Disconnected from my business. Sad. Trapped in comparison. Not sure what to do next.
These are all phrases that I've heard since the beginning of the year. If you're feeling this way too, you're not alone. This year seems to be just a little harder for most of us, especially in the entrepreneurship space.
We went into the holidays so excited for some rest and relaxation but instead came back more stressed and disconnected.
These words are anything but "happy" so it feels like it's more like a "not-so-happy-new-year". But I'm challenging this because we don't have to continue down the path this way in 2023. There is a path that moves us through the "disconnected" feelings.
Let's stop focusing on trying to be "happy" because happy is an emotion that only lasts moments. Let's aim for achieving contentment in where we are today.
We can still set goals and want to achieve more than where we are today but in order to feel more satisfied in life, we have to learn how to be content with where we are, even when we're striving for more.
Not-So-Happy New Year
There's something about a new year that fakes us into believing our habits and thoughts will be different when we wake up even though we know it's not possible.
The inbox is still full.
The ideas are still swirling with no clear direction.
The desire to "go" is there but the doubt of "how" is still there too.
Or let's face it...you scrolled on social and are playing the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" game of comparison with others.
I've heard more than ever before that this year has been tough, already. Every entrepreneur I know has felt some version of this. I've seen people asking questions and saying things like this on social media and email:
"Do you feel energized this year or like you need a sabbatical?"
"If this year feels heavy to you, know that you're not alone"
"I feel scattered, like I can't get started. Are you feeling this way too?"
"I love my business but I feel really disconnected from it after the break"
These words seem anything but "happy" to me so it got me thinking about the phrase "Happy New Year".
According to Better Help, "Happiness is a temporary emotion that can be incited by small positive incidents in our lives – receiving good news, accomplishing a goal, interacting with friends and family, etc. – but happiness as a general life attitude can be harder to achieve."
Temporary emotion. A moment in time.
We are using a word that describes a moment in time in reference to a year. Dang, that's a lot of pressure!
So instead of hoping for "happiness", I think we could all benefit from striving for contentment versus happiness.
There are many definitions of this word but I liked the one shared on Wikipedia the most. It says this: "Contentment is an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one's situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness.
I wish you a year of contentment in 2023 where you accept whatever situation you're in and feelings you're feeling.
This doesn't mean you don't want to change things because we can always strive for different if that's better for us but I believe there's an element of contentment we can have, even if we aren't happy.
As always, this is just as much for me as it is for you! I wish a year of contentment for myself too and I'll likely be working on this the rest of my life.
**This was also a podcast episode (episode #175. Use the player below if you'd prefer to listen to this message.
I happened upon this post on Instagram as I was working on this episode and it was perfectly timed. We can learn so much from people who are further down the path of life from us. I shared this immediately and said "please read all of this. It may have just changed my life" and I hope you do read all of it.
The Road To Contentment In 2023
So how the heck to we get to feeling content in a situation where we aren't content.
First, we need to understand why we aren't feeling content.
We need to understand dissatisfaction and how it's presenting itself in our life overall. Good news, I've done the research for you on this and I'm pulling from an article in Psychology Today that outlines the four psychological factors that make satisfaction temporary.
All of which have scientific reasons as to why we need this as humans so even better news, if you're feeling dissatisfied, you're right on track with human tendencies!
Get this! "A 2014 study published in Science observed participants who were asked to sit in a room and think for fifteen minutes. The room was empty except for a device that allowed participants to mildly but painfully electrocute themselves."
But it gets even crazier! "When asked beforehand, every participant in the study said they would pay money to avoid being shocked. However, when left alone in the room with the machine and nothing else to do, 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women shocked themselves. Many did so multiple times."
"The study demonstrated that people dislike being alone with their thoughts so much that they’ll prefer to do anything else, even if that activity is negative." - Psychology Today
What this means for entrepreneurs:
We tend to want to change things up, we don't like to do the same things over and over again...even when it's the best thing we can do for our business (sitting by ourselves in a room). So we constantly create something new or create more work for ourselves (shocking ourselves).
2. Negativity Bias
This is why we can easily recall bad news quicker than good news and it's helped us as humans stay alive over the years. We need to remember that hot stoves burn the crap out of our hand if we touch it so our brain is wired for this.
What this means for entrepreneurs:
We can use this to our advantage if we capture the "what didn't work" but have to work harder to notice "what did work". As long as we're aware of this, we can use this to our advantage but if we aren't aware, we will only focus on the negative.
Right on the heels of the negativity bias, there's our least favorite friend, rumination. Which is defined as the tendency to keep thinking about the bad experiences. If you've ever replayed a conversation in your mind over and over, you've experienced this.
There are benefits to thinking critically through a situation to learn the lesson but if we stay in the loop of the experience, that's when it's no longer helpful.
What this means for entrepreneurs:
Learning from "failed" things in business is key to success over the long term but we have to find the balance. We need to use tools (ex: timers) to force our brains to stop thinking about the negative experience so we don't fall prey to rumination.
4. Hedonic Adaptation
This is "the tendency to quickly return to a baseline level of satisfaction no matter what happens to us in life." This reiterates the concept that we often think we get to X it will make us happy but in reality, we will always find something else to strive for.
What this means for entrepreneurs:
For driven people like you and I this is what keeps us going, we stretch ourselves to learn new things, try new things. But if we aren't careful, we won't be content with what we have currently.
The 4 things lead to us not being satisfied (or happy) in life but as you can tell it applies to your business as well. Over the past month I've heard these words and phrases as people have described how they feel so far this year:
Lack of focus
Like the “happy” switch didn’t flip on at midnight
Not sure what to do next/first
Sounds like discontentment to me. So once we know where it's showing up in our business, it's time to take steps to navigate through those muddy waters.
Second, we need to name your feelings and welcome them into the room
I'm not sure if you're someone who meditates or not but I had a moment in a meditation class that impacted my life forever. I've had several actually but here's one for today. Keep in mind I'm paraphrasing and trying to remember what the teacher said:
"Sometimes we tend to want to ignore feelings or thoughts but I'd like you to invite your feelings/thoughts into the room with you. Just like you would invite someone into your home just as they are. Invite them in and let them stay for as long as they need to before its time to leave. If we try and push things out, they tend to make more noise but if we simply invite them in, they are easier to manage."
Overall, the message is to acknowledge the feelings and instead of fighting them, say "hey, I know you're here, let's figure this out".
Whatever your feeling right now, know that it's legit and you're not "bad" or "wrong" or "behind", you're in the perfect place to learn a lesson. Because chances are you're about to learn something awesome!
Third, it's time to flip the feeling so you can create a plan
Flip The Feelings To Create A Plan
If we're feeling scattered, lost, unsure and the general sense of "lack of direction", my suggestion is to flip the feeling so we can create a plan.
Feeling = Lack of direction
Flipped Feeling = Mapped out directions
It's like sitting in a car behind the wheel with no idea where to go. And this isn't one of those times when you feel free and are okay going where the wind takes you. This isn't what you're feeling. You're feel lost, scattered and unsure.
This is when you need a plan whether you like plans or not.
It's time to take action and create a plan that works for you and leads you to contentment. You need to be okay with where the car is right now first and then figure out where you want it to go and why.
Identify which of the 4 psychological factors is plaguing you currently (boredom, negativity bias, rumination, hedonic adaptation).
Take an inventory of your feelings as they are happening now. Acknowledge them and welcome them in the room.
Ask yourself "how can I feel settled and content in the same room with all these other feelings"?
As a business owner, it's time to make a plan so you can take action on thing that you want to take action on.
Boredom - stop creating work for yourself. Look at the data and identify the thing that's working for your business and do more of that and less of everything else.
Negative Bias - write a list of things you have done well in the last month or year and celebrate those.
Rumination - for every "failure" you're thinking about, write down something you learned and then move on. Set a timer for this exercise for no more than 15 minutes and don't you dare hit snooze when the alarm goes off.
Hedonic Adaptation - look back at your last goal that you achieved. Did you celebrate it and revel in it? If not, throw a dang party for that goal. Do everything you can to pause and be in awe of where you are today and how far you've come.
Take Away Message / Action
Walk through the steps outlined above so you can identify which factor is plaguing you currently. One you know this, you can take action to move through the feeling and continue to make progress in your business.
Until next time give yourself permission to be content exactly where you are today and grace along the way. I'll talk to you soon.
"It's like sitting in a car behind the wheel with no idea where to go. And this isn't one of those times when you feel free and are okay going where the wind takes you. This isn't what you're feeling. You're feel lost, scattered and unsure.
If we're feeling scattered, lost, unsure and the general sense of "lack of direction", my suggestion is to flip the feeling so we can create a plan."
- Amanda McKinney
Better Help Article: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/happiness/my-life-is-great-so-why-cant-i-be-happy/
Wikipedia Contentment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contentment
Psychology Today Article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/automatic-you/202207/why-its-so-hard-ever-feel-satisfied
Instagram Post Mention: https://www.instagram.com/p/CnCYGkOuX6_/?igshid=ZDFmNTE4Nzc%3D
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