Happiness isn’t necessarily the first word that springs to mind when you think of startup founders. Long days, rejection and a never-ending list of objectives can lead many to feel stressed, lost and isolated.
Despite these difficulties of running a startup, there is also a huge amount of positivity and empowerment which comes from being a founder. In the early days, it can be easy to get drawn into the unhappiness spiral and forget all the incredible parts of being a founder. This is where the importance of centring happiness comes into play.
Centring happiness isn’t always the most intuitive concept, so we asked two experts in the mental wellbeing and resilience space to explain how to make this a reality.
Unhappiness as a Founder
Attaching yourself too closely to the fortunes of your venture.
Kari Sulenes explained that often unhappy founders identify too closely with their company so that when it begins to struggle they are unable to detach themselves from the difficulties.
Jindy Mann built upon this idea when he explained, “Building a business is an incredible way to learn, grow, create and challenge yourself. It may also be a vehicle for you to create a powerful change in the world and express your values. But your business is not you. Attaching yourself too closely can mean your personal happiness becomes linked to external measures and judgements – revenue growth, investor feedback, MAUs etc.”
Forgetting to create a life and purpose outside of the business.
For Jindy Mann, “knowing what else is important, or even more important than your business helps create perspective on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
This lack of awareness of your holistic life, Kari says, can often lead to a “lack of awareness/attention to a holistic life, decline in relationships, lack of sleep, poor diet/lack of exercise, failure to stay strategic/connected to the mission.”
These things combined mean that your business often becomes your entire life, and leads to feelings of burnout.
Being a Happy Founder
Remember that the ups and downs of the business are not a reflection of you.
Jindy emphasised the importance of detaching yourself from your company’s outcomes. He explained, “you are still all of the things you were before, independent of the entity you’ve created.”
“you are still all of the things you were before, independent of the entity you’ve created”Jindy Mann
This point was highlighted by Kari, who noted the importance of “keeping your personal and company mission central” whilst also ensuring you don’t identify too closely with your company’s outcomes.
Jindy advises, in order to prevent this you “practice treating failures with the same equanimity as successes and see them as gifts for learning, or resilience or something else.” Kari noted that this kind of equanimity can be found through communities and peer groups where you can connect with others and celebrate these successes.
Kari highlighted a real need to “monitor energy” and delegate when you feel your energy is low. She advised working “with a coach or therapist to support [this] mindset and emotional wellbeing.”
Jindy also highlighted the importance of looking inwardly to assess your mental wellbeing. He suggested to “Carve out one hour a week to sit somewhere quiet and alone, without any distractions. Have a pen & paper if you wish.” He noted that this practice, “is contemplation rather than meditation, there’s no need to do anything other than be alone for an hour. See what comes up when you create that space.”
“stay committed to your life’s purpose larger than the company. Your company is ONLY one part of your life”Kari Sulenes
Both Kari and Jindy noted the importance of “doing the things you enjoy outside of your business.” Jindy advised to “put them in your calendar and make them as non-negotiable as your most important meeting”, so that you don’t lose touch with your everyday life.
Kari, summarised this point perfectly, when she said “stay committed to your life’s purpose larger than the company. Your company is ONLY one part of your life.” For Kari, “toning and growing nervous system resilience through beathwork, Qi Gong, Toga or bodywork” can also be a great way to recenter yourself away from the stresses of running a business.
With thanks to our contributors: