Entrepreneurs take decisive action, but it's essential to balance action with empathy.
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As an entrepreneur, your company, its projects and initiatives are solving big problems for many people. Of course, every big problem is made up of countless smaller problems. Capital to raise. Margins to increase. Processes to refine. People to hire and fire. Snags to unsnag. You solve all those smaller problems, too, all day long.
The rewards come in many forms. Success. Wealth. Prestige. You’re a fixer. It’s your very own very special superpower. When progress comes to business in the form of success, those who depend upon you are usually grateful for its depth and variety.
Then, you get home. You walk in the door and your spouse immediately unloads to you about what broke bad for them during the day. You know how to do this — or do you? You quickly jump headlong into the problem to fix it! You do what you have been trained to do — you offer a solution (and these are very valuable, superpower-solutions).
But instead of fawning with gratitude, they give you attitude. Your spouse or partner may feel like you’re saying they weren’t smart enough to figure the issue out on their own. Sometimes, your offering of a simple solution minimized the magnitude of the dilemma they faced.
Then, you find your daughter, lamenting that she was not invited to a party with several of her friends. You do what you have been trained to — again. You search for a quick fix, and she, too, gets irritated.
“Can’t you hear me, dad?” You don’t understand. She shows you the pictures on Instagram. The pics and comments look a little silly, which you are wise enough not to mention.
You suggest she call her best friend to work it out. She looks at you like you are from another, less savvy generation, which of course you are. She drops her head back into her pillow, a clear signal that you and your superpower are no longer wanted there.
Your son is playing in the basement and you sit down to play with him. It’s enjoyable — for a few minutes. Then, your mind gets itchy. Restless. What is your mind doing? It’s looking for a problem to solve — but there aren’t really any problems here.
He just wants to play with the motorcycle he built. You want to stay there with him, but your mind wants to be somewhere else — doing something. Which is, of course, the problem.
Related: Don’t Procrastinate: Teach Your Kids Time Management Skills
Your superpower in the world is doing and taking action, but, it has become your kryptonite at home, where you need to balance that superpower with patience and the ability to remain still. Fortunately, there are at least three ways to build the at-home superpower.
1. Practice presence.
The practice of presence is foundational to quieting our mind, releasing our thinking and analyzing and fixing and solving, for a while. Practicing presence includes bolstering our mindfulness, which involves closely attending to our experience of the present moment, without any effort to improve it or change it at all.
There are all sorts of books and exercises to help you along the way. Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a classic. You can practice mindful breathing by downloading apps like Headspace, or Calm.
You can schedule 10 minutes of meditation every morning and evening. You can retrain your mind. Sometimes, in practice, I call this mind-numbing, because you have to numb your mind to all that buzzing-to-get-busy stuff. You have to pay attention.
2. Engage in empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand someone so thoroughly that you can truly imagine walking in their shoes. It turns out, most of the time, your people at home don’t want you to fix something for them, they want you to feel something with them. You can’t fake empathy, even with your superpower, so don’t try to fake this.
Your people want you to feel the weight of a day that broke bad — to feel the rejection of a party that happened without them. They want you to understand how good it feels to simply build a motorcycle.
Related: 3 Big Questions to Sharpen Your Decision-Making Skills
3. Ask for accountability.
The practice of presence and engaging with empathy are marathons and won't happen overnight. All marathons require training and many months or years of preparation. Running partners help.
Think about inviting a friend or colleague into any project you participate in, but especially with an accountability project. Get someone serious about helping you with the empathy project, because presence and empathy work is a true quest to fine-tune the most important superpower you can own.
If you can’t think of a good candidate among friends that you trust, there are entire masterminds dedicated to ensuring your power in achieving this kind of balance. It all becomes simpler with help, you are supported in your journey. Being supported by a mentor makes a difference in establishing balance, and balancing action with empathy is the key to making sure you end up with two superpowers, rather than one frustrating piece of kryptonite.
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