How to manage the emotional roller coaster of entrepreneurship

Have you ever seen this illustration? It makes me laugh every time because it’s SO true.

creative business coach

Just this week I had lunch with my friend Prescott Perez Fox, designer and founder of The Busy Creator podcast. During our chat about all things business, he summed the ups and downs of freelancing perfectly; when you’re on top, you can work for hours with laser-like focus, happily in your creative zone, and all is well with the world. But when you’re down, mustering up the will to keep going can feel like a herculean task.

But here’s the thing about emotions (good or bad). They are nothing more than a guidance system, letting you know where you in relation to where you want to be.  They are NOT who you are.

If you’re ready to spend less time on that roller-coaster and more time in your zone of genius, here are three ways you can manage your emotions and keep moving forward towards your goals.

1) Ask better question to get a better outcome

Imagine this; you’ve put your all into a creative project, and when you present the first round to the client, they hate it.  You wouldn’t be human if that didn’t hurt (or at least sting a little), but the quicker you identify the emotional response you’re feeling, the faster you can re-frame the situation and take steps towards a positive outcome.

creativity coaching

Next time this happens to you (and it will), instead of looking to lay blame elsewhere, or defending your position, try saying something like this:

“I’m sorry this round doesn’t feel aligned with your expectations. Let’s talk specifically about what feels off-target, what you like, but may just need tweaking, and what we do to ensure the next round is on track.” Having a series of questions that will help diffuse the emotion and clarify their position beyond “I just don’t like it”, will dramatically improve the outcome.

Why this works: you immediately move from an emotional state to a pragmatic one, and you take the client with you. By guiding them with good questions, you both gain more clarity about what’s needed and you can both move on with the real work (instead of stewing and bitterly complaining about your asshole client for the rest of the day).

2) Know what makes you feel good, no matter what (and do more of that)

Here’s the thing; you’re going to have good days and bad days, no matter how successful or rich you are.  Our goal here is not to eliminate negative emotion (though I know that sometimes sounds like a compelling option), but to know what tools you have in your arsenal to bounce back quicker. Here are a few of my no-fail methods:

  • Going for a run or swim. Both help my mind wander and get my endorphins going. The benefit of running (which incidentally, I didn’t start doing until I was 38 years old) is I can go early before the kids wake up and can feel super-accomplished before breakfast!
  • I’m still a novice, but just sitting for a 20 minutes a day is enormously helpful for someone who’s never happier than when I have a few too many things on my plate.
  • Talk to my accountability buddies. Getting something off your chest always helps, but there is a caveat; only talk to people who will listen sympathetically for about 2 minutes, then give you 3 constructive things you can do to turn things around. 

3) Look for patterns and habits

When you’re in a low place, what’s the story your inner gremlin tells you? Is it that you’re not worthy of all you seek? Does it blame others for things not going your way? Does it call you a fraud and fool for even trying? As crazy as it sounds, that story is how one that feels familiar and, therefore, perversely comforting.  Identifying what your go-to story is, making a commitment to letting it go, and watching your emotional responses daily to make sure you don’t slide can be a freeing thing. Maybe you need therapy to do this, or maybe you just need to read a ton of personal development books as I do.  Do whatever it takes to show your limiting story and beliefs the door, and free yourself up to move on.

Managing your emotions is NOT something you’ll learn in three steps or one blog post, but what I hope I have done is to help you see (a) you’re not alone (b) you have ways to make the ups and downs less dramatic (c) it’s a process, and that’s half the fun.

For daily doses of inspiration, optimism, and straight-up actionable tips make sure you’re following me on Instagram at @justine_clay.

I’ll see you there!


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