How to Master Your Inner Game

How to Master Your Inner Game
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You have an idea that is going to knock it out of the park. Your creativity and excitement abound, and there is no ceiling on the possibilities and opportunities. You are truly a legend in your own mind -- sound familiar? You are an entrepreneur. And unlike everyone else with a million-dollar idea, you represent the less than one-tenth of 1 percent who actually had the guts to walk onto the playing field suited up to play.

The whistle blows and the game is on. In time, you come to realize that the prospects of money, prestige and wealth become secondary. This journey of entrepreneurship is more about who you are and who you want to become than anything else.  As an entrepreneur, every day presents you with an opportunity to either grow or quit. And by the way, more than 82 percent, according to the Small Business Administration, either quit or fail within 36 months.

So why do you do it?  Why suffer the intimidating odds? Surely there are other ways to make money, right? Here is why. If you look deep inside, you will admit that entrepreneurship is not so much of a business development journey as it is a personal development journey. You are an entrepreneur for the same reason some climb the highest mountains -- not for the view, but because it is a test of who you are and who you can become day in and day out.

Related: 5 Questions to Help You Find Out Why You Really Want to Be an Entrepreneur

After 25-plus years as an entrepreneur and teacher of entrepreneurs, I can tell you that the inner game of entrepreneurship is where the game is won or lost. How you deal with adversity, dubious partners, having to reinvent you and your business, floods of money and no money is more about how you talk to yourself than just about anything else. It’s about how you manage the little voices in your head, your emotions and maintain the positive but realistic energy you need to keep going, persist and prevail.

This may come as a shock to some, but I have found that the biggest gains and leaps in business result from focusing on the mindsets or thought processes of the people involved -- getting them to master their little voices or self-talk, not on skills or strategies. I have seen sales teams sell more in 30 minutes than they have done in a month when their mindset is right and when leadership focuses team members on their inner game.

You see, nearly everyone believes there is a bigger and better person inside of them. Technology levels most playing fields. Capital gives you a head start. But entrepreneurs who tap into the hearts, minds and souls of their teams and themselves to bring out everyone’s best ultimately win.

So how do you do that with your team? Here is an example. In sales, one of the biggest little voice issues is confidence and self-doubt. The seed of doubt can be the difference between winning and losing. Simple objection handling practice sessions that focus less on technique and mostly on standing in the heat have proven to remove doubt, raise confidence, double call rates and significantly close more deals -- even for the most seasoned salespeople.

But it is even more important for you as the leader to manage your inner game. Did you ever think that the limits or barriers on your business are a result of your own mental or emotional limitations? Of course they are. Fortunately, there are many strategies to work on this.

Related: 6 Common Barriers to Happiness and Productivity for Men

Inner game problem

One of my coaches is Mack Newton. Besides Deon Sanders, he is the only person to have both a Super Bowl and World Series ring. He was conditioning coach for the Dallas Cowboys, Oakland A’s and many other teams and superstar players. He says it well: “Your results can never exceed your self-concept.” Whether with skilled athletes or hard working entrepreneurs, your results are limited by your view of yourself and by your self-esteem.

Subtle but pervasive thoughts, like not being smart enough, experienced enough, skilled enough, old enough (too old!), good enough in sales or whatever, can put a limit on your results no matter how hard you work. So you need to have a method of replacing those thoughts when they come up. 

Inner game exercise

A simple series of positive affirmations can help. 

Before giving a talk, making a call, approaching investors or putting your team through a difficult process, repeat a few affirmations to yourself to override the doubt. Here are some examples: “I am an honest and responsible business owner," “I am a gifted leader," “I add value to people’s lives," and, “I like myself." You can create your own. Repeat them out loud at least five times when your little voice barges in, and you will find that it shifts your self-talk, attitude and energy. 

Many entrepreneurs subconsciously put limits on their businesses and results because, deep inside, they may feel they don’t deserve or haven’t earned success, or they’re afraid of looking bad in front of others. These thoughts could be from a disaster in the past or the harsh critique from others. If you are not careful, your self-limiting thoughts could negatively affect what you are attempting to accomplish. To master your inner game, you must learn to master your little voice.

The distance between you and where you want to be may not be years away. It could be one simple conscious or unconscious thought that, once shifted, unlocks a floodgate to wealth and success. Remember that your inner game always dictates what shows up in your outside world.

Related: The Proven, Reasonable and Totally Unsexy Way to Become More Successful