Guilt can stop you in your tracks. It can keep you from taking the risk that changes your life forever.
If you’ve lived and worked exclusively in the U.S., you may not realize that the culture around individual success in the States doesn’t extend to every country.
In my homeland of Sweden, for instance, there’s more emphasis on fitting in than there is on individual success. While that’s begun to change over the past couple of decades, those collective values were more entrenched when I started my entrepreneurial career.
I often felt guilty for working a lot, rather than doing what everyone else my age was doing—working 40 hours a week, relaxing on the weekends, and generally fitting in.
Depending on where you’re from, what your family is like, and how your society values entrepreneurship, you may have a similar sense of guilt about striking out on your own.
But guilt can stop you in your tracks. It can keep you from taking the risk that changes your life forever. Getting over guilt may not be easy at first, but it’s essential to your success.
Here’s how to let go of any unhealthy thoughts about your career path:
Your friends and family may not understand what you’re doing—and that’s okay.
I started my own company online when I was 18. At the time, people didn’t understand that I was actually working—they thought I was goofing off.
It’s very possible that you may find yourself in a similar situation, even today. The term “entrepreneur” has a better rap nowadays, but that doesn’t mean your friends and family will necessarily understand your career choice.
When it comes to your friends, if they truly accept you and like you, they won’t try to change you or shame you into quitting. To be honest, though, when it’s your family that’s giving you trouble, you just have to learn to brush it off. It’s like your uncle asking when you’re going to cut your hair, or your grandma nagging you about grandkids. In all likelihood, they mean it with love. Tell them it’s happening soon and then change the subject. As long as it doesn’t turn into full-blown negativity and start draining you, then you just have to live with it.
But in the meantime, you should be looking for people who get what you’re going through and see what you’re trying to achieve.
Find like-minded people who understand your work.
It’s easy to feel guilty about your career choice when you don’t have connections to anyone who’s traveling the same path. There’s more pressure to fit in when you feel like you’re the only one who stands out.
Personally, I grew up in a very blue-collar family and wasn’t surrounded by entrepreneurs I could talk to. So I actually looked up many of the people who owned businesses in my town. They were small brick and mortar stores, but the owners had the same mentality I did—they were running their own businesses.
I’m not saying that you should stop hanging out with family or friends if they don’t quite get what you’re doing. But if they don’t share your passion, you need to find a community that does.
Luckily, today it’s easier than ever to get on forums, read some blogs, and reach out to people online and in-person. There are all kinds of events, summits, and communities that you can connect with and be a part of. And if all else fails, you can do what I did—find the people in your community who own businesses and connect with them.
Bottom line: if you want to find like-minded people to talk to and learn from, you have to seek them out.
While finding the right group, know it’s not a crime to constantly network.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard, “You’re always in work mode. Can’t you ever relax?”
What people don’t understand is, I can feel completely relaxed while still talking about business. Let’s say I’m at a party, drinking a glass of wine and having an interesting conversation about a subject we’re both passionate about. How is that not relaxing? What could be more relaxing than connecting with someone over hors d’oeuvres and a glass of pinot?
For most people, thinking about work all the time is stressful. But when your work is your passion, it’s invigorating and engaging. An entrepreneur’s work is naturally tangled up in their personal life. You don’t have to feel guilty about networking and “never relaxing” if that’s actually when you feel most at ease.
When your business is your passion, networking isn’t a crime. It’s just part of life.
Getting over guilt as an entrepreneur really comes down to surrounding yourself with people who understand your career and what you’re trying to achieve. You can absolutely still hang out with your friends and family, but you need a consistent source of positivity in your life. You need people around you who understand what you’re going through and share the same enthusiastic, go-getter attitude.
Find them, connect with them, and start working on your dream. Because there’s a point in time when everyone stops feeling guilty about their career—when it takes off.