What Do You Love?

What Do You Love?

What Do You Love?


As a private practice owner and health and fitness writer, I’m no stranger to the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. I somewhat reluctantly took on this role back in 2003, when I first opened my private practice. I had been frustrated for months at my job in a busy rehab hospital, and thought that I could do better on my own. Without any formal business training, I sat down with a yellow legal pad and outlined what I wanted my business to look like.

Now more than 10 years later (with four years in the middle working for someone else), I find myself thinking a lot about the good, the bad, and the ugly of self-employment. A few recent articles have caught my attention, and given me food for thought. The articles cover topics we don’t often discuss as business owners: the risk, the sleepless nights, the stress of an empty schedule or a phone that doesn’t ring. After talking with many business owners over the years, I know that we all share the same joys and frustrations, and I think that we need to talk more openly about our struggles in order to support each other.

It goes against the grain for most business owners to talk about their struggles. After all, we take pride in our image. We want to appear in control and successful at all times. But this often comes at a great cost. This article discusses the psychological price of entrepreneurship in a candid fashion. It discusses the toll taken by lack of a steady paycheck, working long hours, risking security, and loss of time with friends and family. Several prominent business owners openly discuss their struggles with start-ups and failed ventures.

The same article points out that our strengths can also be our weaknesses:

 “People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states,” says Freeman. Those states may include depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation, and suicidal thinking. The same passionate dispositions that drive founders heedlessly toward success can sometimes consume them.”

In the all-consuming frenzy of daily activities related to owning a business, it is often our own health that suffers the most. Many business owners neglect sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits, adding fuel to the fire that stress causes to our health. When we refuse to talk openly about our struggles, we are left feeling isolated and alone.

For some entrepreneurs, these feelings come as a total surprise. Several years into owning a business, we may look around and ask ourselves, “How did I get here? I can’t believe that this is what I wanted, and now I’m so unhappy/stressed/apathetic/exhausted.” While I believe it is normal to go through periods where we question our decision to run a business, some people remain disillusioned and have trouble moving forward.

When we identify with our company to the point where it defines us as a person, that’s when we run into trouble. We have all heard sayings like, “When you do what you love, you’ll never work another day in your life.” While this is a lovely, romantic idea, I believe it couldn’t be further from the truth. Owning a business is hard work. Period. It is no wonder we experience disillusionment when we open a business expecting every day to involve unicorns and rainbows. There is no way around it: you will work more hours for less pay (initially) and be fully responsible for not only yourself, but also any employees you hire.

This article from Slate Magazine titled “In the Name of Love” discusses the problems with the “Do What You Love” philosophy:

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem with DWYL, however, is that it leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work—and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

The article points out that we should not forget that labor is something we do for compensation, and that most people in the world do not have any choice but to “work” to survive.

The article also makes the point that when we believe that we are “doing what we love” we have difficulty putting appropriate boundaries in place around our work. This is something that most entrepreneurs deal with at some time in their career. If we aren’t careful, our “work” hours extend to 7 or 8pm, and weekends, and holidays, and vacations…you get the idea.

Because we have convinced ourselves that we love our work, we forget to build a LIFE that we love in the process.

In the end, a life which lacks balance is no life at all. When we recognize our work as work, it helps us to re-engage in the business of living.

The closing paragraph of this article says:

If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.

So, as usual, I have more questions than answers; but, I would love to hear from other entrepreneurs. How do you deal with the stress of running a business? Who do you confide in? What do you truly love, and are you dedicating enough time to it?









  1. Thank you so much for this post Ann! I sometimes struggle with balance and boundaries, and it is helpful to know that others also have the ‘riding a lion’ experience. I don’t love the parts of ownership that sort of suck (long hours, management stresses and the relentless changes in health care, insert other multiple tedious tasks here); but I DO love the autonomy and flexibility that ownership provides. It sometimes can feel as though other entrepreneurs are just getting it done, riding high on caffeine and enthusiasm without a hitch, which can be a little isolating if you are having one of those ‘what was I thinking?’ moments.
    The things that work best for me to manage the stresses of ownership:
    1. Exercise- often and early. This took a hit when I was finishing my DPT and opening the business at the same time, but really helps keep me focused.
    2. Stay present- at work and at play. That means less facebook and twitter, and fewer blog posts than I would like, but it also means that my patients get my full attention at every visit because I’ve set aside time to walk away from work when I need to.
    3. Be realistic- Some days will be hard and challenging. But that happens in every job, in every setting.
    I’m interested in what others are doing to balance family & home life with business. It’s my biggest challenge and also my biggest priority. Great post Ann 🙂

    • Great suggestions, Sarah. Taking care of ourselves needs to be a priority. It isn’t selfish to put aside time for exercise and rest. I think that balance is a changing thing, day to day. Some days we nail it and other days we don’t…but in the overall scheme of our lives we should feel balanced more than not.

    • “Exercise often” has been key! On the days that are “work on business days” I run in the morning and afternoon (and sometimes evening). These 3 runs may equal the miles on my “normal” clinical days, but by breaking it up I actually get more done.

  2. As usual great post Ann. Yes sometimes I lay awake and remember what my parents always said, “Be careful what you ask for!” Even though I miss the free time I had, literally throwing money away on concerts, trips, meals, sporting games, I appreciate how much I have grown, discovered about myself since starting my own business. It is hard work, long hours and sometimes I have to deal with some impolite clients, but I pray each morning for the strength, courage and wisdom to be able to handle whatever changes come my way. I’ve also found that by sharing issues, tips with others help me. No one is ever self made and whomever claims that is deceiving themselves. Joining twitter has been a blessing because I get to share issues with other bizPT folks and realize that hey I’m not all alone here. My family keeps reminding me that I have to take care of myself in order to take care of others. Having great family family support also helps.

    • Monique,
      I totally agree. Having the support of your family is crucial to staying healthy while running a business. I agree also that no one is self made – we have all been helped along the way by many different people.

      • What I’ve observed from those I engage in discussions with is that we love the risk of working on and for our business as Andy said and Erica is so right about surrounding yourself with smarter, more successful business people. With the right core of people encouraging you, you can be able to deal better with the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not. Some of us are wired for that sort of pain, and we are the ones who succeed. One for all and all for one!

  3. Hey Ann,
    Having first hand experience with getting sick my initial year in business, I would say that one has to set boundaries, early and often. I was working like crazy my first year and got sick and was down for 3 mos. I worked but I had no energy and a lot of joint pain. Thankfully, that is all behind me now but I am wiser for the experience. I also think it is important to have a mentor or if that is not available, a mastermind group of peers or non peers that will hold you accountable to what you say you will do or will not do. (we will discuss this further . 🙂 ) Remember you are only as good as the people you hang out with. We all have resources but it is our resourcefulness that gets us and sets us apart as business owners.
    I am by myself in my practice 3 days a week and I often find that I am looking online for support groups or webinars catered to the business owner. I have found some really good ones and have grown as a practice owner and a person as a result. I am rambling on so I will stop here!

    • Great advice, Erica. I agree wholeheartedly: a mentor and a good group of colleagues are a necessity!

  4. I think one of the keys is working on the business vs. working for the business. My biggest issue is I get caught working for the business more often than not and that can lead to burnout. Working on the biz does not feel like work to me and is fun, but is not as immediately profitable…so, working for the business becomes a necessity.

    • I agree, Andy. In January, I set aside one day a week to work ON my business (no patients) because I feel that is the only way I can move forward. I need time for planning, meeting with people/marketing, etc. It’s been great so far.

  5. As a physical therapist and a small business owner I found this article and the following comments comforting. Running a business is beyond difficult, but also exciting. My business is an online physical therapy exercise program that is composed entirely of professionally filmed videos. As a working therapist, I designed this program with what I wanted and needed in mind. I wanted high quality videos, dynamic search tools, and the ability to quickly save exercises and create protocols. I wanted to put an end to clicking through numerous boxes just to hand my patients a sheet of cartoon figures (with my own stick figures scratched on the back).

    I’m joining this conversation because I believe that goPT will help you save you time and money while allowing you to promote your clinic as a leader in the field.

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