If you’re an entrepreneur who’s just trying to start a tech company but are constantly distracted by the million thoughts and emotions flowing through you (which can happen in the turbulent world of entrepreneurship), then maybe you can benefit from a little bit of mindfulness.
In this blog post, Mark Montalban (Founder & CEO of iDEAQUEST), as well as Co-Director of the East Bay Founder Institute), outlines the pitfalls of letting your thoughts get in your way, how you can use mindfulness to get more done, and what the future of mindfulness looks like.
Mindfulness has become quite trendy in recent years, so much so that some people are writing the term off as yet another buzzword - tossed around liberally, but greatly underestimated. The concept is simple, but application is complex and most people do not experience the actual benefits.
Being more aware of present experience can yield positive results in many parts of our lives, and mindfulness can be especially useful for entrepreneurs. This intersection between mindfulness and entrepreneurship led me to launch iDEAQUEST.
There is No Time for Negativity in an Entrepreneur's Mind
When working with entrepreneurs, one of the most common problems I encounter is the tendency to let one’s thoughts take over. This is an unproductive habit to get into and especially bad in the world of entrepreneurship. When knee deep in launching a biz, where anything can change at any given moment, we do not have the luxury to ruminate over every past and potential future occurence.
Dwelling Too Much on the Future (or the Past)
This is pretty straight forward: you can optimize your thought processes to weed out unproductive thought habits. Imagine every action and thought you have being productive. Every minute utilized and no second wasted. This is extreme, but small improvements can make a big impact and replicate the productivity of very successful people.
Constantly contemplating situations where you said something out of context, potentially offended someone, or made an incorrect business decision can only take away from the time you can spend improving and iterating. Don't get me wrong, it is important to tune your moral compass, but you must learn fast and forgive yourself!
Too Much Time Thinking, Not Enough Time Doing
From watching countless aspiring entrepreneurs succeed, struggle, and fail when starting their companies, I can confidently tell you that entrepreneurship is pretty much all mental. The best way to get around this is by focusing on DOING. Whether you are attracting investors, ideating, building a product, or working on your pitch deck - increase the chances of your success by adopting a continuous learning & growth mindset through mindfulness.
If you spend too much time contemplating or worrying about every task, you will still get there, but it will take you much longer. If it is truly a good idea, then you'll also eventually find someone else working on the same idea. (Tip: No one can copy your idea exactly. Your idea is defined by the exact experiences that have made you who you are today, and it will become clear once you build out more of your idea.)
Varying Levels of Mindfulness Practices That I Recommend
Take a Walk (Easy)
A walk is helpful because it allows you change mindsets easily. By taking a quick walk outdoors and acknowledging the environment around you - like trees, birds, passersby, the sky, etc. - it can be a good tactic for when you need to shift from a finance mindset to design thinking, for example.
Conscious Breathing (Intermediate)
How often do you use the full capacity of your lungs? You might think this is easy, but developing a habit to breathe deeply more often is more difficult than it seems.
According to Nayana Ambardekar, MD, “Most people take short, shallow breaths into their chest. It can make you feel anxious and zap your energy.” This type of breathing is called subsistence or crisis breathing, the kind triggered by stress and our fight-or-flight instinct, and can increase anxiety and restlessness.
Here’s a simple breathing exercise: inhale until your lungs are full but not enough to feel discomfort, then exhale slowly through your nose, breathing in the same pace as breathing out. Doing this for just 5 seconds whenever you feel any cortisol will help you develop the habit and more importantly have a focused, productive mindset.
For more information on breathing exercises, check out the WebMD article, Breathing Techniques for Stress Relief.
Manage Your Thoughts (Advanced)
The goal of managing your thoughts as an entrepreneur is to gradually clear out the unproductive thoughts that take up space in your mind. Doing this will not only make you happier, but even more productive.
After you read this, begin to notice your thoughts that come and go and ask yourself these questions about those thoughts:
Is this thought productive?
Can I take action on this thought now, or does it need to be saved for later?
These practices have improved my work and health is numerous ways, and I am excited to build upon this more through iDEAQUEST.
For more information on relevant concepts around why managing your thoughts (and emotions) are important, check out the video below featuring Dr. Joe Dispenza:
By working on mindfulness you not only work on developing yourself into a better person, but you also become more aware the impact of your business, thus developing a subconscious moral compass. With so many businesses looking to “move fast and break things”, we are now seeing the repercussions of fast growth technology companies, especially in regards to the engineering of technology addiction. If more entrepreneurs are mindful, we can conversely co-create a future that benefits not just our stakeholders, but every living thing on the planet.