I’m an anxious person by nature. This began at a really young age for me. I was quite literally scared of the wind. At no older than six or seven years old, I remember agonizing every morning over the weather forecast where I would wait for the meteorologist to share the predicted miles per hour of wind for that day. I would then ask my mom to tell me how fast that was and if it would result in trees uprooting and falling on houses (this was my real fear). My mom would assure me that wind blowing at a mere 5 miles-per-hour would not do that, but I still held onto the anxiety that at any moment the wind would pick up unexpectedly and my worst fear would come true. It never did, and this anxiety over wind and weather subsided. It did however manifest into many other types of anxiety that matured with me over the years, but all of that is worthy of a blog post (or book) for another day.
Today, I want to share words of hope with fellow business owners, entrepreneurs, or whoever may need to hear this – anxiety does not need to paralyze your ambition to live boldly!
Yes, being a business owner is tough and it comes with a unique set of challenges, but quite honestly the recipe for managing anxiety is not all that different from how you might handle the anxiety of parenthood, marriage, or being a student. I can only speak to my personal experiences, but I hope you’ll find some pearls of wisdom in what I am going to share with you about how I’ve personally managed the anxiety that can come from starting and growing a business. Here’s what that looks like!
Establish structure and order.
As humans, we crave structure and order in our lives. We want predictability, to some degree, in everything we do, because this brings a sense of control and safety. For hopeful entrepreneurs and business owners, it’s critical to define a method for your own success. What does your daily routine look like? No two days need to or even will be the same, but you should still follow a similar recipe for success. For me, this is getting an early start to my day. I don’t always love when my alarm rings at 5am, but I never regret the progress I make before the rest of the world awakes that allows me more flexibility and freedom in the rest of my day. I also keep a very organized list of my must-dos for each day. I know that so long as I accomplish these must-dos, everything else will follow in lock-step and I won’t fall under an avalanche of work. Furthermore, structure and order help me to maintain an open bandwidth to take on new opportunities for growth. Without structure and order, I would not be in a position to take on urgent projects or adjust on a moment’s notice, which is often needed in the Public Relations industry.
Focus on what you can control.
You will never, ever be able to control everything in life. In fact, that should never be your goal and if it is, you’re wasting a lot of time and energy on something that won’t bring you stability and happiness even if achieved. At the very beginning of my entrepreneurial journey I wrote about how “If you don’t plan everything, everything goes as planned.” This rings true to this day. But feeling in control is important, especially for business owners. So how can you find a balance between your desire for control and the universe’s inability to be controlled? Through selective control. Focus on identifying the things you can control about your day, your week, your month. Who or what you give your time to is a big one. What you allow to fill your schedule in your day is a reflection of the masters you serve. Think about your past week. Who were your masters? Does this reflect your heart and your priorities for life? If not, focus on first taking control over your time. You can also control how you treat other people, the example you set for others, and how you treat yourself. Give special care to these areas of life, because while you can’t control a lot that’s going on around you, being in control and being intentional in these areas will give you a solid foundation that is not easily shaken.
Don’t become enslaved to your to-do list.
Have you ever tried to scroll to the bottom of your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed? Don’t try it. There’s no world record to be set for this, because I’m solidly convinced there is no end. The same is true of your to-do list. There will always, always be something to add to the bottom just when you think you might have checked all your boxes. So don’t play this game with yourself! As I mentioned above, be clear about your must-dos for each and every day, and keep these to a very slim list of essential tasks you must complete in order to keep other critical items moving forward. Invoicing clients on the proper date, paying your bills, meeting a project deadline – these are all examples of things that have a clear expiration date and that should be completed on time in order to be a responsible business owner. As for trying to end each day by checking off absolutely everything on your to-do list? If even achieved, and I don’t recommend this, the next morning you awake it will be like someone hit “refresh” on your newsfeed and that endless list will begin to scroll again. Complete your must-dos, step away from work to enjoy personal/family life, and then pick it back up when you’re refreshed.
Anxiety is a liar. It will tell you that something bad is always about to happen. The other shoe will surely drop soon, and you’re not equipped to handle what’s coming next. I’ve had my own bouts of worry, doubt, extreme scenarios play through my mind. My thoughts have run the full gamut of thinking I’m simply not creative enough or qualified to give anyone else advice, the whole way to feeling like I could lose my business if I took one misstep that angered the wrong person. These doom and gloom scenarios could happen (sorry!). But worrying about them accomplishes absolutely nothing. An important piece of advice I have to share with you is to maintain perspective. Don’t let anxiety, worry, or doubt steal the joy that comes with the journey of entrepreneurship. And don’t let anyone else impose these thoughts on you! There is always something to be grateful for each and every day, even if that’s waking up and pursuing a career you love. Start there, keep a clear perspective on what really matters, and allow the bigger picture to come into focus.
Find your tribe.
And finally, entrepreneurship can be a very lonely road if you don’t intentionally seek fellowship in other business owners and entrepreneurs. I’m a sole proprietor and have been for more than a decade. I interface with people all the time through my work, but it’s not quite the same as being in an office filled with staff. To be clear, I don’t desire interfacing with employees daily. I love the life of a solo entrepreneur! But from time to time I need to be rejuvenated and inspired by having conversations with other professionals, especially those who are also business owners. I’ve found my tribe through key networking groups, as well as friends. These are people I know I can turn to for personal conversations and to “talk shop” when needed. I recommend to every business owner to also find your tribe. Surround yourself with people who are at different points in their careers and who have vast and varied life experiences. This will become your sounding board and safety net when important issues arise and you need the ear and the mind of a confidant.
Do you live with anxiety over things like starting and running a business, growing your professional career, raising a family, or basically just trying to be a good human each day? Rest assured you are among a vast, vast group of people. That may not be the answer you want to hear, but I hope this is – some of the most successful, confident, and fearless leaders you will ever come across have had to actively manage anxiety all while still accomplishing great things. You have no less power or potential than these individuals. Maybe you even have more to give? I do know that you’ll never know your potential if you let anxiety stifle your dream to do. Whatever that dream looks like for you, I hope you’ve taken solace in some of the words I’ve shared.
Leave a comment below to share an experience or add a piece of advice to this list!