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The statistics are scary. Entrepreneurs are 1.25 times more likely to report symptoms of burnout compared to non-entrepreneurs. 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues, which can be related to burnout. 29% of small business owners report feeling constantly stressed out by their work and the demands it entails.
10+ years in the world of entrepreneurship but it was only last year that I realized the impact of giving it my all, all the time. Whether it was client requests or the needs of my employees, I had been putting everything above my self-care. Through my own experiences and those of my branding and PR clients, I witnessed the impact that entrepreneurship can have on one's well-being. Personally experiencing burnout was the catalyst for me to become a purpose-driven brand coach. In this article, we will delve into my personal experience with burnout and offer valuable tips on how to avoid it while pursuing a purpose-driven career.
My marketing and branding journey started a decade ago at a luxury fashion PR agency in Hong Kong. The relentless pursuit of excellence, tight deadlines, and the pressure to constantly innovate impacted me emotionally, mentally and physically. So, I quickly realized that I preferred building personal connections with individuals over working in large groups. But, I discovered my true passion lay in collaborating with small businesses that make a positive impact. This motivated me to establish my own creative agency, EQ International, which helps impact-driven businesses expand their reach using strategy, branding, and marketing. In 2021, I decided to exclusively assist impact-driven businesses and entrepreneurs, finding fulfilment in effectively communicating their missions and values.
Last year, after several years of running my creative agency and a decade in the industry, I faced the dreaded burnout. It hit me like a freight train, leaving me physically and emotionally drained. Burnout doesn't discriminate; it can affect even the most passionate and dedicated entrepreneurs.
From the ashes of burnout, I gleaned invaluable lessons that I'm eager to share. Since 2023, I have further honed my role as a Purpose-Driven Brand Coach, helping entrepreneurs create meaningful impacts and align their lives with their values. I firmly believe “we don’t live to work, but work to live”.
I came to this core philosophy, that your passion, purpose, profession and personal time should be in alignment. So, these insights are not just for me but for anyone on a purpose-driven career path.
A purpose-driven career is about aligning your work with your core values and beliefs. Take the time to define your purpose and regularly revisit it. It will serve as your North Star during challenging times. It was only when I defined my purpose, in alignment with my values, that I found an authentic and sustainable path in entrepreneurship. It became easier for me to make decisions, set boundaries and identify partners. Instead of spinning my wheels constantly, I was able to create structures that allowed me to pursue my purpose in my career and fit with the lifestyle that I desire to create for myself
Entrepreneurs are notorious for neglecting their well-being in the pursuit of success. However, I learned the hard way that neglecting self-care is a recipe for disaster. It's crucial to schedule regular breaks, get enough sleep, and engage in activities that rejuvenate your mind and body. Every morning, I dedicate three hours solely to myself. During this time, I clear my head and prepare my body for the day ahead. This routine enables me to start each day feeling calm and grounded, ready to take on whatever challenges come my way. Additionally, Fridays are my "thinking day," during which I disconnect from work and prioritize learning, personal development, and rest. Similarly, at least once a quarter, I take a two-week break from work to disconnect completely. This period serves as an opportunity to find inner balance and recenter myself.
As entrepreneurs, we often fall into the trap of wanting to control every aspect of our business. Delegating tasks and empowering your team not only lightens your load but also fosters a sense of trust and collaboration. I have an incredible core team of three, while also working closely with a number of freelancers and subject matter experts. Could I do my own taxes and accounting - probably? Will it take a ton of time and drain me completely - absolutely! I choose to delegate because we all have only 24 hours a day. I delegate tasks I am not good at and focus on what I excel at, which helps drive the business forward.
Take time to review your long-term and short-term goals. Ensure they align with your purpose and make adjustments as needed. Flexibility and a growth mindset are key to avoiding burnout.
I personally like to review every quarter and break it down into accomplishments, goals, and lessons learned. Here are some questions that can help guide this.
Whether you like it or not, as an entrepreneur, you will at some point face failure. The important fact is to see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, being resilient and flexible. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are able to pivot, explore new directions, and remain agile in the face of adversity. For me, this has looked like adapting my business based on both external and internal changes - from COVID to burnout, it’s about persevering through the challenging times.
Don't hesitate to seek support from mentors, peers, or even professional coaches like myself. Talking to someone who understands the intricacies of entrepreneurship can provide valuable insights and perspective. I have a business coach and a mindset coach who is a Taoist monk, mentor, and therapist. Getting the right mindset in life is equally as important as acquiring the necessary business skills.
Navigating burnout in the entrepreneurial world is a challenging but essential journey. My personal experience has taught me that success is not solely about financial gain or business growth; it's also about maintaining your well-being and staying true to your purpose. By prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking support, you can forge a path that leads to both personal fulfilment and professional success.
To learn more about my experience, check out my podcast with Proudly Asian, to celebrate Mental Health Day. And if you need support on your entrepreneurial journey, don’t hesitate to reach out - I am always available to speak.