Starting a new company is one of the most turbulent phases in the life of entrepreneurs, considering that only 50% of startups survive their first five years. We still have an incomplete understanding of why some startups survive and why some entrepreneurs are more successful than others when confronted with hardship. Perhaps the successful entrepreneurs are more resilient.
What is a resilient entrepreneur? The concept of resilience was originally developed in the field of psychology and describes “a person who adapts positively in a stressful or traumatic environment,” or, in management, “a set of organisational capability” (Coutu, 2002; Hamel & Vaelikangas, 2003). Today, scholars are seeking to understand which entrepreneurial qualities are key to success. How people explain successes and failures in their lives is particularly relevant for entrepreneurs. Many possible factors can be taken into consideration – such as perceived fear of failure, self-efficacy and self-awareness – and these strongly influence decisions concerning entrepreneurial opportunity and resilience.
This points to a key construct that has become increasingly salient for business – mindfulness. Paying attention to small events and developing the capability to deal with and/or contain failures effectively as they occur are key drivers of resilience and success (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2001). According to Gaertner (2011), mindfulness in organisations causes dynamic capabilities to develop, where employees become aware of threats as well as of opportunities, seize opportunities as appropriate, and reconfigure operations when faced with unexpected events. This is arguably where there is overlap between academic business literature on resilience and mindfulness.
Mindfulness may be a powerful lifelong strategy for entrepreneurs. As paradoxical as it sounds, entrepreneurs sometimes need to slow down in order to move at the speed their demands and ambitions require. Entrepreneurs want to keep pace with the business world, but at the same time to innovate and push boundaries. To be creative in this way, entrepreneurs need to reclaim mental and emotional space from the stress of business challenges and overwork.
Mindfulness practices are useful because they help entrepreneurs to become aware of, and then to rewire, how they interpret and react to what happens. They then have a much greater capacity for fresh, creative thinking on all fronts and enhanced resilience to whatever comes next.
Good luck and have a mindful day!