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Free Your Mind

As part of Abroad's CSR initiatives, we conducted a global research study to help founders better understand their mental & emotional health challenges

Synopsis

For the past several years, numerous online articles and research studies have highlighted the prevalent mental and emotional health challenges experienced by entrepreneurs and business owners. These articles and studies have done an excellent job bringing awareness to the crisis in leadership wellbeing.
 
The purpose of our research was to go beyond the well-known facts that entrepreneurs typically experience high levels of stress, burnout, and difficulty finding the time needed to achieve business success.

Through our psychometric assessment and interviews with industry experts, our research identified a common pattern of subconscious mindsets and behaviors that tend to accelerate mental and emotional health challenges. This pattern of beliefs and behaviors, which we refer to as The Spiral of Entrepreneurial Suffering, is as challenging for entrepreneurs to manage as the business fundamentals of their venture.  

Our team also ran a wellbeing intervention to determine whether it is possible to break the cycles of pain that we identified. The results were better than expected.   

 

Below are a handful of key insights from our research and intervention. We invite you to request the full research report and audios to learn more about the research and findings.   
 

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Study Highlights

Only 6% of entrepreneurs and business owners are

feeling fundamentally well

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Only 6% of respondents selected '5' or '6' on a 6-point scale for Self Awareness questions, while 37% of entrepreneurs selected 4, indicating they are keeping their head just above water, but not swimming effortlessly. Compare this to the Team Cohesion, Vision & Impact and Company Viability categories, where more than 80% of responses were positive.  
 

“My company or career is who I am.”

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Most Entrepreneurs and Owners Agree with “I Am My Company”

Entrepreneurs are significantly more likely than their team members to identify as the company or career they birthed, with entrepreneurs representing a .73 point deviation from the answers of their team members. Even if the entrepreneur does not identify as their company, society tends to do it for them. This creates conditions where entrepreneurs experience that natural ups and downs of their business as a reflection of their self worth.    

Entrepreneurs are trying to “Control the Uncontrollable”

Entrepreneurs tend to push the wisdom of their anxieties aside and attempt to control reality, which causes psychological stress when reality does not conform to their expectations. As humans, it is natural for us to have desires for how we want the world to unfold. Mental suffering occurs, however, when we attach ourselves to those desires and require the world to be a certain way. 

“I push my fears and anxieties away so I can
continue performing optimally.”

BPie_I push my fears away perform optima

“There are many times when I feel like I’m not good enough.”

BDonut_Many times I feel I am not good e

Self compassion ranked lowest
across global dataset

The number one blind spot from our global research -  regardless of geographic location and stage of company - was self compassion which measures how entrepreneurs and business owners treat themselves when they make a mistake or fail. Leaders tend to beat up on themselves psychologically because they experience their business struggles as a reflection of their worthiness as a human being. 

Entrepreneurs 50% more likely to have a mental health condition

Prior research by psychiatrist and entrepreneur Michael Freeman reveals that entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to have a pre-existing mental health condition, with some specific conditions being incredibly prevalent amongst founders.  

• 10x suffer from bi-polar disorder
• 6x suffer from ADHD
• 3x suffer from substance abuse
• 2x have suicidal thoughts
• 2x suffer from depression
• 2x have psychiatric hospitalization

source: Dr. Michael Freeman

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  • Creativity and Innovativeness with psychosis, bipolarity, depression, ADHD and substance abuse.

  • Goal Attainment and High Achievement with bipolarity.​​

  • Risk Propensity with bipolarity, substance abuse conditions, and ADHD  

Correlation between mental health challenges and key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

Freeman's paper also identified prior research that there is a correlation between what our society defines as "mental health challenges" and the key traits of a successful entrepreneur:

Pre-existing conditions + spiral of entrepreneurial suffering

Although prior research suggests there is a correlation between mental health challenges and the key traits of a successful entrepreneur, these pre-existing conditions, combined with the patterns and coping mechanisms fueling the Spiral of Entrepreneurial Suffering can often lead to entire organizations spiraling out of control.  

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Abroad Wellbeing Intervention for 75 Global Leaders

Mental & Emotional Health

Intervention - The Scientific Results

When provided with the conditions for psychological and emotional development within a supportive community, 75 entrepreneurs participating in a wellbeing intervention improved in 20 out of the 22 outcomes related to core entrepreneurial skills around adaptability, growth mindset, decision-making under pressure, and team cohesion. The most significant gains are featured in the left chart.   

A Leaders Self Awareness Increases Team Cohesion

With no direct interventions, strong gains were also reported in areas related to team effectiveness, demonstrating the potential for self-awareness development to permeate into the culture of an organization. Several areas of improvement are highlighted to the right. 

• Collaboration (+12.40%)
• Team Quality (+10.75%)
• Agreements (+10.45%)
• Trust (+9.70%)
• Leadership Strength (+9.60%)

Abroad Wellbeing Intervention for 75 Global Leaders

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Abroad Wellbeing Intervention for 75 Global Leaders

Self Awareness Increases
Company Confidence

Self awareness also correlated with increases in confidence in the overall business. After the intervention participants reported seeing new paths to fundraising and customer growth, while overall feeling more confident in their ability to meet market needs.        

LPs play a critical role in
addressing founder wellbeing

Limited Partners in venture capital funds can play a critical role in addressing the founder wellbeing crises. By blessing their fund managers to provide the guaranteed development budget for the leaders they back, LPs can take the pressure off the VC and entrepreneur and set the conditions for a system that encourages psychological and emotional development in leaders, benefiting everyone.  

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Taking Action

Entrepreneurs

Our team has developed several options to receive support based on your available time, resources, and preferred development

*Scholarships are available for founders who have limited resources. We don't want money preventing you from getting the support you need. 

Investors

Addressing these challenges with your entrepreneurs is easier than you might think. Our team has developed several options to partner based on your inspiration to join this global initiative. 

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The Full Report

Enter your name and e-mail to request the full report and audios to listen to the findings on the go.
 
We highly recommend listening to the audio files to understand how the psychological patterns highlighted in the report lead to a spiral of unhealthy coping mechanisms that directly impact a leaders ability to create healthy teams and businesses.

 

Key Questions from the Study

Self-Awareness

“When something goes wrong, I am always the one to fix it.”

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“If I'm not pushing my breaking point, I'm probably not working hard enough.”

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“I push my fears and anxieties away so I can continue performing optimally.”

BPie_I push my fears away perform optima

“When I fail at something important, I tend to be hard on myself.”

BHBar_Fail at something important hard o

Vision & Impact

“There is nothing else I'd rather do in my life than help build this company.”

PVBar_there is nothing else rather do th

“We make sure that everything we do directly benefits humanity.”

PDonut_we make sure that everything we d

“I would still be working on this project in some form even if I couldn't make any money from it.”

PPie_I would still be working some form

“My team believes I am an effective leader in my area of expertise.”

PHBar_my team believes I am effective ar

Team Cohesion

“Some of our team members lack the ability to manage their emotions.”

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“My work is hindered by the quality of my co-workers contributions.”

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“Some members of our team don't follow through with their responsibilities.”

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“Our team meets regularly to reflect on how we are working together.”

GHBar_our team meets regularly reflect o

Company Viability

“It is easy to raise the money we need for this organization.”

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“Customers are finding us rather than us finding them.”

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“Our revenue is growing in a way that makes me feel confident in this company.”

YPie_Our revenue is growing way feel con

“We have convincing data demonstrating that customers love our product or service.”

YHBar_We have convincing data customers