When people hear that my business partner and I both broke our backs when we were younger, they can’t believe it. Our shared experience of living and working with chronic pain has taught us how to prioritize caring for ourselves, and it’s compelled us to be more aware of how we choose to spend our time and energy. We’ve realized that, as entrepreneurs, we have the freedom to choose how we work and in what way. This lesson is the best gift we’ve gained from being entrepreneurs, and it’s at the core of our work.
Inspired by the challenges that come with running a business while living with pain, we’ve developed a collection of simple practices that can be incorporated into your work week to help you keep going when things are hard.
1. Think about—and own—your story
We each have a story of how, why, and where we got started on our journey. Our story makes us unique and sets us apart from others in our industry. If you can bring this into your business, then marketing your services will no longer feel sales-y, uncomfortable, or inauthentic. When we incorporate our story into the language we use to describe our products, our services, and our business, we open up an opportunity for connection with our customers. We create richer, textured, and deeper experiences for our customers when we break the mold, refuse the formula, and think outside of the box. By tapping into our past experiences, whether they are pitfalls or successes, we are able to recognize where we’ve stumbled before and how we’ve thrived in spite of challenges.
2. Design a workspace that works for you
Our bodies aren’t built for constant work posture. That’s why it’s important to find a work setup and schedule that works for your body and mind, not just for your space. For the next few days, observe how you feel when you’re in your workspace. Are you able to concentrate? Is there something about the space that you wish were different? Maybe it would be better if it were quieter? Brighter? Warmer? Take note of what kinds of things you notice, and then consider what you can change. Usually, there are simple changes you can make to create a space that’s more comfortable for you.
3. Rethink your to-do list
When we’re working on a project or task and we feel frustrated or stressed, the root cause is very often that we’re overloaded with things to do. To combat frustration, practice creative problem solving. Instead of thinking about why or how you can get something done on your to-do list, try thinking about what you realistically have the capacity to do. Don’t feel like you can write a blog post once a week? Well, what can you do? Maybe you can manage to find time to write and publish monthly. By putting your attention on what you can do versus what you feel like you must do, you release some pressure and end up producing higher-quality work.
4. Show yourself and others compassion
When we act with compassion, we are poised to engage with our customers, collaborators, and colleagues on a deeper, more meaningful level. We can start appreciating ourselves, respecting our work, and supporting our efforts by offering kindness to ourselves as we move down this path. One of my favorite self-compassion practices is to make an accomplishment list. During your workday, spend a few seconds every couple of hours to jot down what you’ve accomplished. There’s no need to spend more than a few seconds doing this—simply make the note and then move on. At the end of the workday, look through your accomplishment list and send up some feelings of gratitude and grace for yourself and your work. Give yourself a high five!
5. Build your community and cultivate connections
Aside from offering a place to rant about challenges, building a professional community establishes connections that can lead to potential customers, collaborations, new team members, and investors. A strong community can become an endless fountain of resources, support, accountability, and fresh inspiration to help you expand your business, hone your skills, and build your brand. Consider adding a local networking event to your calendar or joining an online forum or mindset group of peers and professionals. However you feel comfortable, get connected and put yourself out there—you’ll be glad you did.
Whether you live with chronic pain or illness or you’re a relatively healthy person with typical life challenges, you can use these five practices to give yourself permission to rest, reflect, and recover.