7 Mindsets to Alleviate Entrepreneurial Anxiety
Anxiety has been a part of my emotional state for my entire life. Since becoming an entrepreneur, it’s only been accelerated.
There is obviously a tremendous amount of stress involved in starting a business. What if I fail? What if I don’t make any money? How will I know if I’m making progress?
But, having a job can be stressful, too. You have your workload and deadlines. You have your boss telling you what to do, and you have the potential to lose your job!
Even outside of work or your business, you can stress about practically anything. Relationships, where you live, or when you’re going to married, or whatever else. The other day I waited ten minutes for my food at a restaurant and it stressed me out!
Stress can come from anything. But, only if you allow it.
I think just about everybody experiences some level of anxiety no matter what they do. It’s inevitable for the rich, poor, smart, successful, young, etc.. But some people are happier than others. I think this is because anxiety and happiness are up to us to decide.
Stress can always be there, but there are different ways to alleviate.
Some people will take pills to ease their anxiety. I know they are appropriate for some people. But, I also know there are side effects. (I’m not a doctor, and this is a larger topic, so I do not want to get into this too much here.)
But, there are methods that I’ve used to reduce anxiety without using drugs and I’m going to talk about what those are today. If you do take medication, know that what I’m going to share with you today is supplementary to your medication and will help you either way.
1. I’m safe.
The first thing I tell myself when I’m in a stressful situation is simply that “I’m safe”.
In this day in age, we’re able to live a comfortable lifestyle. I mean, it’s all relative, but think about it. We have access to healthcare, running water, law enforcement, etc.
I live in New York, but even in most other places you’re not at risk significant of being attacked or anything like that. I have a place to live, I have friends and family that care about me, and I know I’m not going to be hungry anytime soon.
I’m not living in tribal society where I’m at risk of animals attack, we’re not in a war zone, and hangings are no longer the social norm. So, I am safe. I’m not under attack, so I’m going to survive. This is something very simple that significantly reduces my anxiety.
2. I’m capable.
The next thing that I remind myself is that I’m capable. Self confidence is an anxiety killer.
Self confidence means knowing that whatever may happen you, you will be able to make it work and make great things happen.
So, if you don’t get a job offer that you want or a deal falls through, I just remind myself that I’m capable. I’m capable of making money and accomplishing my goals. Once I do this, it puts me in a state of abundance.
Let’s say for example a deal is falling through or you get rejected on a sales call. You’re brain is going to automatically go into a state of scarcity.
This is an evolutionary thing. In tribal society, when you fail or get rejected, you’d have a very high possibility of dying because cause you’d have to go out on your own defending for yourself. So your biology wants to remind you of this to protect you.
Luckily, modern society is much different.
Like I talked about before, being attacked by animals or other tribes is not going to happen. There’s not much of a chance you are going to starve from hunger. As a matter of fact, if you get really hungry, you can get food delivered to your doorstep with a few clicks on your phone.
But, our biology hasn’t adapted. So, the feeling of being rejected either by a boss, customer, even by a girlfriend or boyfriend, is going to send you in a state of scarcity. It’s completely natural.
But, I found that by reminding myself that I have many great opportunities to create value that I am capable of creating value, I can immediately put myself back into a state of abundance and confidence.
3. Reality can not be changed.
The next thing I like to do is simply accept reality. I accept where I am and I know that I cannot change the past. I can’t alleviate what went wrong or whatever mistakes I have made. Whatever may have happened in the past…is in the past.
Reality can not be changed. I must accept how it is and deal with it. Knowing this is the only option is strangely liberating.
Regret has been a source of anxiety for me. Maybe I regret something that I did. Or didn’t do. Maybe I was in an embarrassing situation, or maybe I did something wrong, or made a mistake. Then, I start regretting it or I feeling bad about it.
But, I’ve come to realize that I can’t change the past. It’s simply not beneficial for me to stress about it, because it’s over. There’s nothing I can do about it except learn. So, it’s more productive not get anxious about it.
I just accept that it happened and know that I’m no longer there anymore, I am in the present. Again, I remind myself that I’m safe and capable of fixing the mistake next time. I’m capable of moving forward and making great things happen despite what happened in the past.
There’s really just no sense in worrying about the past; it simply can’t be changed. If it could, lives would be saved, money would be made, and the world would be much different. But, that’s just not the way it is.
The past cannot attack me. The past cannot hold me back, simply because the past is not a living being or any kind of weapon. It’s only a thought.
So, I try to just accept the past and accept reality. I accept where I am in any given moment. For example, say it’s Sunday night and I miss the train going from DC to New York and became quite stressed because of it. After the trains gone, it’s not coming back. I have two options. I can accept reality, that the train has gone and he can no longer catch that previous train. And I can wait for the next train.
Or, I can become stressed. I can make up excuses for why I missed the train. I can blame other people. I can even cry.
Either way, the train is not going to turn around. I have to wait for the next train, so mine as well accept reality and take the next best action.
I take action to remind myself about the present moment by asking myself the following questions:
Where am I in the present moment?
What can I do now to achieve the best outcome?
I missed my train, so what can I now do to achieve the results I want? In this case, I want to get back to New York City. I can’t go back in time and arrive at the station five minutes earlier. What I can do is focus on is what’s in my control. I can’t tell train to come back, but I can get on the next train. I can find another mode of transportation, like a bus. I can stay in DC and work remotely on Monday. I focus on what’s in my control and move forward with the next best action.
4. What’s the worst that could happen?
One key mindset I try to have in a stressful situation is to think about the worst case scenario. After I miss the train, what’s the worst that could happen? Okay, maybe the worst case scenario is while waiting for the next train, I get bit by a stray dog that happens to have a rare disease in his mouth that causes me to die instantly. But, that’s highly unlikely, even in a horror movie.
This goes back to my first point, being safe. If I feel like I’m on my way into a stressful situation, then I always try to think about the worst possible scenario (within reason). Then I usually end up realizing that it’s really not so bad.
Say I’m going into a sales call, the worst possible scenario is not that they’re going to bite my head off. It is possible, but still unrealistic and so, knowing that I’m safe gives me the confidence and reduces anxiety. The worst thing that can happen is that they are rude to me and say, “no” and hang up on me. That’s not life threatening!
Back to the train example. The worst thing that that can happen to me is that I’m going to miss work on Monday. Now yes, this is not a great result, it is not great to miss work, but it is absolutely okay. Any reasonable boss would understand that I missed the train and I simply can’t make it in.
I’ve even thought about greater things that make me stressed like, “what if my business completely fails and I lose all my money?”
Then, I think about. Even if I lose all my money, I won’t go hungry.
I’m confident. I’m capable. I can make more money somehow. I have family and friends that can help me
I think this was a big thing for me when I first went on my own last year and started working on my content business. I remember thinking, “okay, what is the absolute worst case scenario if I completely fail at what I’m doing?”
And what I realized is that the worst case scenario for me was that I would have to move in with my parents. Now that sounds awful, at my age, I know that sounds awful, but it’s really not that bad in the big picture. I would survive.
Now, I know not everybody has that convenience of moving back in with their parents, but I’m sure you know someone who has a couch or a floor that you could crash on if you lost all of your money. It sounds horrible, but really, it’s not that bad. You won’t be in danger. You won’t go hungry.
It was then that I realized that I’m willing to take that risk. I don’t even think that there is a likelihood of that happening because again I’m quite capable. But, just thinking about the worst case scenario makes me realize that it’s actually not so bad. And if it is bad, then you should think twice about it before you take action.
5. Be present.
The next mindset I’d like to talk about is truly being present. This mindset is to not to fight the anxiety, but to actually harness it and use it to your advantage.
Anxiety can actually be a good thing. It can motivate you to perform well. Some entrepreneurs constantly stress about money. They worry about running out of money. They want to make more money. Etc.
I’ve studied many different schools of thought on how to alleviate anxiety, such as stoicism. But, some anxiety is very difficult to fight, so what I’ve been doing more recently is just harnessing the anxiety.
I’m stressed about money. That’s not uncommon at all! But, instead of just accepting that and trying to alleviate it, why don’t I just accept and harness that anxiety and use it to motivate me to fix this anxiety? And I can fix it by making more money.
So it can actually be a beneficial to have this anxiety. It can actually motivate me. As a matter of fact, it has been motivating me to put in extra hours and to go further because I know I’ll feel less anxious when I’m doing what is in my control to avoid going broke and become more financially secure.
Now, this may not be a long term solution. In fact, this can be a symptom of a deeper issue, but it’s definitely helped me and motivated me. For example, some people endlessly crave more freedom, more money, more travel, more sex, etc. but are never satisfied because it’s all in their head.
Not having enough money is a not an imminent concern right now, so I’m trying to harness it and do my best to accept it and take action. I simply do what’s in my control and take action. In this case it’s just to work, continue to produce content, grow my network, and learn everyday.
6. Life is a game.
Finally, the last mindset I wanted to talk about is that life is a game and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
This is something that I have to remind myself of every so often. Sometimes I find myself takeing things too seriously. I start worrying about what other people might think of me and bigger existential issues.
Some of this is healthy, but sometimes I take it too far to the extreme and it’s not productive.
I say, “What if this was all a game and I’m just in the matrix? What if it’s a video game and my only purpose here is to play this game and have fun with it?
This helps me reduce all kinds of fears and failures. Most of these fears are unreasonable anyways, like the fear of being homeless or getting struck by lightning. That stuff doesn’t matter if you’re inside a video game! Thinking about this helps me reduce my fears, and usually ends up putting a smile on my face.
It encourages me to have fun, which is really important for me to keep a good mood and be productive.
7. Choose your emotions and actions wisely.
Those are the mindsets I use to reduce anxiety. They also help me stay motivated. I’ll briefly run through them again.
The first is to remind yourself that you are safe. You’re not going to die despite what your biology says. You are okay, you’re not going to be attacked or killed.
The next is to remind yourself that you are capable. You are confident; You have many opportunities to create value for yourself and others.
Be present in the moment. The past is in the past. Try your best to accept the things that have happened and recognize that there is nothing you can do to change this. The future is in the future, so don’t try to predict or change something that you have no control over.
Keeping presence in mind, don’t fight your anxiety. Anxiety is not always a bad thing. Acknowledge it, accept it, and maybe you can learn to harness it and use it to your advantage. There’s no benefit to be anxious about being anxious.
When you’re feeling anxious, think about the worst case scenario. You’ll soon realize it’s usually not life threatening, or anything close to it.
Always take action. There’s nothing worse than just wallowing in the anxiety. Just take action to alleviate it, even if that action is simply going to the gym.
Focus on what’s in your control and don’t worry about what other people are going to do. Just worry about what’s in your control and what you can do to improve your current situation. You can’t change the time of the train, but you can learn from this experience and make sure that you don’t miss another train again.
And lastly life is a game don’t take it too seriously and have fun.
There are a million things in this world to worry about. A million things to smile about. A million things that can hurt you. And a million things that can help you. Choose wisely.