Happiness is Being an Entrepreneur?


Summary: Being an entrepreneur may be a happier existence than other forms of work, even during stressful times.

Key Take Aways:

– Running one’s own business presents so many challenges it can be stressful, but for some personalities it is more rewarding.

– Allowing oneself to take chances, fail, and grow may be the level of frustration which has been theorized to be optimal for personal growth.

Have you ever heard of a concept named optimal frustration? It was created by an American psychologist named Heinz Kohut. To put it simply, his theory was that in order to mature and grow we all need a level of frustration that is challenging enough we experience some degree of frustration. When we are under-challenged we don’t grow and if we are constantly over-challenged we may become overwhelmed enough we don’t grow. The optimal frustration is the level of frustration that facilitates growth.

A recent Gallup survey found stressed entreprenurs are happier than other workers. Even though they reported they may experience more stress they also find their work more rewarding overall. “This elevated optimism, combined with communities that foster an entrepreneurial culture, may lead entrepreneurs to take business risks, create jobs, launch new products, and innovate.”

One aspect of founding and managing one’s own enterprise is a sense of control over decision-making and risk taking. Therefore, the level of engagement entrepreneurs have with their work is likely to be greater, and generally speaking the more engaged workers are, the happier they are. Optimal frustration might be one way of understanding why stressed entrepreneurs enjoy their work more, because they are rising to the challenges presented to them and they experience more growth than if they were simply a job.

On the other end of the spectrum are workers who are trapped in large bureaucracies such as civil servants. A research study in England found that civil servants there are more likely to be unhealthy and make poorer lifestyle choices. As a result, they may actually be at greater risk of premature death.

Unhappiness at work actually has been linked to a greater risk of accidents on the job as well.  Unengaged and disengaged workers have been estimated to cost the American economy about $350 billion a year in lost productivity.

Image Credit: Mary and Angus Hogg, Wiki Commons