The Mindful Startup
Mike Davis, Founding Director, PURPOSEFUL
About 10 weeks ago I launched a startup - Purposeful, and perhaps anticipating additional stress also began a 6-week mindfulness course at a studio in Armadale!
Throughout the course I learned a great deal about how the principles and practices of mindfulness could help me to stay balanced and perform optimally during a testing time.
The three principles that helped me the most were- beginners mind, non-striving and letting go. Each week during the course we learned a bit about each principle of mindfulness and how we can integrate this understanding into our busy lives.
Below I'll outline those three principles and how they helped me launch my startup and adopt a more mindful approach to business-
Beginners mind is about seeing things free from our personal biases, as if for the first time. Imagine if we could approach each possibility, opportunity and interaction this way?
As we become more and more time poor, we reduce our openness to possibility, opportunity and new interactions. Business and productivity pundits tell us we need to carefully select our opportunities and ration out our time.
This often leads to us subconsciously building in filtering and triage systems that we use to classify and priorititise opportunities, interactions and other people.
Operating this way limits our opportunity to grow and expand our networks. I would suggest that one of the keys to becoming a great startup or any business is a strong commitment to ongoing learning and growth. Commitment to being a ‘learning organisation’ is one of our core values at Purposeful.
Suggested action- Reach out and arrange a meeting with someone new each month. Invite them for coffee and just enjoy learning about them. Do this free from any preconceptions, expectations or judgment of what the interaction may bring.
Doing so will teach you to dispense with your filtering system for a few months and commit to welcoming one more person a month into your world and your calendar! Be prepared to welcome an abundance of new opportunities and great people.
Non-striving challenged me to slow down at a time in my life when everything feels like more is less and there is no limit to how much work you can put in to be successful. In a world where the media, personalities and family and friends tell us that the harder you work the more you will succeed, this felt like anathema.
Non-striving calls for us to accept our current state of being in the here and now and to just be ourselves. This doesn't mean doing nothing- but rather means that it is ok to set an intention and to align your being with that intention, rather than aggressively pursuing outcomes.
There is a lovely karmic quality to this principle and it has helped me to be still, calm and resolved at times when external forces could be pulling me a thousand different directions.
Suggested action- Write down your intention for the month and a few feelings associated with realising that intention. Now go about doing the things that will put you 'in the zone' to achieving that intention.
This might mean joining a group, association or community that shares your intention or interests or just turning up to one of their events.
Putting yourself in the right zones associated with your intent can be far more useful and powerful than chasing individual outcomes.
I’ve always found it hard to sleep in anticipation of a big presentation, pitch or meeting. It can be even harder to sleep after any of these events didn’t go as planned. Just as we let go when we finally go to sleep, the letting go mindfulness principle is about learning to accept things as they are and let go when our thoughts or feelings are no longer helpful to us. Mindfulness is about recognising these thoughts and feelings, detaching from them and allowing them to drift in and out without disturbance.
Every startup founder has fears and anxious thoughts and feelings around whether they are doing the right things to build their business, if they have made their best impression and impact and crucially if they will achieve positive results. Learning to put a name to this uncertainty and fear is a great way to move forward from a position of strength.
Suggested action- Start to journal your fears and anxieties regularly and open up to your loved ones about them. A technique that’s served me well has been to ask myself “will I remember feeling this way in a year”? If not why waste time on it now?! Another one is “is this feeling helping me to build my business”? If not, then you have better things to do!
I hope you’ve found these principles useful and encourage you to welcome mindfulness into your life. It’s helped me to greatly in navigating the choppy waters of the startup world and to grow my inner strength and wisdom in the process.
Mike Davis is Founding Director of Purposeful, a purpose driven advisory, helping organisations to improve their social impact, culture, systems and strategic planning.
Our mission is to help organisations to connect with purpose and to integrate social, ethical, health and environmental offerings into their business model and operations to produce strong community connection and outstanding value. We are a proud B Corp, doing our best to encourage business as a force for good every day.