Think big and focus on how it feels

As was published in an entrepreneurship series for Future Females in 2018.

It’s the most natural thing about us human beings: to follow what feels good. We love to feel good and so we pursue things that make us feel good. Then there’s also responsibility, expectations, obligations, competition. Important factors that fuel our everyday actions too, but often they keep us from feeling good.  

Blogging about this month’s theme “thinking big” and here I go talking about feelings. If there anything further away from entrepreneurship it’s feelings right? We’re all tough as nails. Powerful, rational people. But are we really? Aren’t a lot of the decisions you make as an entrepreneur right from the gut? And the passion that drove you to found your business, isn’t that pure emotion? 

I’ve started an experiment on feeling good, life and entrepreneurship earlier this year. I started shifting my focus from the big goals in front of me, toward my biggest goal yet: feeling good along the way. 

Bare with me here as we explore feelings and entrepreneurship. You wanted a challenge right? You want to take it further than you have ever before? You want to think big? I’m challenging you to focus on your feelings as an entrepreneur. Are you up for it?

Work hard

In my work and personal life, I’ve always set my goals as big as possible. While imagining my future self I could already sense the juicy feeling of success and accomplishment. Knowing that when I’d achieve my goal I would feel so powerful. That feeling of I DID IT! I believe Walt Disney when he said: if you can dream it, you can do it.

When your plans are really big, chances are you get disappointed. You might get overwhelmed or frustrated when you notice you are not moving in the desired direction or the destination you are aiming for still seems miles and miles away. Being the big thinker that I am, I’ve had my fair share of frustration and disappointment. And what I’ve learned is that when you are a big thinker, most likely you’ll be a big worrier too. 

I was raised in an atmosphere where hard work pays off. And the reward is best, when you’ve sacrificed and given it your all. And I can honestly say that I’ve gotten so good at this. Being very hard on myself, pushing myself, always needing to accomplish, work hard on success, coping with stress every day.

At some point I found myself pushing harder and harder. My goals being my main focus, no matter what. Working through my frustration. Pushing myself and the people I work with and my loved ones too. To the point where I got exhausted. And far worse I lost the passion for the initial goal that had been my drive all that time. 

I saw all the things I had built start to crumble. And it felt like I was further away from my goals than I’d ever been, in spite of all the hard work. And worse yet, I had no idea and no more energy to keep going. 

What a terrible thing to go through for me, but at the same time it was an opportunity to embrace growth. Something had to change. I saw all these friends around me sliding into burnouts. Every week I heard about another case of burnout, all people my age or younger. 

If you are working to reach your goals, because reaching them is the ultimate, how much are you willing to sacrifice? How do you want this path to unfold? You don’t know how long this path is or what bumps in the road will come up. Are you up for it? Is the end-goal so import that you are willing to sacrifice almost anything for it?

Chill mode on

I started thinking what if working towards my goals was pleasant? What if this journey was about having fun? What if it wasn’t about pushing hard, ignoring emotions, running into walls, but about flowing with ease and joy at every step? Could I get back to that initial exhilarating feeling when you first imagine your goal and keep that feeling while moving toward it? 

1. Get started

So I started experimenting with this. First step was a 30-days yoga challenge. Practicing yoga every morning for 30 days. This cleared my mind completely. I felt energized, in shape, strong, confident and calm. Best thing: we took on this challenge with a group of friends, supporting each other, sharing the experience.

2. Be a warrior, not a worrier

Next step: address the worrying. I needed to find a way to control my thoughts and stop over-analyzing and worrying so much. I followed a program on positive thinking that taught me you can actually control your thoughts. You can just choose thoughts that will cause you to feel worried, or thoughts that will make you feel relaxed. 

3. Relaxing as a priority

Learning to relax was the third step. Seriously I couldn’t relax without feeling guilty for not being productive. Making relaxing a stressful exercise too. This really took some practice and a shift in mindset. What helped me most was finding things to do I love that help me clear my mind. For me that’s taking a long walk in nature or horse riding. 

4. Trust

Final step: learning to trust. Trust in myself and trust life. Trust in the fact that things will work out, and that I get to choose whether I’ll be super stressed, or totally relaxed along the way. What a revelation to learn that this is actually my choice to make. And what a delightful idea to just be relaxed, have fun and enjoy the unfolding. 

Let the good vibes fuel your action

That first feeling when you come up with the next big thing you want to do is so powerful! It feels so great! Let that feeling guide you towards it and not the worries and stress of how you are are going to get there. When you start fussing to much about the how, and start to lose that exhilarating feeling: practice the four steps above. Your goals are still there, and the excitement about them is too. Yet the focus is on feeling good. No more pushing, pulling, worrying. But enjoying, appreciating and flowing. 

And guess what? It’s awesome! Things are really starting to work out. On a daily basis I feel great. I’m attracting all these wonderful talented people. I get invitations to most the beautiful and inspiring venues. I get amazing business offers, exactly in line with my business goals. More money is coming in. And all this time I’m not pushing anything, I’m not working hard. I’m just chilling and appreciating all these things while they unfold. 

For the record: I’m not lying in bed all day. I’m still working, but from a place of joy and excitement. And I’m continually practicing step 1-4 on a daily basis to really get good at it. I understand it now, but I do need to keep reminding myself to keep it as my main focus. Because it’s very easy to go back to my stressed old-self. Instead of working hard I now say: be there, be prepared, be the best version of yourself and have fun!

Minimal Mass in newspaper

AD newspaper logo on red background

Dutch Newspaper AD features Minimal Mass. The article tells about the recent Dutch trade mission to Cape Town, lead by the Dutch national government and the local government of the Hague. Minimal Mass was one of the participating companies joining this mission for sustainable and water technologies promoting our Environmental Entrepreneurs program.

The newspaper article is written in Dutch. Please find below the English translation.

newspaper: Haagse bedrijven aan de slag in Kaapstad

Companies from The Hague get started in Cape Town

by Germa Graveland

The Hague. Companies from The Hague and surrounding areas are working on water issues in Cape Town. They are turning sea water into drinking water. With electric ‘waste sharks’ they clean the ocean from plastics. And they’re working on drought issues.

These are but a few outcomes of the trade mission held in November 2017, lead by city council member Karsten Klein. The economic mission was one of a series of missions following the stopovers of the Volvo Ocean Race. The mission was organized together with the ministry of Foreign Affairs offering a unique platform for economic diplomacy, trade and positioning of the city of The Hague. During the mission the ships of the Volvo Ocean race had their stopover in Cape Town.

A total of 28 companies and organizations joined the 5-day mission of which 15 were from the Hague region. Among them were a lot of startups, trying to build a presence in South Africa, where Cape Town could be a point of entry for the rest of the African continent. Cape Town and The Hague, both coastal cities, deal with issues like rising sea levels and coastal security. Their harbors, fisheries and maritime industries are of great value to both city economies.

All encounters and visits, costing the municipality of The Hague nearly EUR 6.000, resulted for the participating companies into business deals, the opportunity to present their projects and meeting new partners and clients.

Elemental Watermakers, a company from Delft, is now connected to a number of potential partners. They are very interested in their technology to make fresh water from salt water. RanMarine, a Rotterdam-based company, signed a deal with the Cape Town harbor company to apply their ‘plastic waste sharks’, submarine drones that collect plastic. And they are now talking to the Volvo Ocean Race organization to apply their drones at every stopover during the race.

Minimal Mass, originated from The Hague, a network of cleantech experts, is talking to a large number of private companies that is in need of innovative and clean solutions for local issues.

Dunea and Hoogheemraadschap Delfland (watermanagement services) support the local government in watermanagement and drought.

And three South African companies will open an office in The Hague, adding 50 jobs for the city in the next three years, according to the city council member.

Several exchange programs were launched.