Lost funding, bad breakups, job losses. We’ve all faced bumps in the road that are beyond our control. But the vocabulary we use to deal with them -- clichés like "life is hard," "people are fake" or "business is difficult" -- can windup our undoing if we aren't careful.
These phrases not only color our world, they play a large role in reinforcing difficult experiences everywhere we go, eventually forming our personal worldview. Such preconceived notions can also hamper one's ability to identify possible business opportunities and, if need be, root out structural deficiencies at a company too.
Most of the young entrepreneurs I work with have never taken the time to consciously construct their beliefs about the world. Instead, their beliefs have been molded over time by culture, religion, education, personal experiences, social class and the media -- basically everything and everyone but themselves. I think this is incredibly damaging, and leads not just to erroneous beliefs, but ultimately to self-sabotage.
So the question is, how can you stamp out this behavior before you do any harm to a fledgling business? Here are two tips for changing your mind for good:
1. Create the world you want to live in.
By changing our beliefs, we can change what we experience. Take a few minutes and perform the exercise that my friend and author Jason Womack shares in his book, Your Best Just Got Better (John Wiley & Sons, 2012). Fill in the blanks with what you want to invest in and create in your world. Then post it somewhere you will see every day, he suggests.
- Life is ______________________?
- People are _________________?
- Business is _________________?
- Men are ____________________?
- Women are ________________?
This way, you will start to consciously construct the world you want to live in, rather than live in the negative world others have popularized. Your beliefs aren’t right or wrong, what matters is ascertaining which beliefs will empower your life and business, adds Womack.
2. Adopt a growth mindset.
Change is a part of growth, says Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology, who has studied the way people think for the past 40 years at Stanford, Columbia, University of Illinois and Harvard. Her research shows that people have two predominant mindsets when it comes to their abilities: either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is exactly that, fixed. A person believes their athletic, creative, leadership or business abilities are finite and static, and no amount of effort can grow those abilities. This mindset often creates a desire to prove oneself over and over again.
By contrast, a person with a growth mindset believes their potential is unlimited, and that with hard work and effort their abilities can grow over time. Dweck’s research published in her book, Mindset (Ballantine Books, 2006), shows that those with a fixed mindset tend to underachieve on average, whereas those with a growth mindset often tend to overachieve.
I try to live with a growth mindset, by finding opportunities in events outside my control. If it rains, bottle the water and sell it, and so on. No matter what happens, I know it’s in my best interest to learn and grow from each experience. Whether I view it as “bad” or “good,” just depends on my perspective.
So often, we’re left reeling from events we can’t control, and resort to clichés as an easy way to process them. But in the long run, viewing even the toughest circumstances as growth opportunities forces us to think past clichés, and form our own empowering beliefs about the world around us.
Related: What Type of Entrepreneur are You?
What keeps you motivated to keep up the good fight when things get rocky? Let us know your strategy in the comments below.
Joshua Medcalf is an entrepreneur who founded Train to be CLUTCH, a business and life consultancy through which he works with top performers all over the world from many different professions. Medcalf has created some of the first mental training apps in the world for soccer, basketball and golf and started a nonprofit that trains athletes in one of the toughest housing projects near his home in Los Angeles. He is also the director of mental training for UCLA women’s basketball. And when time permits, he travels around the country doing workshops for a variety of business, sports and school groups.