You’re a young entrepreneur on a mission. You’re setting out to build a career, boldly stepping into your own space, like an artist set on outdoing the people who influenced you. There’s one gigantic problem, though: You’ve never done this before. There’s no safety net, and the stress is palpable. Everything is on your shoulders in a sink-or-swim environment. Either learn how to cope with the stress, focus and excel, or fail. It’s exactly this type of thinking that can lead to a breakdown. Stress get worse when you think about the consequences of succumbing to stress. This is a vicious feedback loop. By admitting the idea of failure into your brain, you’re opening yourself up to failure, and your heart races as anxiety overcomes you. Before you reach for the Xanax, realize millions of entrepreneurs have been through this before. There are mentors out there who can help build your mentla strength. There are tactics you can use to cope with stress. Learn how to solve the stress problem, and you learn how to do what entrepreneurs do best: solve problems. Stress may never entirely go away, but believe it or not, it can be the impetus for learning a whole new set of skills. #1. Striking a Work-Life Balance Like a tightrope walker, balance helps you achieve your goal. Try crossing the Grand Canyon on a rope without paying any attention to how the rope feels beneath your feet. You’ll fall. Try looking down at the rope the entire time. You’ll fall. The key is to strike a balance between a view of the end game and the immediacy of each step. The same applies to the life of an entrepreneur. Here are some essential tips on achieving a work-life balance as an entrepreneur: Learn how to say “no”: You can’t do everything; choose priorities based on a combination of instinct and calculation, and say no to requests that aren’t high priority. Exercise, meditate, and breathe: Set aside time each day to forget about work and take care of yourself; exercise, meditation and deep-breathing are all excellent stress relievers. Use apps: With the right combination of apps you can save time on fundamental tasks — such as setting appointments — which will give you more time for higher-level thinking; make a list of basic tasks that take time each day, then search for apps that can help. Think passion: What part of your goal really excites you and stokes your passion? Concentrate on your passion and use your passion to motivate your daily routine. Surround yourself with the right people: Even if it’s just one other person at the beginning, find someone you can work with who can handle some of the day-to-day responsibilities and stressors. With people in Silicon Valley working 80 hour weeks and constant calls to innovate, a positive work-life balance isn’t in vogue right now. But if stress is driving you up the wall, work-life balance will help you achieve more in less time because your brain will be a more fertile ground for productivity. #2. Mastering Mindfulness Mindfulness is a big part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is an alternative therapy counselors often use with their patients. Meditation is also part of the alternative/complementary therapy mix, and it’s great for those times of day when you’re taking a break. Think of mindfulness like meditation during activity. In that sense, mindfulness is well suited to the entrepreneur. It allows you to be highly active and helps you cope with stress at the same time. Mastering mindfulness is very much like learning how to play music or sports. In fact, there’s very little difference. Here’s a breakdown: Start by closing your eyes and noting the texture, smell, and other sensual attributes of an object; try having someone hand you the object while your eyes are closed; do this without applying any sort judgment to the object’s attributes. Now note your bodily sensations in and of themselves; start at the top of your head and go down to your toes; no judgment. Extend mindfulness to your own thoughts, recognize the nature of your thoughts, even categorize them, but don’t judge them; let them go. Extend further to your surrounding environment; note attributes of each thing, apply no judgment. This method of being “in the moment” will help you accomplish your goals without holding onto stress. When stress is there, note it, but know it’s neither good nor bad. When you find your mind wandering away from your immediate surroundings, gently call it back like a lost child in the woods. #3. Setting SMART Expectations It helps a great deal to have a set of mental guidelines for achieving your goals. Otherwise you’re unmoored, guessing and checking your way through the process. Ever heard of SMART? It’s an acronym to help you remove uncertainty from the business equation. Identify Significant information Gather Meaningful data Prioritize Actionable intelligence and set achievable standards Set Realistic goals Estimate Time needed to accomplish goals Oftentimes, it’s tough to know how much time you need to reach a checkpoint. When you make a mistake on the timetable, it reflects a lack of proper planning. Establishing unrealistic expectations is damaging to both your psyche and your business. Through SMART planning, you’re removing the timetable burden from yourself and establishing expectations based on data. Since you’re a new entrepreneur and this is your first endeavor, you’ll need to do a number of things to be SMART: Find a mentor or another entrepreneur in a similar position who can help you get a clear picture of the information that is most significant for achieving your primary goals; this information will determine which data you analyze. Research case studies of businesses in your niche and access good third party data to inform your planning, even if you have to pay for it. Through your research and consultation, find out about standards you should set for accomplishing even the most simple tasks; don’t be afraid to set high standards for yourself and employees, but make sure standards are achievable. Identify essential short-term goals that are the easiest to achieve and start working on them first; make sure short-term goals are direct steps towards a realistic long-term goal; be precise in identifying short-term and long-term goals. Based on consultations, data, and reasonable estimates on how long it will take to achieve short-term goals, establish an accurate expectation for how long it will take to accomplish your big, long-term goal. Prepare yourself for the possibility that some facets of your plan might not work out, and setup contingency plans. When something doesn’t work, analyze why that was the case. Analyze your audience and build your strategy based on their needs. And finally, if and when you fail, turn failure into success by embracing what you learned and putting it into action: success through failure is part of greatness. You’re Building Mental Strength You’ll find the more you strike a work-life balance, practice mindfulness, and set realistic expectations, the easier things become. You’re not setting your sky-high ambition aside. Rather, you’re diving fully into the lake and measuring each stroke towards the other shore; you’re on the tightrope with your eyes on the end and your feet on the twine. With a balanced, mindful approach, you have no choice but to make it to the other side.