As a late bloomer to entrepreneurship, there’s no doubt I would not have taken this crazy plunge without a background in mindfulness. I see the benefits everyday, and I am thankful to be able to separate Buddha’s first arrow of the actual pain, from the second self-inflicted arrow, our thoughts and stories about it’s meaning. How else can we face the fears that present themselves as real, take risks into the unknown, focus on the ‘now’ and move forward at the same time? I am fortunate that my business venture revolves around mindfulness, but I also see it as an essential tool for managing any project skillfully.
So what is mindfulness exactly? It is the practice of being aware in the present moment without judgement. It is also being called ‘kindfulness’ as it cultivates a compassionate stance towards ourselves and the world as we give up the self-flagellation that comes with judging ourselves and others.
I came to mindfulness long before I knew it had a name purely out of necessity. I began in business with a private counselling practice, and I saw for myself how clients benefited from slowing down and becoming mindful during our sessions, simply as a practical way to see what was arising for them. I naturally branched out to teach yoga and mindfulness as an adjunct to help people get well and find peace.
As I now move toward launching a mindfulness product designed to remind people to practice during the day, I find myself firmly planted in the shoes of an entrepreneur, by accident. So, I rely heavily on the following essential mindfulness practices for entrepreneurs:
- Focus: With the multitude of distractions available to an entrepreneur, particularly working from home or alone, it is easy to spend hours on Facebook or in other forms of resistance. Being mindful helps us to be more aware and allows us to observe what we are doing with our time and questioning whether it is in alignment with our goals for that day.
- Dealing with fears: Fear seems to be part of not only the entrepreneurial experience, but of life. Entrepreneurs face fears everyday from moving into the unknown, financial fears to self-doubt. If we run from these fears we will forever play small, hiding out in our dreams and hoping someone will see us. Mindfully, we can turn and face the fears, breathe and inquire whether they are in fact based in truth, or our mammalian brain kicking in to over-protect us from harm. Most successful entrepreneurs have failed numerous times. Mindfulness builds resilience to bounce back and keep going, knowing that failing is part of the path and it’s not who you are.
- Busting the myths: I’m too old, too young, too this or that, who am I to do this? If I believed any of these myths I would have given up a long time ago. The fact is that they are excuses for not pursuing your path and learning the necessary skills to do so. There may be other logistical reasons for not continuing, but these are not them. YOU ARE ENOUGH.
- You can’t do it alone: Fine, then who do I do it with? We know that building a team and a community is a part of successful entrepreneurship and it makes the journey a whole lot easier. But finding out who fits with you and your vision is another story. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to work with the first offer that comes along, when we slow down and become mindful of our gut feelings, we can then make a wise decision as to who we will work with. I have jumped on board with companies that don’t feel right only to find out there was a more suitable one around the corner. Mindfulness allows us to slow down and widens the gap between stimulus and response so that we have space to make a wise decision as best as we can. We can tolerate the tension of sitting on it.
- You need this app: Do I? The beautiful thing about owning and growing your own business is that now there are so many technological aids and social media platforms designed to assist you to automate systems, build efficiency or analyze and expand your market. The key is in discovering which ones are suited to your particular venture and not what you ‘should’ use because a guru says so. When we mindfully return to ourselves and our own knowing, “We already know who we are and what we want ” Lao Tzu. We are more likely to follow our own intuition as the leader.
- Learning to follow your own path. Your business IS your own path. You may have mentors and people you admire, but your voice and your story are your own. Practicing mindfulness allows the veils of denial and shame to lift and we can see clearly who we are, how we got to where we are, and where we are going. This is your story, your path, and customers dig authenticity.
- Getting advice.In my experience, a lot of people want to give you advice when launching a new product or a new business. The funny thing is that that advice can be wildly different depending on who you talk to. I have been told everything by the experts from ‘give up’ to ‘proceed no matter what’. The truth is, it’s their opinion based on their knowledge and their experience. I’ve also been given very valuable game-changing advice but ultimately it comes down to you. The trick is knowing what feels right and makes sense given your venture, your vision and your resources.
- Creativity: There is no doubt that creatives become entrepreneurs in order to follow their own creative path, and also that entrepreneurs have to be creative at times. The only true source of creativity is the source within us, accessible when the muse arrives at the door and is followed. Setting aside a time for mindfulness each day promotes connection to your source and opens the door for unexpected creative ideas to emerge when the mind is open and not in the fight-or-flight reactive mode we reside in a lot of the time. Find your creative time. For me it’s when I am running on my favourite trail that new blogs and ideas arrive.
- Morning routine. We know that having a healthy start to the day can set you up for success and nowhere is that more important that in the life of a solopreneur. Before diving into the inbox quicksand, allow time, preferably an hour or more to include the following: Eat: a healthy light breakfast, Move: exercise or gentle yoga promote a healthy body and a successful day, Stillness: sit quietly following your breath for a few minutes or more, allowing your mind to clear and get ready for the day, Write/Visualize: include a time to think about what YOU would like to focus on today, and reflect back on the bigger vision that you are taking a step toward on this day you have been given.
- Daily routine. Stop and Breathe. Often.