Whether you call yourself an entrepreneur, a business owner or a freelancer, when you work alone – or are the ‘boss’ of a small team, it can feel very lonely. You are the decision maker, maybe the breadwinner for your family, you’ve gone out on a limb, you may seem like a risk taker or rebel to your family and friends, the bottom line – you have something to prove! Whether you identify as lonely or not, this ‘aloneness’ can create a serious lack of perspective.
You might feel like a small fish in a big and busy pond, a pond where the water keeps moving and if you don’t, you’ll get sucked down the whirlpool in the middle. There are a few superstars in your industry who have claimed islands around the pond, a few more who have tiny moorings they anchor to, but most are circling the whirlpool working hard not to get sucked in.
It’s easy to get caught in the whirlpool. You swim faster and faster to make sure you don’t get sucked in, but without perspective you can’t see beyond the whirlpool you are spinning in, no matter how many times you swim round the edge just keeping everything together.
Life and business can start to feel repetitive – you may even know it’s your own story / excuses that have you circling the whirlpool, but while you’re busy swimming, the water is moving too fast to reflect what you are actually doing – hence your perspective disappears.
Your little whirlpool is kind of like your social media echo chamber, or the rhetoric from the same people you have the same conversations with over and over, the things you regularly fill your head with, the habits you repeat whether they serve you or not – these all limit your perspective.
This is where connection is vital, whether it is a partner or family member, a friend or fellow entrepreneur, a formal mentor or business group, having someone who understands your dreams and aspirations who can see what you are doing from beyond the edge of the whirlpool will give you a totally different perspective than your own.
The key to here though is that the person or people supporting you are actually able to hold space for you, you feel safe enough to be vulnerable, to explore what you are doing – or not doing, and that they have the right experience or expertise to help you to find perspective. This might be because they know you well, they’ve shared some of your life journey, it might be that they have an island or mooring already, or previously swum in the pond that you are navigating, or it might be that they are a professional ‘space holder’.
It is definitely not the people who love you dearly and want to keep you safe. It is not the people who want you to do things their way – and in there I include many ‘coaches’ selling solutions for this, that and the next thing without even understanding your issue. Neither is it colluders, those people who when you say it’s tough will immediately share their hardships or horror stories, agree about how tough it is and encourage you to swim faster round the whirlpool, or worse, sink into it with them.
Most entrepreneurs and business owners I work with crave safe space, somewhere to gain the perspective that enables them to swim in their own lane and not round in circles. I believe that connection with others who understand the risk, the loneliness and the rewards of having your own business is critical to perspective, success and mental wellbeing and I actively encourage you to seek out this connection. You are welcome to look in the Braver Business group for starters.
Perspective is a neurological habit, a way of thinking – often when busy, tired or stressed you take the neurological shortcut – which is to keep doing what you’ve always done and keep doing it the same way. It’s easy, but madness. Not only does this default keep you stuck, it can prevent you considering new things in your industry, from finding better ways of working and from connecting with people who may help you. Like all habits, your default perspective seeking habits can be changed.
Here are my favourite ways of ensuring I (nearly always) keep an expansive perspective:
- Understand what takes me close to the edge of the whirlpool – for me this is usually self-inflicted – I have not saved enough space for perspective, either I’m busy with client work or I’ve taken on too many different things, or underestimated how long I needed to do something.
- Know that it is ok to have the occasional meltdown – it’s part of the growth cycle, if you are growing, out of your comfort zone, or things are not going to plan you are going to feel vulnerable. You are a human being – it’s normal. The key here is to find a safe place to lose the plot temporarily and know what grounds you and allows you to regain your perspective.
- Have trusted people, who get the entrepreneurial journey and are prepared to hold space for me – for this to work you have to feel safe, not judged and know that they are in your corner but won’t tell you what to do – unless you ask of course.
- Be prepared to be that person for others – the more you are able to see perspective in all situations the better you train your brain (or get into the habit of) to look for multiple answers or ways of doing things. The more you learn to listen, to hold space the better you will be able to do it for yourself. Let others be heard and the chances are they will reciprocate.
- Finally, keep your sense of humour – laughter is a great neurological release, it changes our internal chemistry and floods our bodies with positive more expansive hormones – literally expanding our brain’s processing capacity – creating more perspective.
This is not by any means an exclusive list, please do add your own in the comments or the Braver Business group and lets help each other stay out of the whirlpool and find our island or mooring.