Why Entrepreneurs Need to H.A.L.T. Before Making Important Decisions
Entrepreneurship is a journey that often illuminates parts of your personality that you may have been unable or unwilling to see in yourself. Throughout my six years as the CEO of BodeTree, I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself.
One such realization is that I am a naturally stressed-out person. People who don’t know me well might be surprised by this revelation. The truth, however, is that as long as I can remember, I’ve been a worrier who thrives on stress.
Over the years I learned to both mask this stress and turn it to my advantage. As a leader, I often take on the stress of others upon myself and use it to fuel my ambition. This internalization of stress has enabled me to (hopefully) cultivate a team where people are relaxed enough to perform at their peak.
Or, so I thought. I’ve come to see, however, that my approach to stress only took me so far. By always taking the burdens of the world onto my shoulders, I built up a powerful reserve of pent-up stress that was just waiting to manifest itself in the form of bad decisions.
Remember to H.A.L.T.
I realized that I was a ticking time bomb of sorts. All I needed was the right trigger to unleash this backlog of stress. When that inevitably happened, the result would be so overwhelming that I would make bad decisions.
Of course, the inevitable eventually happened and I allowed myself to make bad decisions. I turned a blind eye to underperforming team members, neglected my family, and allowed potential partners to give me the runaround. I was frustrated, unhappy, and unsure of what to do next. It was around that time that I discovered a framework that changed my outlook on how to manage stress.
The real problem wasn’t my “stress reservoir”; it was that I failed to identify the triggers that released it, thus allowing it to impact my decision making.
I was introduced to the acronym H.A.L.T., which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The H.A.L.T. framework posits that people are more likely to trigger the negative effects of stress and make bad decisions when they’re dealing with unrelated afflictions.
I’ve come to identify these triggers in myself and my environment, and act accordingly. Now, I preach the power of this framework to any entrepreneur (and business person) who will listen.
As entrepreneurs, we tend to push ourselves harder than most. It isn’t uncommon to skip meals or, in my case, eat poorly when focusing on the task at hand.
When you’re hungry or unhealthy, it’s easier to give into stress and make bad decisions. However, it’s important to understand that this is not limited to physical hunger.
Hunger for results, success, or action of some kind can be an equally powerful trigger. So, make sure you do a self-assessment to identify physical hunger as well as spiritual hunger before you make a decision.
Anger is an emotion that few of us deal with in a healthy manner. Either we explode or we bottle it up and ignore its existence. There are also other forms of anger, like frustration.
When we make decisions when we’re mad or frustrated, we give into the more primal versions of ourselves. The best advice I can offer entrepreneurs faced with making tough decisions is to identify anger before it takes hold and recognize that it can take unexpected forms.
Loneliness is something all of us deal with from time to time. Leadership, in particular, is a lonely endeavor, even when you’re surrounded with a strong support network.
When you have a role that, by definition, doesn’t have peers, the loneliness of responsibility can be overwhelming. When those feelings take hold, bad decisions follow.
My advice to lonely entrepreneurs is to find mentors who have been in your position before. Sometimes, all you need is someone to listen and understand where you’re coming from.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve made the mistake of wearing my exhaustion as a badge of honor. I used to pride myself on the fact that I could outwork anyone and push forward with little to no sleep.
This strategy worked when I was much younger, but as I’ve aged the effects of sleep deprivation have taken their toll. At one point, I was so dazed and forgetful that I could barely function. Sufficed to say, my ability to make good decisions suffered as a result.
The only way to avoid the negative effects of exhaustion is to put effort into getting proper rest. I turn off all of my devices a full two hours before I go to bed, which helps to mitigate the effects of non-stop screen time. Disconnecting is easier said than done, but it has dramatically improved the quality of my rest.
The struggles outlined in the H.A.L.T. framework are all too common. Unfortunately, the fact that they’re so common and obvious often leads entrepreneurs to ignore them. I’ve learned, firsthand, that it pays to be mindful of the effect they can have on your decision making.
So, the next time you’re feeling over-stressed and are faced with a decision, remember to H.A.L.T. I promise you won’t regret it.