In Part One of this series, I introduced the concept of emotional fitness, in Part Two, we explored seven traits of emotionally fit leaders, and in Part Three, I wrote about why Emotional Fitness is so imperative for founders.
Now that you’re ready to develop an emotional fitness regimen, you might be wondering where to start.
In any given relationship, the standard rhetoric is “I’ll take care of you, if you take care of me.” Instead, I believe it should be, “I’ll take care of me for you, if you’ll take care of you for me.” Becoming emotionally fit is a lifelong pursuit; it takes practice and patience. The following are seven ways that founders can begin to work toward emotional fitness:
1Get into therapy. Many people think that therapy is only for those with psychological disorders or huge life predicaments to process. In reality, therapy is for anyone who wants to better understand the way they conduct themself in the world. As a founder facing countless stressors, therapy also provides a space to process anxiety, frustration, and other feelings so that they don’t leak into the business and onto employees.
2Integrate emotional health into the culture of your company. Being fit is much easier if you exist in a fit environment. It is the founder’s job to create an ethos of emotional fitness in their company. Add emotional fitness to your company’s mission statement. Start meetings with a check-in. Institute postmortems, fireside chats, and AMA’s. Have a meditation space. Invest in the emotional fitness of your employees. It will pay off.
3Play more. According to psychologist Michael Parsons, play functions to sustain a paradoxical reality where things can be real and not real at the same time. Let yourself and others “try things on,” approach problems in unusual ways, be silly, make space for yourself and others to change over time. Get involved in the creative aspects of your company, and have an open mind whenever possible.
4Attend to your emotional health even when things are going well. Just as it’s much easier to get physically fit when you’re not sick, it’s important to tend to your emotional health even when things in your life feel stable. The founder lifestyle is unpredictable, and thus proactive self-care is key. Emotional fitness helps you shore up your mental resources to prevent and mitigate difficult times.
5Get more comfortable being uncomfortable. If you are making a decision or taking an action purely to move away from discomfort, take a moment to reflect on whether the discomfort is really so intolerable. Sit in it for awhile, take a deep breathe, and prove to yourself that you can handle it. You do not need to break every silence, fix every issue immediately, or avoid difficult conversations.
6Practice being vulnerable. As Brené Brown says, “courage starts by showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Being authentic with your needs and emotions can be quite uncomfortable, and does not come naturally to everyone. Allow yourself to feel the full range of human emotions, practice being transparent, make and admit mistakes, ask for help and support, and encourage others to do the same.
7Find your community. Having a community of like-minded people is a huge asset when starting a company. Meet regularly with people who understand your experience as a founder and who are also working on their emotional fitness. Join a founder group, commiserate, support others, and reach out for help when you’re having a hard time. Connect with people for who they are rather than what they can do for your business.
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