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Enjoy the journey: Entrepreneurs need balanced lives for businesses to truly succeed

Until recently, the words “balanced” and “entrepreneur” were rarely found in the same sentence. However, equilibrium is indeed required for business success and enjoyment on the road to get there – just ask Richard Branson.
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In an article published by the Harvard Business Review, Dan McGinn explores the connection between entrepreneurship and mental illness. He says there is a link between great thinkers and entrepreneurs such as Einstein and Steve Jobs to conditions such as depressive realism, ADD or ADHD.

Michael A. Freeman, an entrepreneur and psychiatrist, also suggests that go-getting businesspeople are more prone to polarised emotional states. In other words, when it’s good it’s amazing and exhilarating, but when it’s bad, it’s exhausting and heartbreaking.

It’s not just mental health that throws entrepreneurs off balance. Have you ever heard of “psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology”? No? I don’t blame you! This is an area of medicine that looks at the physiological effects of psychological stress. Common symptoms include digestive problems, exhaustion, eczema and back problems to name a few.

But before you reach to dial for a psychiatrist, stop for a second. There is a very simple way you can avoid the sort of stress and anxiety that can impact your health and effect the performance of your business. 

Richard Branson says: “Balancing, doing and being has been a lifelong lesson for me”. He then goes on to say: “I have learned to remember the to-do list, but don’t forget the to-be list.”

For me this is the ultimate approach in being balanced. Think about it, you have a “to do” list in order to “be” or “become” something at some point in the future.

The trouble with our perception of success is that it’s usually wrapped up in metaphors that suggest an end destination, e.g. success isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon, or success is like climbing a mountain etc.

So this idea of “being” from Mr. Branson is really saying let’s not miss out on the value of the journey. “Being present”, a term you’ll have no doubt have come across, can actually have real commercial application.

Read more on the work-life balance discussion:

Think about it, entrepreneurs live and die by their ability to see opportunity or be aware of situations around them. They need to constantly “be present” in order to navigate and pivot through their journey. 

Russell Simmons authored a book called “Success Through Stillness” in 2014 where he, the “master entrepreneur”, evangelises the use of mediation as a tool to access your potential.

In the book he shares how meditation has contributed to the success of entrepreneurs like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Russell Brand, as well as other leaders in business, art, and entertainment.

So let’s get back to your day to day. You’re probably painfully aware of the fact that if you get ill and you’re a solopreneur there is likely a huge impact on your business.

But let’s pull that back a bit; what happens in the run up to you being ill? You’re probably not that effective, the quality of your work could probably be better and, if you’re honest, you’re maybe not that fun to be around.

Balance isn’t about injecting a dose of wellbeing when the wheels are about to fall off. It’s about maintaining a status quo, which allows you to – and here’s the biggie – stay effective for the long term. Yes the long term! 

It’s a cliché, but it really is a marathon not a sprint and the truth is, to get there, just like the marathon runner, you won’t even get through your training, much less the journey without taking balance seriously.

There is a horrid statistic that says nine out of ten new businesses fail within three years. It’s my belief that if more entrepreneurs took a more balanced approach and put less pressure on themselves this figure would be dramatically reduced.

I have certainly seen the benefits of this in my life and I would urge others who believe success can only come at the price of living in a high pressured, high stressed environment to ask themselves on question; “do you want to enjoy the journey or not?”

As ranked by employees, here are the top ten employers in Britain for work-life balance.

Julian Hall is the best selling author of “Entrepreneur to Ultrapreneur” and the founder of UltraEducation, an organisation that teaches entrepreneurship skills in primary and secondary schools across the UK.

Image: Shutterstock

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