There is a lyric from the 1996 Evita motion picture with Madonna: “It’s hard to keep momentum when it’s you that you are following.” Let’s set aside the discussion of what it says about me that I remember a line for a movie musical (and that one) from twenty three years ago for a minute and focus on how it cleanly sums up one of the challenges of doing something entrepreneurial. Being out in front is amazing, but it’s also exhausting. A lot has been written on avoiding burn-out, on work-life balance, and on self-care. I find a lot of that useful – particularly advice about being out in nature and getting exercise and sleep, but in my experience it isn’t enough. So how do you keep momentum when it’s you that you are following? Here are my six go-to momentum-building solutions:
Allow yourself to roll with your own personal rhythms. Everyone has ups and downs, days when you feel like taking on the world and days when you don’t. As a society, we tend to value the days when we are energized and in perpetual motion more than others, but we need to be compassionate towards ourselves when we just want rest and stillness too. It’s in these calmer moments, if we acknowledge them, that we often find beauty and big ideas that start small. Sometimes we just need a cup of tea and a comfy sweater. The energy will roll back around in time.
Have a hobby or side project or two that energizes you. It isn’t a waste of time to do something just for the fun of it. Whether it’s playing an instrument, making things, cooking, gardening, being artistic, or writing questionably valuable blog entries like this one, having something totally unrelated from your main push to think about and pour creative energy into can be incredibly refreshing. I find that often when I’m “tired” what I really am is drained. If I’ve given myself enough still time and rest but continue feeling this way, the solution is usually in pursuing one of my creative pursuits.
Find a way to be kind to someone else. This doesn’t have to be grandiose. Sometimes it’s as simple as a phone call, an email, or stopping to chat with a neighbor. Sometimes it’s making a donation to a local charity. Sometimes it’s making a meal for a family in my local mother’s club that just had a baby. Sometimes it’s just a kind word to a stranger as I’m running errands. Anything that puts the focus on making someone else’s day a little brighter usually reflects some of that light back into my own.
Zoom out. There was a reason you decided to do the thing you’re out in front doing in the first place. Think beyond the day-to-day action items and challenges and refocus on the big picture. How is this going to make society better? What will daily life look like in twenty years if you do this vs. if you don’t? What inspired you to get started? What inspires people to contribute their own time and energy to helping you make it happen? Sometimes zooming out reveals that you’ve drifted off-course. If that’s the case, take the time to adjust your heading as this could be why you’re feeling sluggish. Seeing the forest for the trees can be very rejuvenating.
Force yourself to celebrate. If you’re like me, it’s hard to pause long enough after one accomplishment to enjoy it before immediately starting to work on the next one. I was in one of my journal-keeping phases when we flew the proof of concept Transition for the first time. Seeing that plane leave the runway was one of the proudest moments of my life and it still took me two full weeks before I took the time away from follow-up work to write about it. Not surprisingly, I was burnt out and exhausted in the journal entry that I did finally write. This is still really hard for me, but when I can do it, it’s really helpful.
Find your people. Per number 5, having people in your life to celebrate with is incredibly valuable, but it’s also important to not feel like you’re out front by yourself. Having a team – or even just a partner – that shares your vision means that you can help keep each other going. When you are in a low-energy time, they can balance it out and maybe even take care of the urgent things you don’t feel up to handling. When you have trouble seeing the big picture, they can paint the picture for you. And of course, you can return the favor for them when you have the energy and momentum on your side.
So here’s to leading the charge to change the world – and to taking care of yourself while you do it.