Regardless of how skilled you may be or how awesome a product or service is, it’s your mindset that will make or break a business.
“It’s just all in your head.” Have you ever been told that? People wield that trope to describe something that’s ostensibly a figment of your imagination, and so presumably not important. But guess what? When it comes to success, the only thing that’s important is what’s in your head … the thing that will make or break you, especially as an entrepreneur. Why? Because thinking leads to actions, and actions create results in life.
How thoughts become facts
Your thinking includes attitudes, beliefs and your philosophy about life. Action, meanwhile, is made up of habits, routines and rituals — and is an implementation of ideas. Life is made up of the results you get from both processes … and includes successes, growth and satisfaction.
Say, you believe that it’s absolutely necessary to have all ducks in a row before making a move. With that mindset, you’d likely spend most of your time analyzing, calculating and “What if?”ing, and so effectively avoid decisions as long as possible. If your ship actually came in, you’d possibly miss the boat while worrying about what you should pack!
But what if you made a point of cultivating a self-image of being decisive, and with nimble judgement? You’d make decisions quickly — spend more time implementing than worrying and step forward when you were “ready enough” rather than in a moment of perfection. When your ship came in, you’d be on the dock, ready to board.
Which mindset is more likely to lead to success?
One of my all-time favorite books is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill — a volume I think should be part of every high school’s curriculum. Originally published in 1937, the book in part describes traits that the multi-millionaires Hill interviewed had in common. The emphasis wasn’t on how smart they were, or how well-educated, or what type of business they had; it dealt with a shared mindset that caused them to act in ways that resulted in success.
Here’s a personal example: Years ago, I signed up for an expensive Master Mind group. I walked in and found this incredibly confident, talented, successful group of people and immediately thought, “I’m way out of my league!” It’s not that I hadn’t been successful; I was already in the national one percent of producers in real estate, but the people in this group were rock stars of training and coaching, while I was just a newbie in that field. I had a moment of panic, almost left, but had been working on my mindset — a clear vision and strong sense of purpose — and convinced myself (almost) that I was worthy. I also knew how to recognize a limiting belief and what to do about it. So, I took a deep breath and stayed.
In part because I stayed, and kept working on strengthening my mindset further, I was able to build a multi-million-dollar coaching business in just four years. Did my skills get better? Yes. Did I soak up knowledge? Absolutely. Did I work like crazy to make it happen? You betcha. But without the certainty that I could do what it takes, none of that would have mattered.
A battle in your brain
I’m no neuroscientist, but my major was in psychology, and I’ve long been fascinated with how the brain works. That three-pound blob rattling around in our skull has an astonishing workload. It automatically controls everything from breathing to sweating, but also figures out our checkbook, reveals the poetry of living … and reminds us where we put the car keys. Several years ago, researchers discovered something additionally fascinating about that organ: it has plasticity, meaning that it can expand and adapt, and perhaps most importantly, be trained.
In terms of mindset, I focus on two parts of the brain: the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The former is the part of the brain that warns when something is dangerous. That’s a good, right? When you step out of your tent and come face to face with a grizzly bear having a bad hair day, you want to feel fear and that rush of adrenalin, but what’s not so good is that the amygdala doesn’t necessarily distinguish between what’s really dangerous and what it perceives as such — and what it might perceive to be dangerous can be pretty much anything out of your comfort zone. The more you follow the amygdala’s instructions to avoid being uncomfortable and to avoid “risks”, the stronger it becomes and the more insistent it is that you play it “safe”.
The prefrontal cortex is the reasoning part of your brain — involved with problem-solving, pursuing goals and making good decisions. It will encourage you to grow and expand, to take calculated risks, and to persevere in going for what you want. And the more you let this part of the brain take control, the stronger decision-making will become and the easier it will feel to persist when the going gets tough. Put simply, every time you take that deep breath and step out of your comfort zone, it becomes easier to do the next time.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along”. You must do the thing you think you cannot do”.
I’m with her.
I’d estimate that 80% of what I teach students is about mindset… have come to realize that I can impart every cutting-edge digital marketing tactic and strategy in the world, but that they won’t follow through on them without the right mindset. So, let me share a few practical tips that I’ve learned over the years:
1. Your manifesto. This is your vision, your life purpose … what is it that makes existence meaningful. What is your burning desire? What gets you excited? Think these through, write the answers down and read them every morning and every night before you go to sleep. Staying in touch with this vision is key to overcoming virtually all obstacles.
2. Stop it with a snap. Many of us have been climbing to the top while beating ourselves up all along the way. It’s exhausting, and a waste of energy! A great trick I’ve found to short-circuit this tendency is to put a rubber band around your wrist. Whenever you start putting yourself down or otherwise not believing, snap the band and move it to the other wrist. A few painful snaps will start the cure.
3. Celebrate wins. We can get far too focused on what’s not going right (that darn amygdala again!). Instead, make a point to self-congratulate, for wins big and small. Be proud to have made that sales call, whether it went well or not. Pat yourself on the back for getting invoices out, or for staying awake during that Zoom call! Each night, list out these wins for the day, because what gets celebrated, gets replicated.
Can such simple practices make a true difference? Oh, yes, but here’s the deal: Your current thought processes may actually keep you from doing them. It might be telling you that you just need to work harder or get more knowledge or find a different product or service to succeed. So, I offer this challenge: Do these mindset practices for 21 days straight. You have nothing to lose and a terrific, confident and success-oriented outlook to gain.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor