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Square peg in a round hole: The importance of looking after your own mental health as a business owner

Written by Mark Simmonds on Monday, 02 December 2019. Posted in Wellbeing, People

According to the late Steve Jobs, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.

Square peg in a round hole: The importance of looking after your own mental health as a business owner

According to the late Steve Jobs, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Individuals who have chosen to work in smaller companies are very often people who have chosen to heed the wise advice from Apple’s founder. But it’s even more serious than that. If you don’t love what you do, then push the ejector button sooner rather than later because your mental health may well be put at risk. Here are four factors to consider:

1.  What is your genetic footprint?

In any small business environment, there is often much uncertainty and inherent risk. You are deprived of all the luxuries associated with life in a Big Corporate: pension schemes, training and development, IT support ‘on tap’, regular working hours. If you are burdened with the “Worry Gene”, this lack of certainty and the unpredictability of day to day events may well begin to bear heavy on both body and mind.

Like Chinese Water Torture, the stress tap will start dripping. Drip. Drip. Pressure will begin to build. Drip. Drip. Drip. So, before diving into any small business or start-up, examine your genetic footprint, be totally honest with yourself and decide whether you are fundamentally a “Worry Guts” or a “Nerveless Operator”.

2. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Barack Obama and J.K Rowling are both introverts. They get their energy from within. If introverts spend too much time in social situations, their energy levels dissipate. Margaret Thatcher and Muhammed Ali were both strong extroverts. They got their energy from being around others, and if they spent too much time on their own, that energy diminished. 

You need to work out which of the two you are and which one pre-dominates in the environment you are entering. If you enjoyed the camaraderie and social banter working in a large company, how will you cope if the small business you are joining means working on your own for large chunks of time? And if you were able to hide yourself away in that same large company, how will you feel if you are signing up to a concern where you have ten other colleagues ‘in your face’ for ten hours every day.

3. Are you motivated by tasks or by people?

Are you a task person? Somebody who gets satisfaction from getting things done? Formulating business plans; completing spread sheets; writing policy documents. Or a people person who enjoys helping others grow, spending time coaching, mentoring, training, developing - somebody with a very strong human empathy muscle. The two represent quite different motivations and spending too long in one when your head and heart clearly belong to the other will only reduce your levels of satisfaction and enjoyment. Worse still, they may also lead you down the slippery slope of mental disintegration.

4. How ambitious are you really?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how ambitious are you? How much are you willing to sacrifice in terms of work life balance? By joining a small business or start-up, you could be walking into an environment where the owner is expecting sweat, blood and tears – A Gordon Gekko, ‘lunch is for wimps’ figure from the eighties. Or you could find yourself surrounded by colleagues who have left the corporate rat race for a quiet life, long lunch breaks and just enough money to get by. Which of the two is more in keeping with your levels of ambition?

So, when you find yourself working in a small business environment, looking after your mental health must be seen as a key priority. Both for you and for the company. Job satisfaction is important, but it’s always trumped by sanity preservation.

About the Author

Mark Simmonds

Mark Simmonds is the author of Breakdown And Repair, A Father’s Tale Of Stress And Success . @mentalhealthmark

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