Entrepreneurial vision is nothing without ambition. The former is the goals we set for ourselves – how we want to improve our lives and the world – while the latter is the drive to make these goals a reality.
Without ambition, no entrepreneur would ever realize their objectives. It’s the motivation that keeps us chipping away at a seemingly unsolvable problem. It’s the momentum that pushes us through fear, doubt, and other obstacles to success.
However, harnessing ambition isn’t as simple as we sometimes think it is, and it can often push us to a point where it compromises itself. Unbalanced ambition isn’t a good thing. Without a foundation of health, we don’t operate at our peak performance. And without a baseline of wellness, we can’t enjoy ambition’s rewards.
Let’s take a quick look at methods we can use to keep ambition from besting us all.
Get enough high-quality sleep
Wow, this is an easy one to overlook. When you’re in the “zone” coding, designing, brainstorming, it can be incredibly easy to forget that the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
While this might seem negotiable sometimes (as if we can bargain our way out of science), remember that being well-rested is one of the main drivers of cognitive performance. The further you push this boundary, the more you’re limiting your ability to spot and solve problems.
What’s important to remember here is that it’s not just about being “in bed” for 8 hours. It’s vital to go to sleep in a relaxing environment, free of stressors like mobile phones and blaring TVs.
If you find it difficult to disconnect from work, adopting a bedtime routine is a great way to prepare your body and mind for sleep. For instance, if you have a shower, read ten pages of a book, then meditate for 15 minutes every night before closing your eyes, you’re sending yourself a signal that it’s time to start winding down.
Yes, pulling long hours is often a critical part of making a business breakthrough, but don’t do it at the expense of sleep. You’re doing yourself no favors.
Watch what you put in your ‘tank’
Delving into a topic as broad and potentially controversial as diet is something we don’t have time for in this post. There are countless resources proving a link between food and cognitive function.
I’m not here to jump on a nutritional soapbox and yell passionately about the benefits of one fad over another. The amount of research necessary to prove that one approach to eating is better than another falls outside of my goal with this article.
What I will say is this: use your common sense. There are certain fundamentals that just have too much science behind them to ignore. If you’re going through a period where you need to operate at your absolute peak, here are some dietary guidelines:
- Avoid junk food.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Don’t rely on coffee for energy, but you don’t necessarily need avoid it either.
Do your own research here, too. It’s likely that, by now, you have a pretty solid idea of what works for you and what doesn’t. If you have a notion that you have nutritional habits that hurt your ambitions, jump online, and see what the experts have to say. Search engines are your friends!
Give your brain a break
Right, so I’ve already tried to convince you that pulling all-nighters isn’t the way to realize your ambitions. Now I’m going to push this even further by telling you that prolonged periods of focus aren’t ideal either.
Taking breaks periodically during lengthy spells of concentration are scientifically proven to actually help keep us focused on the detail. While it may seem counterintuitive, it’s not in my nature to argue with experts. If a doctor in psychology tells me that stepping away from a difficult problem will help me solve it, I’m gonna listen.
I’ve been working this way for years. One of my favorite methods of enforcing it is the Pomodoro technique. You can even find a pretty great little browser extension that helps you stick to this helpful routine.
Aside from taking breaks, we should also become comfortable with letting our brains wander, allowing our minds to go into what scientists call “diffuse mode.” Research suggests that we’re capable of solving some pretty complex problems while we’re not actively focused on them.
Chances are, you’ve already experienced this in your entrepreneurial journey. You’re struggling with a specific issue, looking at it from every angle, drawing up numerous versions of pro and con tables. Yet, somehow, the solution evades you.
Then, one afternoon while you’re daydreaming – thinking about the previous night’s football match, or considering whether you really need that Hulu subscription – it hits you. Out of the blue, an ideal solution to the problem that’s been plaguing you for weeks drops into your lap.
Science shows us that diffuse mode is an incredibly powerful space for your mind to be in when you’re ruminating on a complex issue. So don’t avoid the odd daydream. Allow your brain to drift. It’s a good thing.
What’s the point of ambition if we don’t enjoy the journey? What’s the point of having lofty goals if achieving them damages our lives?
Without getting too sentimental or existential about it, our health is all we have from the minute we’re born to the day we die. Businesses come and go. So do relationships. But our ability to engage with life in a meaningful way is wholly dependent on our health.
And no goal is worth sacrificing that.
Tommy Pruchinski is a marketing consultant for small e-commerce brands. He’s also a stand-up comedian and Brazillian jiu-jitsu practitioner.
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