The American culture of entrepreneurship is celebrated at the expense of emotional wellbeing.
While everyone--especially non-entrepreneurs--worship shows like Shark Tank from the comfort of their sofa's, most people fail to understand the drawbacks of starting your own business.
As a licensed therapist and life coach who works with executives and entrepreneurs, I've talked to many people in the industry who are quick to point out that the glamorous lifestyles depicted on social media are not reflective of their daily lives.
Despite being perceived as rock stars, many entrepreneurs find themselves hustling: working as hard as possible, as fast as possible, as long as they possibly can. And all of that work--sprinting a marathon--comes at a cost: mainly, their emotional health.
Unfortunately, the culture of entrepreneurship is dominated by hyper-masculine narratives. The excessive business-first mentality results in a classic male problem--the restriction of feelings other than stress, frustration, and competitiveness.
Through no fault of their own, many entrepreneurs--both males and females--find themselves unable to make time for feelings that aren't related to productivity.
They talk about their business. They think about their business. They worry about their business. And their business--a dynamic and ever-changing vision--is as vulnerable as a newborn infant.
Have you seen first-time parents?
They're an absolute mess for several months.
But while infants reach developmental milestones, successful businesses are never satisfied with slowing their growth. So entrepreneurs stay fixated on progress and problem-solving like a sprinter focused on his stride and the finish line for years at a time.
This excessive tunnel vision and accompanying responsibility of being the parent of your company leads entrepreneurs to feelings of isolation. Of frustration. And of feeling like no one can understand what they're going through.
These feelings of isolation lead to a "me against the world" mindset exasperates the heightened stress and anxiety many individuals encounter in the competitive world of startups.
Let's take a step back and review:
Entrepreneurs are singularly focused on productivity and problem solving. While carrying soul-crushing responsibility. While feeling alone. And misunderstood. While existing within a space dominated by masculine narratives that minimize emotions other than stress and frustration.
Does that sound healthy to you?
Research shows that it's not.
A study by the University of California found that 72% of entrepreneurs are impacted by Mental Health conditions. Over 49% of entrepreneurs struggle with mental health issues and 23% of entrepreneurs have family members with mental health challenges.
Another study found that 13% of startups fail due to the founders losing focus, 9% fail because of the founders losing passion, and 8% fail due to emotional burnout.
This means that 30% of startups fail due to the emotional and psychological struggles of their founders. And if you ask me--those numbers are much lower than I expect to see in future studies.
Despite the overwhelming evidence showing that entrepreneurs struggle with their personal development, there is one practice that can and will help entrepreneurs. But most are afraid to try it.
Everyone knows what it is, but the stigma--especially in a "I don't need help, I can do it on my own" culture--prevents people from doing it.
Yes, it's therapy (or coaching, if you can find a good coach).
Here are 8 quick byproducts of coaching that all entrepreneurs can benefit from:
1. Maximizing your strengths and makes them even better.
Coaching doesn't just involve talking about your mother--it also looks at what you do well and encourages further development in that area.
2. Providing much needed attention on your areas of growth.
Blind spots. We all have them. And they are what hold you back from achieving your ambitious goals. Therapy will help you break through the barriers you might not even know are there.
3. Increasing your self-awareness and your emotional intelligence.
Through talking at least once per week, you'll increase your insight into your thoughts, feelings, and actions. This increased insight improves your ability to live according to your values.
4. Deepening your compassion and ability to understand others.
When you thoroughly explore your inner world with a coach or therapist, you improve your self-understanding. The more you understand and forgive yourself for your shortcomings, the better you are able to do the same for others.
5. Reducing stress and anxiety.
Yes, something as simple as talking with an expert can dramatically reduce stress and anxiety.
6. Boosting your focus and concentration at work.
When you release emotional tension in session, you'll return to work feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to knock-out each second of the day.
7. Improving your relationships (and networking skills).
Far from selfish, taking your self-growth seriously improves the ways in which you interact with people you care about--personally and professionally.
8. Increasing accountability for your personal growth.
When you have more eyes on your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you automatically increase accountability. You can't just speak empty words about self-growth, you have to take meaningful action towards living your values.
Entrepreneurs, this is my plea to you: step outside of your comfort zone and start engaging in meaningful self-growth practices like coaching or therapy.
You embody important American values like hard work and make meaningful contributions to the world. But you're also suffering and afraid to spend time working on practices that can and will make a positive impact on your life.
The more of you that step up and engage in these valuable self-growth practices, the more people will follow in your footsteps.