Entrepreneurs start their businesses with big dreams. They set out to solve problems, create positive impact, and take charge of their own lives, but reality is often different from those pretty pictures in our heads.
In truth, most find the path to starting a new business laden with fear, doubt, and trepidation. It’s impossible to eliminate these challenges, but we can learn to manage our reactions and build mental resilience that fortifies us for the road ahead.
These four behaviors, for example, have the power to bring almost anyone down. Fortunately, they’re all avoidable — and learning about them can help entrepreneurs prepare themselves and plan a healthy response.
1. Avoidance and isolation
Entrepreneurship can be a pretty lonely game. Founders operate in a way few people understand, which makes it hard for them to relate to others and be understood. As such, entrepreneurs tend to detach from the world when things become too difficult.
Perhaps the decision to leave a stable job disappointed a couple of family members, or a newly-packed schedule left friends feeling neglected. It can seem easier to draw back than to address these relationship challenges head on, but isolation makes a difficult situation even worse. Instead of drawing support from colleagues and loved ones, entrepreneurs who fall into this trap can become lost in their own heads — where doubts and fear shake their confidence and leave them feeling uprooted and alone.
Tell the truth — even if it’s painful. Listen to friends, family, and colleagues about how your decisions may have affected them, and be honest and thoughtful in your response. When people ask how the business is going, don’t hide what isn’t working. Trust them enough to share the good and the bad.
You may find that the people in your close circle — however well-meaning and supportive they may be — have trouble relating to your new journey. It helps to find a community of like-minded people who know what you’re going through. Join a group, attend a networking mixer, or sign up for a mentoring program. Once you find the support you need, you’ll be able to recuperate, find direction, and tackle your new business with the energy it requires.
2. Doubt and overthinking
Businesses are built on tough questions, “How do we solve this problem? How do we make this better?” Most of the time, this is the thrill of the game, but constant questioning isn’t easy. You may hit a rough patch and begin to second-guess everything, including your ability to do the job.
Questions that are essential to your business give way to self doubt, “Am I solving the right problem? Do people really need this? Am I smart and capable enough to make this work?” Imposter syndrome kicks in, and you can’t help but go down the rabbit hole.
Self doubt clouds your focus and weighs you down. But it’s important to remember that these doubts are self-inflicted, and you have the power to conquer them. Still, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel on your own, and you may need to lean on the expertise of others to see you through. Reach out to a mentor. Get a coach. Find someone who has been there, and ask for help. Outside perspective will help you clear your mind, focus your thoughts, and stop spinning in all directions as you figure out where to take your business next.
Entrepreneurs are forced to tackle multiple challenges all at once, and it’s easy to become sidetracked and lose sight of the bigger picture. Overwhelmed by task after task, we dabble aimlessly through our to-do lists to compensate for the confusion, but the result is often a lot of wasted work with little measurable benefit. In times like these, we often dream about a magic pill that will make everything fall into place, but sadly there is none.
Stay accountable, and stay in the game — you can’t win if you don’t play! Lean on colleagues and mentors to help you prioritize your objectives and get moving, and ask these trusted teammates to hold you accountable to staying on track.
Starting a new business is stressful and complicated, and most entrepreneurs eventually hit a wall. They start procrastinating, stagnating, or generally making excuses for not getting things done.
This type of paralysis makes you feel like you can’t do it. Your inner critic takes over and pushes you to give up. There is a way out, and it comes through taking action.
In the face of a contraction, you need an expansion! It may seem easiest to keep things tight, save, and stay put, but when you’re struggling with indecision and fear, the best course of action is often the opposite of your first instinct. When you want to hide, go out and seek help. When you doubt yourself, lean into your abilities. When you want to keep bad news a secret, share it with your community and ask for their input.
The surest way to break free of paralysis and get back on track is to invest in yourself and your business. Take time for self care. Embrace your community, and remind yourself that you are not alone. No matter how impassable a situation may seem, there is always a way forward. You just need to get to a place where you can see it.
The bottom line
Everyone falls into some or all of these traps on their journey to entrepreneurship, but hard times make us more resilient and capable of regaining our footing after a crisis. While you’re bound to falter, being aware of mental traps like these — and the ways to escape them — will help you become more agile for the challenges to come.