Fear makes us do some strange things. It can keep us from starting something new. It can stop us in our tracks. Or it can cause us to turn into Tasmanian Devils, trying to do everything we possibly can to fix the problem, and usually causing a lot more problems along the way.
When I see entrepreneurs engaging in all of the unhealthy behaviors we just talked about, it’s usually because they’re scared. They’ve staked everything on the success of their company, and they’re going to do everything in their power to make it work, no matter the sacrifices.
This is personal for me. When I stayed up all night to make sure one of my companies closed our round of funding, I was feeling a mixture of excitement and fear. I didn’t want anything to go wrong under any circumstances. And that fear drove me to sacrifice my sleep (and the next day’s productivity).
Fear can be sparked by just about anything. A top-performing employee quits. A customer gets angry. The internet goes down for a day. You name it. There will be challenges in your business that bring your specific fears to the surface.
And when that happens, the passion you feel for your company may start to turn into unhealthy obsession. The only thing to do in these instances is to call attention to the problem. If you’re conscious of how much you sleep, the foods you normally eat, and the way you like to organize your calendar, you’ll be able to quickly recognize the warning signs of fear. When your routine gets out of whack, it’s time for a reality check.
Admit to yourself what’s causing this fear. Write it down. Say it out loud. Do whatever you need to do to draw some attention to it.
And once you’ve done that, slow down.
I know it feels like if you stop working for a second, you’ll never fix the problem. You’ll never make up the time. But this is rarely ever true. Stop working, walk away from your computer, and figure out how to address the problem. Do you need help? Ask for it. Call a mentor or a family member, and talk through the issue. Do you need deep focus? Turn off your email, go somewhere quiet, and do it.
Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I need to do to tackle this problem?” Then do that, and only that.
And when you’ve solved the problem and start to feel the fear subside, it’s time for a reset. Just like I instructed my leadership team after a retreat, you need to find a way to make up that time. The reason is that you have to break the pattern of unhealthy obsession. Your system needs a shock so that you don’t continue on in the same unproductive pattern.
Try going to bed at seven o’clock one night. Turn off your phone for a whole day. Don’t set an alarm one morning. Read for fun. Take a short vacation if you’re able to.
After a reset, you’ll be better able to get back into your routine of healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise, and take control of your time again. Keep to that routine, and you’ll find yourself more productive and, just as important, happier.
In sum, don’t ignore the fear that pushes you into unhealthy habits. Do face your fear head-on and reset.