by Jayson Demers February 4, 2016
As an entrepreneur, you’ll face plenty of logistical hurdles. Quitting your day job, getting funding, finding a location and hiring are just a few of the challenging obstacles you’ll have to overcome. The good news is that most of them are procedural, and though they may pose difficulties, they can be surmounted by following a logical process and committing yourself to seeing a final solution through.
The more difficult obstacles, however, meaning those most likely to impact your livelihood, are the psychological ones. The reason is that these are internal struggles. Sometimes spurred by events and sometimes brought up spontaneously, these obstacles interfere with your ability to make decisions, the confidence you have in your own actions, your enjoyment of the work and ultimately your capacity to continue as the head of your organization. The following psychological hurdles are ones every entrepreneur must someday face, especially in the earliest stages of a startup’s development:
Uncertainty is around every corner, especially when you’re first developing your business. You don’t know if your market research is accurate. You don’t know what competitors might emerge in the coming months. You don’t know if your profitability model will work in real life as efficiently as it seems to on paper. These uncertainties can get the better of you if you let them, but remember this: Uncertainty exists for everyone, and successful entrepreneurs are willing to embrace it, because they realize that without risk, there can be no reward.
If this isn’t enough to motivate you, understand that the worst-case scenario is never as bad as you imagine: Even if your first business fails, you’ll always have a chance to build something new.
Beyond the uncertainty of your startup’s infancy, be prepared for some inherent instability in your first several months. You’ll have sudden surges of consumer interest, followed by long droughts. You’ll have random, necessary expenses crop up; major team members leave the company; and windfalls that will make all those losses seem insignificant. To abuse a common cliché, startups are a roller coaster ride, but even if you enjoy that ride, the constant instability can get to you. People crave routines, foundations and reliable structures. Without those, you’ll experience much higher levels of stress, which in turn can make you impatient, overly emotional, and miserable, in general.
Being an entrepreneur means investing yourself in a venture in ways you’ve never experienced. Every decision you make, from naming the company to closing your first client contract, will affect your business’ bottom line. As your business grows, this responsibility will grow.
And, eventually, it won’t be just you on the hook, but your partners, employees and investors, as well. There’s no easy way to overcome this other than by reducing decision fatigue in your daily life and understanding you can recover from a bad decision.
It’s easy to get sucked into the daily work your startup involves, especially when you’re passionate about the industry. It’s your idea — your baby — and it’s natural to want to invest as much time as you can into it. Unfortunately, that desire sometimes leads to 100-hour weeks, long weekends and sleepless nights, leaving you little room for anything else in life. What’s most dangerous is that this imbalance often sets in without entrepreneurs ever realizing it. So, make sure to prioritize your health, and don’t be afraid to take breaks.
Loneliness is a bigger problem in the entrepreneurial world than most people realize. Entrepreneurs are often depicted as naturally isolated geniuses who function contentedly as introverts when working on a project and then turn into extroverts when it comes time to talk to clients or the press. In reality, though, every entrepreneur is pulling off a delicate balancing act, bottling up stresses, worries and fears when he or she is around other people. This is a defense mechanism, because telling clients or the press how scared you are could ruin you. Showing your anxieties to your team members could unsettle them and destabilize your company.
So, the only time you get to be your true self is when you’re alone. This is a manageable lifestyle for a few weeks, but after a few months, it starts to interfere with your health. Instead, seek support — from friends, family, mentors, peers and even counselors who are there to help you through difficult times. Overcoming these hurdles isn’t about ignoring them, pretending they don’t matter or avoiding them when they manifest. They’ll stick with you, whether you like it or not.
What really makes the difference is how you respond to these hurdles. You can overcome them by accepting them, yet not allow them to interfere with your plans or your goals. You can ask for help from those around you. And you can make meaningful changes in your life to compensate for them. All along, realize that your strongest asset against psychological turmoil is awareness. So, remain cognizant of these potential mental pitfalls, and keep moving forward.