Happiness and success go hand in hand for entrepreneurs. Business owners tend to measure their life-satisfaction through their bank balance. Even if it’s not money, but we all have a metaphorical tape-measure tracking our state of happiness.
The way entrepreneurs create happiness in their life is broken.
Some internet entrepreneurs measure happiness by audience stats. They get thrilled when their blog’s subscriber count hits a milestone. Blog comments evoke pure joy.
Last week, I was talking with a client who shared another fantastic example. They were explaining how they desperately wanted a shiny office, with lots of glass and chrome. It wouldn’t help their sales, since they rarely ran face to face meetings on their home turf, but they wanted it bad.
Setting goals like a new office, X number of subscribers or pushing up balance of your business account are all attempts to find happiness through success. Fast cars, designer clothes and expensive gadgets serve the same purpose. They make us happy and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. Except…
Happiness never lasts
When we tie happiness to success, the feeling never sticks around for long. It fades away and leaves us as unsatisfied as before, or more so! The weird part is that even if we maintain the level of success that once brought us happiness, it still fades away.
Six months after buying the latest convertible, Joe entrepreneur is just as stressed and unsatisfied as before. He used to smile every time he fired up the engine.
Three months after hitting 1000 subscribers, Jill blogger is staying up late, checking google analytics and wondering why she can’t hit 1300. When she hit 1000, she popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
It’s just the way entrepreneurs are
Success-based happiness always dwindles, because the psychological make-up of entrepreneurs demands that we constantly lift the bar for our achievements higher and higher.
Buy a Porsche and soon you’ll be ogling Ferrari’s. Take a three week vacation and you’ll crave three months of work-travel freedom. Make a few thousand dollars a month and you’ll soon be staying up late, working on the product that’ll earn you six figures.
This is a good thing. Motivational leverage is good. Pushing ourselves to achieve greater and greater levels of success is great! So what’s the problem?
Most entrepreneurs don’t feel “happy” while they’re chasing goals
That feeling of success, joy and celebration that happens when we hit a big milestone, win a reward or earn big dollars is a fantastic feeling. It’s what the entrepreneurial dream is all about and yet so few manage to hang onto that feeling for more than a few days per year.
As soon as the milestone of success is accomplished, you start to look for the next big goal. Sure, you stop to enjoy the rewards of what you’ve done. You may even deliberately celebrate. However, give it a few days, weeks or months and you’ll be back to aggressively chasing the next thing.
Your recent achievements are left, forgotten. Buried in the dust behind you.
Recently, I performed a small experiment in entrepreneurial freedom. I put my consultancy on hold, moved the crucial clients over to email & Skype and set off on a blogging sabbatical.
I ensconced myself deep in the mountains of New Zealand’s frozen south, where I would perform a daily commute from mountain cabin to local cafe. Each morning I’d drive through scenes of indescribable natural beauty (see this post’s photo or my Flickr page). I was filled with joy at the lifestyle my business afforded me.
Then, something happened. I got offered an exciting corporate consultancy gig that would line up perfectly with the end of my sabbatical. It was big dollars and big prestige. I wanted it bad.
(Random note: Those of you following my twitter stream may have noticed I FINISHED the above mentioned contract on Saturday night! Celebration ensued…)
One morning I drove through the mountains to the cafe, yammering at a colleague on my cell phone excitedly.
I was absolutely blind to what was going on around me.
In that moment, I felt vexed, excited and motivated – all the great entrepreneurial feelings that happen when you chase a big deal. It was a good way to be, but I wasn’t “happy”. My happiness had been replaced by desire for the next big mission.
Then, the sun came out. Sizzling rays of bright, winter light set the snowy mountains on fire. Pine trees glittered and everything popped into focus, as though the air had suddenly turned to crystal.
Gratitude changes everything
I pulled over, got off the phone and stopped to look around. I remembered where I was, where I had been and how far I had come. Instantly, I connected with that feeling of happiness through success.
Happiness fades out of the lives of entrepreneurs because we lose track of the achievements that lie behind us.
We forget how far we’ve come.
We fail to remember that, a year ago, we would have killed to be where we are now.
However, when you deliberately remind yourself of the things you have to remember and be grateful for, the following happens:
- Desperation disappears: You realize you’re doing good already. Even if you want more, you don’t need it. Less desperation = more success.
- Your state improves: Being in a positive emotional state guarantees you can think and problem-solve more resourcefully. Life seems (and really is) much easier.
- You find true happiness: Gratitude reconnects you with what is really important. Materialistic and unimportant goals disappear while you reconnect with your biggest values.
Really, how happy are you?
The one point I’d like you to take away from this post is that, as an entrepreneur, you can live a more fulfilled life and be more successful in business. The secret lies in never forgetting your past, where you’ve come from and how much success you’ve already created.
This is the easiest and most instantly achievable advice that leads to the trifecta of Wealth, Freedom and Sanity. So, what achievements can you already be grateful for?