Frank, “Hey bud, you look nice today!” Robin, “Thanks.” Robin walks away smiling. Robin goes home, feeling unproductive, having a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, heck a bad couple of years. Robin writes in her journal that night, “daily positive: I was complimented that I looked nice today.” Some days, it’s little things that people like Frank don’t even remember as an interaction, are what keep startup founders moving during rough times.
I want to share my moment of despair and how I was able to become the resilient person that I am today. I hope that sharing this story can help other fellow struggling entrepreneurs or anyone battling difficult professional times in their careers.
When I was feeling like a failure and unable to pick myself back up, I had a friend who once told me, “Do just one thing a day. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do the same one thing every day.”
I told her, “I tried. I tried to drive to the park to workout or play every day and spend some time in the sun. I can’t get myself to do it more than once a week.”
My friend passionately countered and said, “If you can’t do that one thing consistently every day for 21 days, then you went too big. Try something smaller like making your bed. Once you’ve done that one thing, you accomplished your goal for the day. The rest is bonus.”
This advice was invaluable to me. It gave me a sense of success every day.
My problem is that I’m a serial overachiever. When I don’t live up to my standards, I beat myself up. Before speaking with my friend, I was trying to get out of the house and drive to another location every day. When you’re in the thick of depression, leaving the house is a tall order. I could only muster up the energy to get out of the house once per week. The other 6 days I beat myself up feeling like a failure.
I filled my once entrepreneurial mind with self-hate speech, “you sad miserable f*ck, you launched a million-dollar business less than a year ago, now you can’t even go to a park every day?! You’re a useless waste of space.” and cue the sad violin. If you couldn’t tell, I severely lacked self-compassion at the time.
Truth is, I went too big. Going from not working out for several years because I dedicated my life to my career to trying to be active every day was silly. I was not in my 20’s anymore, I was not in my collegiate prime, habits like working out every day take actual work in my 30’s.
My friend gave examples of her one thing every day when she was battling depression – drinking 16 ounces of celery juice. Another friend said hers was making her bed. I decided ok, celery juice sounds gross, I’ll go with making my bed. I’m in my 30’s, I never make my bed, it’s time to start.
Every day I would wake up, make the bed, put on the decorative comforter and decorative pillows, and the day automatically was labeled a success.
What ended up happening was that became a trigger to start my day. I couldn’t get back in bed, the bed has been made. Once I put on my clothes, I was awake and ate breakfast. Once I ate breakfast, I was ready to hop on my computer or maybe even start to attempt to work out. Each day, this trigger led me to healthy habits. It’s funny how one small thing for 21 days can be the turning point to getting out of depression.
Those little moments, where a friend mentioned a small piece of advice or said something wise in passing, meant everything to me. These were keeping me together when I was holding on by a thin thread. I’m grateful for the support that friends and family give just by their presence in a room with me.
Support is everything.