Entrepreneurial overwhelm and the myth of bravery

Being brave and facing your fears generally feels like crap. We love to romanticise bravery and we're in love with the outcomes of facing our fears, but actually that journey really sucks a lot of the time. And there’s the danger: just because it sucks and feels really crappy, doesn't mean it's wrong and that you should stop. You just need to keep doing it until you get to the other side ...  of fear.


Small business and entrepreneurial overwhelm is incredibly common and unbelievably persistent. It’s not something that really goes away either, it’s more like something that needs to be managed rather than eradicated, and that takes time and practice. But you are not alone and you can do it.


There are tonnes of beautiful, talented people out there trying to make something they really care about, taking advantage of the opportunity so widely accessible at this unique point in time to do work that really matters. It’s a wonderful thing and something I find very exciting, but it’s not easy. In fact it is in many ways harder to do the thing you really care about than just ‘rock up for the cash’. It seems to get pretty confusing for people too. First of all because often we have an unrealistic expectation that because we really care about something, it will feel good all the time. And secondly that because it doesn’t feel so good all the time, indeed it can feel downright crappy, then it must be wrong and we should stop or give up.


Caring about something exposes you to more heightened emotions. When it’s good, it’s really good - you get that amazing feeling of being on fire, that you’ve found your calling and you could do this for the rest of your life without taking break. But when it’s bad, it’s also really bad. Being so emotionally invested means you can bring a unique perspective and really connect to what you’re doing, but the downside is that same emotional investment can also get you very stuck.


One of the reasons this happens is that when people are trying to build something they love and really care about, they can often get tangled up in seeing it as an extension of themselves. It’s a fine line, because again having that connection can really bring the heart and soul to a venture and make it very personal and authentic. But that same heart and soul can feel personally rejected when things don’t go so well. That darker side of the coin is self-doubt, a lack of faith and the impostor syndrome.


It’s so sneaky all this emotional investment because when things aren’t so great, or we’re just feeling a bit tired, isolated and worn out, the shadows can seem a lot bigger and a lot scarier than they really are. We look around and see all the successes other people are having, all the things that are working and all the places we’d like to be, but we usually don’t see what it took for those people to get there. We can’t see the fears they faced, the doubts they endured, the failures that preceded their wins, and those monsters in the shadows can be pretty convincing in their call for us to give up. But if you listen to them, if you do give up, you’ll never know what could have been because that’s where you chose for that story to end. What a shame.


So alright, what if you’re reading this and relating to it and feeling convinced enough that you shouldn’t give up, that you should keep going, well what then? How DO you keep going when your mindset’s a bit muddy and you’ve got so much on your plate that you don’t know where to start or what to do next anyway?


You need a simple, actionable plan that lets you put one foot in front of the other.


Wait! Don’t run away! I know, I don’t like the ‘P’ word either, but honestly, it is THE best thing you can do for yourself if you’re overwhelmed and doubting everything. Here’s why ...


A simple plan that focuses on one or two things gives you something to focus on and stops your brain jumping around all over the place thinking about all the things you ‘could’ and ‘should’ be doing.


A simple plan that allows you to execute one or two things every day keeps you moving forward in a way that’s manageable, which is a lot better than being completely stuck and not doing anything at all.


Small steps gain momentum and give you something to build on and find your rhythm again.


Small steps give you small wins every day that slowly, but surely build your confidence, one step at a time.


A simple plan allows you to look back on a day, a week, a month, and see the accumulation of a small amount of consistent effort - you’ll be proud of yourself and you’ll also have a lot more to show for your time than if you’d done nothing at all.


Using a simple plan in this way allows you to develop skills and practice combatting overwhelm, doubt and fear because they’re bound to show up again.


Keep it simple - focus on one or two things. You’ve got to allow yourself to succeed before you go adding more complexities. You do not need a massive plan that tries to tackle everything and which is impossible to carry out - this will only add to your overwhelm and increase your chance of failing. Keep it simple enough to be consistent.


Ok so maybe some people don't relate to this and have literally cruised through. I honestly think that's brilliant and I wish that happened to me, but what I'm more passionate about is reaching out to those who feel the more common path and stop them from quitting because no one's told them that feeling bad is a part of it, NOT a sign that what you're doing is wrong. Don’t stop, there’s more to it. You have tools and skills to learn so you have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other so you can practice what it takes. Simple planning is just one way to focus on one or two jobs at hand, quiet the noise a bit and keep you moving in the right direction. You can pivot later, but if you care about the thing you’re building, don’t stop.

Thank you for reading. If I can help you with a plan, or some encouragement to keep going, please don't hesitate to contact me - I'd love to hear from you.


Photo credit: Photo sourced via Canva