Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The last two years have been the most stressful I have ever experienced. As an entrepreneur in the early stages of building my company, however, I was already under a tremendous amount of stress before the pandemic. Throw in trying to be a loving husband, attentive and present father to three rambunctious boys, dealing with a contentious custody matter, the genuinely tense socio-political atmosphere, working from home, remote schooling and more, and there were moments when I thought I just could not do it anymore. I could not carry all the burden. Then it hit me — I don’t have to.
My life, like yours, serves a purpose. We are all designed to fill a role and need in this world. The problems and challenges you are required to face are those challenges that you encounter on your journey of fulfilling your life’s purpose. The rest, while you may be affected by them, are not your problems to solve. Even more importantly, if you spend your time and energy focused on problems you are neither meant to solve nor that you can solve, you will not have enough time and energy to solve the ones you can and were meant to solve.
When I first began my career at a large international law firm, we had a very successful guest speaker during orientation who talked about work-life balance. I will never forget what she told us: We all have time for two things in our lives — that’s it. For her, it was work and family. The rest would have to wait until she built her career. Now, as a successful executive, she has a social life, travels for leisure frequently and has even picked up a few hobbies. I think there is a third thing we all must have time for, and that is our health. Without taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, we will be unable to tend to the other two responsibilities in our lives. Once I committed to those three things, an extraordinary weight lifted. From that moment on, I knew that I could absolutely manage all the responsibilities, all the challenges and all the stress that my life was designed to manage. I just had to let go of the things I was not able to manage.
Here are the four biggest problems that were causing me unnecessary stress and draining me physically and emotionally. Once I let them go as my problems and stopped worrying about them, I had a ton more energy and could focus much better on what mattered most: my wife, children and purpose.
Money just may be our greatest distraction in life. We tend to obsess about having enough money. The question is, enough for what? As an entrepreneur, you should not expect to be able to afford a luxurious lifestyle, nor should that be your primary goal or motivation in starting your business. Being an entrepreneur takes extraordinary dedication and sacrifice, including giving up many of the regular comforts you can afford with a steady and high-salaried job. You should expect to have less, significantly less, but hope to have enough to meet your financial needs. If you are young and single, those needs are minimal. If you are married with children, they are significantly greater. Whatever your situation, however, meeting your basic living needs is a pretty low threshold. Too often we worry that being an entrepreneur is going to leave you homeless and starving in the street. That’s just absurd. If you do not think your big idea will provide food, shelter and clothing, then I suggest you find a new idea.
You are going to be fine. It all comes down to creating a basic budget, simple financial planning and living within your means. If you are not great at managing your finances, ask for help. There are countless financial advisors and money managers out there willing to provide a free budget and financial plan to prospective clients (and entrepreneurs are great prospective clients) to establish a new relationship.
As a parent, my number one priority in life is my children. Children are the greatest blessing, but they are also a serious burden that you absolutely must commit to managing. Next in line is your spouse or partner, if you have one. That said, if building your business and children are all you can handle at the moment, your spouse or partner should be understanding — at least for some time. After all, he or she or they are an adult capable of taking care of themselves. This brings me to the rest — all other adults. Unless there is a medical situation or special needs, the last thing you need or have time for are grown family members that need your undivided attention and cannot comprehend that you are busy 24-7 trying to keep your head above water. If these people in your family are causing you high stress — press pause. This is an unnecessary and unfair problem in your life. Everybody needs to grow up, be supportive and love each other unconditionally. Stop being guilted into spending your valuable time and energy with people, family or others who deplete your energy instead of elevating and inspiring you.
Just like your adult family members, friends should not be a burden. Of course, you want to be there for a friend with a real problem or crisis, the same as you would with family, but friends who pressure and guilt you about spending time together are not really your friends. Any true friend who loves you will understand that your time is limited and that you are at maximum capacity dealing with growing your business and taking care of your other personal responsibilities. You will have more time eventually — they will just have to wait.
4. Global issues
The world is filled with bad news and big problems. We get it. The world could end tomorrow because of any number of things, and that may be terrifying, but unless you are a world leader or in some other position of power, there is nothing you can do about it. Spending time consumed by all the world’s problems you are incapable of solving is a huge energy suck. It is the exact opposite of what you need in terms of motivation, inspiration and the drive to do what you have to do in your life. Solve the problems you are capable of solving, that are within your control and that you were put here on this earth to solve. Turn off the noise of 24-hour news reporting that thrives on stirring panic and fear of the next great catastrophe. Whether it is true or not, there is nothing you can do about it and you have too many other things to handle at the moment.