“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
(Old Zen adage)
I always knew I wanted to work for myself. Freedom and flexibility are two of my strongest values and every 9-5 job I ever had stepped all over them so the decision to hand in my notice and become an entrepreneur, was one of the easiest I’ve ever made.
Not so easy, however, was navigating the emotional rollercoaster that comes with running a small business.
Long, lonely days filled with struggle and anxiety regularly featured in my first few months as a start-up. In fact, they’re still a common occurrence three years down the line!
It was only when I reconnected with my regular mindfulness practice, something that had fallen by the wayside along with my commute, that I was able to see through the self-induced storm and stay focused on the goal ahead.
Here are the top five ways mindfulness helped me as an entrepreneur:
1. CONTROL ANXIETY
Going solo brings about a lot of change, and usually, with change comes fear. In my case, fear manifested itself as anxiety, which would usually rear its ugly head every time I checked my empty bank account or thought about the huge amount of work and endless obstacles that lay ahead of me.
When I felt anxious, I would stop and breathe and turn towards the feeling. Acknowledging it, being mindful that it was perfectly natural when I was taking such a big step, and reminding myself that it would eventually pass, helped me to relax and allowed room for clarity.
2. STAY PRESENT
As mentioned, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of work and barriers that setting up alone presents, but building my awareness muscle through mindfulness meditation, allowed me to focus on what I was doing that very moment, task by task, and not get too caught up worrying about the future.
3. IMPROVED FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION
When you have an off day in full-time employment – spending the day researching holidays and chatting to friends – it tends not to have much of an impact. But as an entrepreneur, it puts you behind. Behind in your business plan, behind your goals and behind your competitors. Yet we all know how easily distracted we are by the web, tech and our mobile phones! Combine that with working from home and it’s a recipe for disaster. Practicing mindfulness allowed me to tune into my distractions, to notice more readily when my attention was broken and to pull it back time and time again.
4. NOTICE UNHELPFUL THOUGHT PATTERNS
I was also able to spot unhelpful thought patterns like catastrophising “this is never going to work” and fortune-telling “that pitch was a disaster, they hated me” more easily, actively challenging them and replacing with more rational, realistic thoughts and positive affirmations. Preventing them from causing too much long-term damage.
5. INCREASED CREATIVITY
As clichéd as it might sound, when the mind is still, the soul has a chance to speak. And when you’re pursuing a business that has meaning and heart which mine does for me, it is often during my mindfulness practice that pearls of wisdom, solutions to problems and creative ideas come to me.
Instead of a 45-minute stressful commute to work, my morning routine now includes a coffee, journaling, and a healthy dose of the entrepreneur’s elixir. 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation.