The last thing we want to do is to beat the drum of “I am not enough” as a response to what we didn’t achieve today. The pain we feel is not a result of the fact that we failed. It is a result of destructive self-critical thought that we allow to run rampant in our heads. If we remove it and replace it with non-resistant thought then the pain and sadness will go away, and we shall have freed ourselves.
We should learn to take days off from everything we do that has to do with taking our place among the others. Whenever I talk to someone who struggles with this, I always suggest to them that if they could they should find something to do that gives them immense joy and meaning, even if absolutely no one (including their own overly critical selves) watches them doing it. This eliminates performance anxiety and leaves someone to break the rules a bit. Someone may live closer to whatever they believe their authentic self is. Only they won’t have to make excuses for it, hide it away or rush to the other extreme which usually means repeatedly bothering others with it.
Allow yourself to unwind. Accept the present, even when things seem to go wrong. Allow yourself to have fun while no one except your own playful spirit observes you. Your off time will then become immensely valuable to you and I believe that you will find that everything you could ever want already exists within your own mind.