Guilt serves an important purpose. Feelings of guilt can drive us to do better in the future or avoid causing harm to ourselves and others.
Just as the pain of lifting weights can make us stronger, the pain of guilt can lead us to make better decisions.
Living a life completely free of guilt is not only sociopathic, it's dangerous and harmful.
However, how we compartmentalize our guilt is a critical part of life.
Guilt is inevitable, but how we handle it can dictate whether we use it as growth or allow it to snowball our negative actions and destroy our peace of mind.
"Unresolved guilt is like having a snooze alarm in your head that won't shut off. - Guy Winch phD (source)
One study titled The Weight of a Guilty Conscience: Subjective Body Weight as an Embodiment of Guilt hypothesized a physical connection to a feeling of "weight" and guilt. (source)
The study also argued that that weight isn't always a driver of better future actions.
One finding showed that when performing a task in which a test subject had previously associated with guilt (they had fallen short of their own expectations previously), "those who recalled unethical memories...perceived the physical behaviors to involve even greater effort to complete compared to ratings provided by those in a control condition."
So, let's address this maladaptive type of guilt. Here are 9 things that entrepreneurs should stop feeling so guilty about.
#1 Outsourcing as Much as Possible
My experience as a millennial has been that the generations before us viewed hard labor as virtuous. I agree, but also believe that some hard labor should be avoided when possible. "Virtue for virtue's sake," is toxic.
For example, I hate deep cleaning. If I were to spend 2-4 hours of my day doing deep cleaning when I could easily hire someone else to do it, why would I not?
I feel it's the ultimate win-win when I can pay others to do things that free me up to do things I actually enjoy, or at the very least, not spend time on things I hate.
#2 Not Giving 110% All the Time
The digital age saw the rise of hustle culture or as I like to call it hustle porn. Although it means well, hustle culture often spilled into toxic levels. (source)
“It creates the assumption that the only value we have as human beings is our productivity capability — our ability to work, rather than our humanity.” – Aidan Harper, creator of European workweek-shrinkage campaign ‘4 Day Week’
You're accountable only to yourself.
If you want to put in 110%, go for it. If it's a chore that you feel you have to do to have any sense of self-worth, spend some time thinking about why that is.
Humans aren't wired to give maximum effort all the time. We can just do the best we can.
#3 Not Working Night and Day
See toxic hustle culture above. If you never let yourself cut loose, you're going to harm yourself in the long run.
Studies consistently find that overworking decreases productivity and creativity. (source)
#4 Saying No
It stinks to say no. As my career has evolved, the things I say no to have changed. I now have to say no to a lot of really cool projects that could be successful because I simply don't have enough time and energy to take them all on.
You should feel more guilty about saying yes to too much. This means that none of the projects will get the focus that they truly deserve, if they were worth accepting at all.
#5 Slipping Up on a Habit
The book Atomic Habits proved people love the concept of building iron clad habits that let them systematically crush every aspect of their lives.
However, change is hard, and it's natural to slip up from time to time. The important thing is that you don't let a setback derail your progress. Recognize what caused the slip-up and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Life happens and sometimes plans need to be changed or cancelled.
It's important to communicate with others and be respectful of their time, but it's also important to prioritize your own needs and well-being.
Don't let sunk costs sway future decisions.
#7 Taking a Sick Day
I used to think it was a power move to come to work sick. "Look how tough and dedicated I am!"
This is toxic. Companies that make employees feel like they need to come into work when they're sick are not companies that are worth working for.
You should feel guilty for not taking a sick day if you're going around other people!
#8 Spending Big on Your Business
In my first year of self-employment, I needed a new laptop. I remember feeling conflicted about which one to get. I didn't want to spend too much money, but I wanted a nice one.
I reminded myself: This is my business. I can absolutely justify investing in the best technology available. Things like our computer and internet are part of "top of funnel productivity." They have a spillover effect on everything else that we do.
Don't pinch pennies on things you use daily to put food on your table.
#9 Getting 8+ Hours of Sleep
Look, I've said for years that I'd gladly give up 100% of my sleep if it was possible and not harmful. It seems like a massive waste of our precious time here on earth. However, until the day comes that we can function without sleep, your body deserves the right amount.
The negative effects of a lack of sleep are staggering. Yes sometimes we need to work through sleep deprivation, but if it's a part of your business success, I challenge you to rethink from the ground up.