Psychological factors affecting entrepreneurship | Sunday Observer

Psychological factors affecting entrepreneurship

14 February, 2021

The entrepreneur spirit is a factor that cannot be turned off easily when a person forms an idea to launch a business. Most often entrepreneurs are known to be committed, passionate, and engaged with people during every waking hour, throughout their lives. Particularly, when the business is growing, even if they can relax, they do not usually let go. In my opinion, two factors influence this phenomenon; the first is the persistent hunger for growth and the second is fear of failure and losing what was built. These are the two factors that drive them to success. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that mental health is not a mere absence of mental challenges but it is the psychological well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential.  An entrepreneur is described as a person who passionately pursues an idea or concept. In other words, according to legendary and iconic entrepreneur Steve Jobs, they are “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world”. 

Entrepreneurs are most often described as go-getters with infinite aspirations and inventive minds. When they are into businesses, over time, they invariably display fearlessness when they are making headway. Business psychologists agree that energetic people, who are motivated to relentlessly pursue a target, are often successful in business, but more likely to have strong emotional conditions sooner or later.      

Alone

Entrepreneurs are often alone by choice. They have friends, family, acquaintances, and their team with them. Yet, the state of the business endeavour is left on their shoulders making them feel alone constantly. They have to put up a front to keep the team, the investors, friends, and family to make them trust. Bearing the brunt of all worries and anxieties can create a pretty lonely space for entrepreneurs in the long run. Hence, the continuation of this inevitable occurrence can cause a psychological imbalance for the entrepreneurs, if not properly addressed on time. 

The British based Business Growth Fund (BGF), one of the most active investment companies in the United Kingdom has revealed that 53% of entrepreneurs ‘never turn off’ while another 20% work over 80 hours a week. Nevertheless, in Sri Lanka, these percentages can be more. This is certainly a calling on the mental health of entrepreneurs. Hence, a balance must be created between business and personal lives to avoid late-life repercussions. 

Identifying the magnitude of risk of mental health issues due to entrepreneurial endeavours is not an easy task. Most often entrepreneurs are heads down on the success of their respective entities; they pay little or no attention to the signs of stress. The stress created through this action can be factors such as despair on failure, negative issues in personal lives, poor sleep and eating habits, and change in emotions. 

Most of the successful businessmen I have met commonly declared that they are at their peak when they work under pressure. Many of them say that when they relax, they tend to slip important issues, specifically in decision making.  In my opinion, although this judgment has some truth, the long-term repercussion on mental health can be detrimental.    

To others around successful businessmen, it is hard to imagine that they take a negative psychological toll as they visibly display luxurious lifestyles and create illustrious impressions in society. However, the truth is that most entrepreneurs lead comfortable lives, but not extravagantly as a small percentage who are billionaires.

Nevertheless, the goal of almost all entrepreneurs is inspired by the most successful entrepreneurs. Similar to the richest, achieving goals and maintaining success is the main aim of every entrepreneur. However, the reality is that success turns up naturally with a psychological price. Depression and anxiety often exist with most of them causing mental health concerns, often followed by negative physical concerns. 

Under pressure

Several successful businessmen I have spoken with on the subject matter unanimously confirmed that they are constantly under pressure throughout the day, week, month, and the year with renewing business-related issues since the inception of entrepreneurship. Almost every person said that the tension intensifies with the business growth.

A relatively young successful businessman and a mature entrepreneur shared the same sentiment on the subject of constant stress and anxiety. However, even if they are conscious about the mental toll, they say they can do very little to circumvent it due to the nature of responsibilities lying on their shoulders.   

Dealing with stress and anxiety is one of the core business psychology topics discussed by psychologists around the globe. The nature of business is that every day, everything must be right even though in reality it is not so.  For example, businessmen think that the revenue must go up, employees and customers must be happy, products must be improved, and much more. However, the truth is that almost every day the business takes two steps forward and one step back or vice versa.

Therefore, entrepreneurs must be prepared to face this bitter truth. If not, there is a high possibility that they will endure undue mental pressure that will cause anxiety to build up. If an entrepreneur lets these emotions confront them, their business decisions will get affected. It is a proven fact that the decisions made under influence of stress can be damaging in the long-run.  

Inability to deal with rejections or failures is a strong issue for entrepreneurs. The two factors are strongly interconnected in any business, anywhere in the world. It is not only a common phenomenon in business practice but also a necessity as the entrepreneur confronts various business-related concerns regularly as a common occurrence. Similarly, failures also are a habitual factor in entrepreneurship. 

The entrepreneur’s intentions or innovative ideas do not always materialise the way he or she anticipates. Most successful business leaders in the world declare that they have encountered more failures than successes. However, persistency will ultimately accumulate success. The important point is that although rejections and failures hurt, by being in control of emotions, the negative mental stress can be kept in check.

Facade

Another notable mannerism of almost all entrepreneurs is to act as if everything is perfect even at the edge of failure. By creating this façade, entrepreneurs attempt to maintain the confidence of the stakeholders of the business intact for as long as possible. No businessman wants to appear weak in front of his team, customers or colleagues. This type of behaviour can lead to stress and consequent depression later.  

Renowned American psychologist and the founder of the ‘humanistic approach’ (client-centered approach) warns that human beings are disturbed when expectations are not met. It is more so with people with an entrepreneur mentality who frequently show strong behavioural patterns. Hard-working businessmen can easily get depressed when they cannot achieve what is expected. 

It is for these reasons that experts say that entrepreneurs must learn to be open-minded about the eventualities whether it is positive or negative. The recommendation in such conditions is for the entrepreneurs to take time off from business-related activities to rest and revitalise physically and mentally. However, in reality, the irony is that most Sri Lankan entrepreneurs go on holidays but never switch off from business activities. 

The mental well-being of entrepreneurs is connected to the welfare of many and is also directly related to the economy of the country as well. Therefore, entrepreneurs, particularly small and medium scale, must realise that emotional difficulties are not signs of weakness. It is another common fact in their lifestyles. The emotional balance of every entrepreneur is of paramount importance as they collectively provide a living for millions of others. Hence, taking a proactive approach to prevent omnipresent mental disturbances is essential. 

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