Over 20% of new businesses fail within the first two years; 45% by year five; and 65% during the first 10 years. Only 25% of businesses today will make it to 15 years or more. In spite of this, more than half of all adults in the U.S. want to start their own business. Its billed as the American dream; the opportunity to be your own boss; the pinnacle of individuality and freedom. But only 10% of adults in the U.S. even try – because it turns out building a successful business is really, really hard.
In many fields, top performers understand that being healthy means feeling good physically, mentally and emotionally and commit themselves to taking care of their body, mind and spirit., Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, celebrate the idea that they should ignore their wellbeing for the sake of profit while missing the basic premise that such an approach actually compromises performance.
Working with a counselor is helpful for most people, for entrepreneurs it can be vital. Here’s 12 reasons why every entrepreneur should work with a therapist:
Mental Health. Research indicates that startup founders are twice as likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from ADHD, three times more likely to experience substance abuse, 10 times more likely to meet the criteria for Bipolar Disorder, twice as likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization and twice as likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Working with a professional to mitigate symptoms, maintain functionality and ensure that all available resources are being effectively utilized can help individuals navigate mental illness.
Chronic Stress. Temporary stress is normal and is inevitable when creating and running a business. Chronic stress, however; is unsustainable without typically serious consequences. Chronic stress negatively impacts physical and mental health, damages relationships and can ultimately lead to business failure. Working with a counselor can help differentiate between chronic and situational stressors and can help in the acquisition of skills that are protective in nature.
Ups & Downs. It is easy to both love and hate the dynamic nature of entrepreneurship. The highs can make one forget about the lows but when you’re in a low it is nearly impossible to see out of it. And the cycle just repeats. The only things worse than working to get funded is often getting funded. Working with a counselor can help moderate the reactivity that often comes with working in a bipolar environment through the use of mindfulness training and perspective taking.
Isolation. It is lonely at the top. Friends and family are tired of hearing about the company or don’t understand. Employees, investors and friendly competitors can’t know about the fears and insecurities that come with taking big risks. Lack of connection with others often exacerbates symptoms of depression and anxiety and decreases assess to what might be essential external resources. Although the relationship between client and counselor is not reciprocal, it often serves as the place to talk about things that can’t be talked about anywhere else.
Resilience. Entrepreneurs need to have the energy to persist when faced with challenges and obstacles in order to lessen the fear of failure. Building resilience equips founders to adapt and persevere through the challenges and setbacks that are a part of the entrepreneurial process. Counseling can help build skills to more effectively take action and responsibility where one can, while developing a greater sense of the things that cannot be controlled.
Burnout. Burnout is exhaustion related to an imbalance between demands and resources and results in disconnection, cynicism, inattentiveness and irritability. Burnout impacts all aspects of life and at its worst can result in irreversible damages. If you are suffering from burnout, find a counselor to work with – it will help, probably faster than you imagine.
Co-founder Conflicts. Relationships are hard. Add money, stress, high stakes, long hours, loose boundaries, and large egos and suddenly it is easy to forget that your current adversary used to be your biggest ally. Luckily, decades of research exists on how to optimize relationships, improve communication and navigate conflict. A counselor with experience in working with complex systems can help navigate what are often complicated relationships between co-founders.
Perspective. When you are surrounded by a constant stream of stories about overnight successes and how everyone around you is “crushing it” it is hard to remember that most entrepreneurs have sleepless nights, failed pitches, difficult investors and moments when they don’t know what they are doing. Working with a counselor can help keep you grounded in what reality really looks like and can help you manage the ruminations that often come with comparing your journey to others.
Imposter Syndrome. If you find yourself struggling with the fear of being exposed or if you feel like you don’t belong where you are and it is causing you to miss opportunities or avoid having important conversations, talk about it. Talk about it with your mentors, your friends or even a counselor. Imposter syndrome lives and grows in the shadows so the best thing to do is bring it out into the open.
Failure. Founders tend to attribute success to luck yet take on all the responsibility when things go awry. Failure is inevitable when taking risks. Rather than to be avoided, failure is something to be navigated. Failure sucks – it’s not the goal, isn’t always a learning opportunity and can sometimes have very real consequences but how you deal with it can have a very real impact on what comes after. Working with a counselor can help increase resilience and emotional intelligence, both of which help make failing a little less challenging. Counseling can also help sort through conflicting feelings about failure and can help lower your reactivity when things don’t go as planned.
Relationships. A business can quickly become an unwanted family member that creates conflict and disconnection with friends, family and significant others. The often, all-encompassing nature of a startup can easily leave important people feeling neglected or forgotten. Working with a therapist can help protect entrepreneurs from alienating all the important people in their lives while trying to build something amazing.
Emotional Intelligence (Emotional Quotient or EQ). EQ is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions in oneself and others and is positively correlated with higher job satisfaction and performance. Individuals with high EQ are better listeners, have a greater capacity for empathy and are often better at decision making and problem solving than their lower EQ counterparts. For most, EQ is something that can be developed and built upon, particularly when working with a counselor.
Research by Noam Wasserman at Harvard Business School suggests that 65% of failed startups fail for reasons that could have been avoided. On average, entrepreneurs work more but earn less than traditionally employed people. Excessive work load and extreme time demands increase risk for depression and anxiety which has substantial implications for life both in and outside of work. The culture entices entrepreneurs to become overly engaged and absorbed by their business, work too hard, and experience poor work-life balance and even burnout as an outcome of chronic stress. Founder performance suffers under this kind of stress.
Counseling can help with most of the emotional and mental challenges that come with starting, growing or even stepping away from a business. It’s a resource that can help you maintain your areas of strength while strengthening or at least learning to better navigate your areas of weakness.