Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why Managing the Highs is Important for Entrepreneurs

Last year I hit a low.  I had many months of lows.  I'd experienced burn-out three years earlier and over the next three years had two international moves, a marriage, a baby, sickness in the family, personal health issues, family relationship challenges, unemployment, and a new business.  Needless to say, I didn't really have time to deal with burn-out.  Then, last year, my business transitioned from HR consulting to mindful leadership and wellness, and what one would expect to be an exciting journey turned into some of the lowest moments of my life - but they contained some of the most valuable lessons.

My mind, body, and spirit just would not allow me to take any more and I literally crashed. Strangely, I was in a very happy place in life - life was truly wonderful in all the important ways. Yet, I was struggling with getting out of bed and managing my day to day roles as a mom, wife, and business owner.  I beat myself up about not being in a 'happy place' when life was so good. Underneath it all, I was actually happy and grateful for such amazing love in my life.  I just couldn't muster up the energy to behave that way consistently.  I wanted so badly to have a 'productive' day.  I saw other business owners passing me by as my business stalled.  I observed others being happy and successful and wished I could be in that place.  I decided I had to remove myself from social situations because they made me feel worse - and I stopped almost all professional networking and declined nearly all socials.

My personal wellness journey then began, and it was necessary for business success.

Thankfully, I have progressed to a wonderful place and have begun to network again.  Business is increasing - you really do attract what you feel and what you can handle at that time.  I have moments of floating on a high again, and I'm realizing just how important it is to manage your highs both in business and life.

Through these experiences, I learned two key things:

1) It is critical to manage your highs if you want to be successful in business.

Yes, I said 'highs'.  As my energy floated around a 1-2 out of 10, it felt like everyone around me was a 12.  Interestingly, I began to observe how unmanaged some of these highs were and how distracted and absent some of these people were from the present.  Their way of being was centred around their successes and even challenges - it was self-centred.  I was honoured to be part of their journey and that they wanted to share their celebrations with me.  However, when I needed to have their attention, they were focused on their own successes and achievements and their own evolving journey.

I wondered... "Was I like that when I was on a professional high in the past?"  And I decided that, yes, I was.  But I didn't want to be like it in the future.

I knew I had to help other entrepreneurs not be like it too - because we don't know what we don't know, and an entrepreneur can't get away with behaving on this level of self-importance and be successful on a long-term basis.  An entrepreneur puts her/himself out there and needs to be able to   accept her/his imperfections and actually feel grateful when others point them out so you can then improve on them.  Perfection does not mean having no flaws.  It means not being offended when someone points out yours.

Everyone has highs and lows in life and business.  Imagine peaking in your business.... it's a celebratory time.  But there will always be people around you that are on a low or struggling in some way.  They may celebrate with you, but they may need something else from you.  Imagine if those people were your employees or your customers or your suppliers?  How do you think the relationship would evolve if they needed your attention and presence, yet you were on a high that took all of your energy to that place?

Now, how do you think the relationship would evolve if you were present with these people, regardless of where you are and what you are experiencing?  When they need you, they have your attention.

Who becomes the loyal employee that recruits other great employees?  Who becomes the cheerleader customer?  Who is the supplier that works with you to meet deadlines rather than giving excuses for not meeting them?  Yeah... it's the one who gets your attention.

And, remember, you will drop into a low again.  The highs do not last forever.  It is the ability to not cling onto the highs and accept the lows that brings true happiness in life and success in business.

Being an entrepreneur can be exhausting.  You are leader.  You are confidante.  You are representative in your industry.  You are sales person.  You are connector.  You are problem solver. You are 'financer'.  You assume the risk and give away authority.  Not to mention, and more importantly, you are partner/spouse, child, parent, and friend.  Your presence is required - all the time.

The only way to not burn-out is to manage it all - the lows AND the highs.

2) The answer is here.  Now.

It is common knowledge that we must manage our lows.  I use mindfulness strategies to help clients manage them and build focus, awareness, and whole wellness.  However, it is not as common to manage the highs.  We are encouraged to celebrate the highs.  The poised leader manages his or her highs while celebrating them.  The poised leader does not even need the so-called highs in order to feel successful.

The answer for not burning out from the extremes is being in the present moment.  Regardless of where you are in business, when you are sitting across from an employee discussing a challenge or success they are having, making that the most important thing in your life right now (because it is the only thing at that moment) is how you prevent the crash.  You manage it all by managing the only thing you can - the moment.

This doesn't mean you don't celebrate and share your successes with others.

When you are on your next high, enjoy that moment.  Enjoy it for everything it is.  And then move into the next moment.  When the high is over - the good news has been told, the contract has been awarded, the financing has come through - it no longer exists.  Wishing the feeling could last forever or chasing the next high will not make you happy or any more successful.  The great high experienced is no more successful than the next moment when you are taking out the trash.

And that is the answer.  Everything... every moment... is where success lies... when you don't cling to an experience as being more or less successful or important than the previous one and you don't chase after another experience in order to feel more successful.

Simple.  But not easy.

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