Why entrepreneurs need more than money to be happy

Photo: Angelo Merendino/ Getty Images.

Debate over the connection between money and happiness is as old as the hills. While most of us feel a windfall or two wouldn’t hurt, several studies have shown that wealth beyond a certain point (this one out of Princeton puts that point at an annual wage of around $90,000 AUD) fails to bring an equivalent boost to happiness levels.

Many entrepreneurs believe that a cash injection is what’s stopping them from business success. However, as drugs and alcohol bring only temporary and illusory relief from personal problems, money may not be the whole solution to your business woes.

Obsessing about increasing profits may not just be diverting your focus from structural and systemic problems in your business that need your attention, but it might not even be your end goal. Have you stopped to consider what’s really important to you? You might be surprised to find that money isn’t your ultimate aim after all.

As every first year business student knows, Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs argues that self-actualisation – that is, personal fulfilment through making a meaningful impact in the world – is the ultimate human goal. With this in mind, defining your core purpose – a statement that encapsulates the values that are most meaningful to you – and applying it to every business move you make can not only reap professional rewards, but psychological ones too. I’ve seen it work.

When I first started advising Howard Finger, director of online training system VinciWorks, his business was on the brink of collapse and Howard was in a bleak emotional state. These two facts are deeply connected. A chaotic, cash-strapped business that consumes all of your time will profoundly impact your stress levels and your sense of satisfaction.

Likewise, your ability to cope with stress and maintain internal balance will significantly affect your capacity to run a successful business.

This is why a one-dimensional solution to address a problem on a professional or a personal level can’t work; only a holistic approach will help you achieve your desired outcomes.

While I advised Howard on the business strategies he needed to get VinciWorks back into the black, we also enlisted mindfulness teacher Aryeh Goldman to provide psychological counsel. Together, we built a holistic approach that set Howard on the road to personal and professional success and we describe that journey in our new book The Mindful Entrepreneur.

Aryeh coached Howard in some immensely powerful psychological techniques that brought him mental clarity, built inner resilience and helped him deal with the immense stress he was facing. Defining Howard’s core purpose was their first step.

Asking Howard to imagine his own eulogy, to anticipate those qualities – integrity, honesty, a determination to extract the most from every moment and a desire to change people’s lives – he would most like to be remembered for, allowed him to define the values that held the most personal meaning. The result was Howard’s core purpose: ‘To create the greatest sustainable value – no excuses!’.

If you want to run a business that inspires, energises and fulfils you because it actually makes a difference in the world, aligning your business strategy with your core purpose is highly valuable. While applying this purpose to everything you do might seem daunting, it affords you a new perspective on the specific day-to-day challenges of business – cash-flow, staffing problems, supplier issues and so on.

Asking ‘Does this decision fit my core purpose?’ at key moments will guide your strategy and allow you to move towards fulfilling your goals.

What might your core purpose look like? How would you like the world to remember you – as the richest in the room or as a person who made a difference in the world? And how can you achieve your purpose if you fail to adequately define it?

Joel Gerschman is the author of The Mindful Entrepreneur.

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