Starting your own business is one of the most emotional things you can do in your career. The ups and downs of such an undertaking can be astounding, and the emotions involved in a startup can test the commitment and resolve of even the most stubborn of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial experts claim that there are four emotional stages that almost every entrepreneur passes through on their way to becoming completely comfortable with their new life and career. Those four stages (listed in the order that most entrepreneurs experience them) are called the Busy Phase, the Second Thoughts Phase, the Self-Doubt Phase, and the “Been There, Done That” Phase, and although the phases’ names might seem slightly negative, understand that each stage is associated with a slew of emotions, both negative and positive.
Below you will find some of the things you can expect in terms of your emotional experience during the first stage (the Busy Phase) and how to cope with those feelings:
Exhilaration is a predictable emotion once you consider the fact that you’ve just taken one of the biggest leaps of your life. You’ll likely feel energized and confident because, despite the myriad of uncertainties, you’re officially on your way to making your dream business a reality. Most entrepreneurs feel very enthusiastic during this honeymoon stage of their startup. Their enthusiasm is often contagious, which tends to result in increased support from family and friends, further boosting the entrepreneur’s feelings of excitement. There’s nothing wrong with feeling exhilarated; in fact, it’s a good thing. Simply enjoy it while you can, and use your excitement to propel you forward.
Once the initial excitement wears off, reality starts to take hold. For many entrepreneurs, the next emotion they experience is loneliness. They’ve abandoned their old job and the patterns that accompanied it, and this can often feel like starting over. This is especially true if you’re starting your business by yourself because it can be very difficult to convey- even to friends and family- the feelings that accompany entrepreneurship. This can compound your feelings of isolation, but it is important that you refuse to let these feelings dominate.
Developing new patterns for your new life should help you through this lonely time. Also, try to remember the exhilaration you felt during the first stages of your business, and see if you can recapture that glow in some way. The strategy for doing so could be as easy as simply talking about your vision with someone new, or it could be as complicated as revisiting and revamping your business plan. Either way, always remember your reasons for breaking out on your own, and use those reasons to push through the negative feelings.
In addition to feelings of loneliness, you’re likely to feel rather over-committed during this stage of your startup. Your commitments and obligations in terms of time, finances, and personal energy are all going to be redistributed, and, at times, this can feel overwhelming. Most entrepreneurs in this stage say that they often start to doubt their ability to handle the project they’ve taken on simply because they are spread so thin. They also say that they sometimes feel guilty for neglecting their family and personal lives, but, the truth is, this is nearly unavoidable. Your new business is your baby, and most new entrepreneurs just have to accept the fact that it will require most of their time and energy to get up and running.
To combat the feelings of over-commitment and guilt, many people find that it helps to focus on one single piece of the puzzle at a time. The whole project can seem overwhelming, but separating it into its parts and devoting your attention to one part at a time should help you to move along at a surprisingly quick rate.
The process of starting your own business can truly take an emotional toll, but if you know what to expect throughout each stage of your startup, then you’ll be in a better position to face the roller coaster ride ahead. For tips on facing the emotions of stage 2, the Second Thoughts Phase, see this article.
Pamela Lue-Hing says
Greetings Mr. Jensen,
Great work! I really like the way you have outlined the emotions of entrepreneurship and I have experienced each of them. I am in the process of authoring a book about entrepreneurship and I would like to mention your four phases and credit you of course. Can I have your permission to do so?
Andrew Jensen says
Sure thing, Pamela. Though I wouldn’t say they are “unique” to me. The four phases are fairly well known. Best of luck with your book!
Thanks for sharing this, Andrew. Definitely something that hits home for sure and many of us founders/entrepreneurs go through. I recently wrote an article on the emotional roller-coaster ride of entrepreneurship (https://medium.com/@KrisBorghesan/the-emotional-roller-coaster-ride-of-entrepreneurship-part-i-e0126e66a6bd) – would love to get your thoughts on this!