Working Hard and Being Stressed Out Isn't a Sustainable Model for Success
If there’s one thing entrepreneurs are good at, it’s trying — and trying really, really hard. Entrepreneurs put in a huge amount of effort when their businesses are succeeding, and when they’re failing. It’s part of the entrepreneurship code — and one of the lessons we’re all taught as children. Nothing happens without hard work.
And in many scenarios, this is true. I’ve definitely seen the power of hard work during my travels across the country researching startup ecosystems. But there’s at least one area of life in which exceptional effort may actually be the problem, not the solution. And that area is, believe it or not, our own self-improvement. You can't be successful if you are stressed out all the time.
Spend more time on yourself and less time being stressed out
We lose a bit of ourselves in our work. That's what drives the passion and the tenacity. But it also means that we shift out of focus. I figured I wasn't alone in this idea. And I was right. I came across Jim Fortin's work on this very issue with Fortune 500 executives and high achievers all over the world, helping them achieve transformational change.
According to Fortin, putting in the effort to change our behaviors, even if that effort is extreme, is only capable of taking us so far. That real, lasting change doesn’t happen on the conscious level. It can only happen much deeper, on the subconscious level.
“People try to change their behavior, but those behaviors are driven by their identities, beliefs, and capabilities," Fortin said. "So no matter how many times we try to change our behavior, if what we’re trying to create with our behavior isn’t consistent with the identity we hold, the behavior will not stick. It might last for a while, but will not stick.”
Change your identity
If we’re trying to change our behavior, but it doesn’t match the identity we hold deep-down, buried in our subconscious, we won’t be able to maintain that behavior long-term.
This principle is rooted in neuro-linguistic programming. I think I have always been skeptical to get or receive coaching because most of it is rooted in the Law of Attraction or positive thinking. Most entrepreneurs are stubborn this way because we are already swimming in positive thoughts. You don't leave a job or start something new or completely jump off a cliff without the parachute of believing in yourself.
But we really should — scratch that — we really must be more focused on what makes us successful and what makes us fail. The same principles apply in exercise. A routine doesn't stick until it becomes our identity. If we begrudge working out, we do it sparingly. If it's part of who we are, we have to do it regularly. This is why Crossfit is so successful.
Changing behavior means you need a huge amount of willpower and mental effort. Changing your subconscious — your “being” rather than your “doing” — is a totally different thing. It’s not easy, of course, but it’s also not a daily exercise in forcing yourself to do or not do something.
Here’s an example. You want to achieve higher revenues for your business. This will take hard work. You’ll have to increase sales, expand your product offerings, improve your workflows and any other number of things to make your business run more efficiently so it can expand.
Even if you try to do all of that important stuff, the truth is, if you’re a leader who doesn’t truly, deep-down, on a subconscious level, believe that you’re capable of taking your business to the next level, then you will always plateau at some point. And that point will be way below your actual potential for growth.
Research has proven that 95 percent of our habits and behaviors are driven by the subconscious, or right brain, and yet here we are using our analytical left brain — the other 5 percent — to try and create sweeping changes to our lives.
It’s pretty clear why that kind of change doesn’t have the kind of staying power that core-level, subconscious change does. You don't need to join witness protection to change your identity. But you do need to be honest with yourself about your fears, your faults and what might be holding you back. We all have that. And that's a good thing.
As an entrepreneur, you should be constantly questioning yourself and your process. Remember, this business that you started or will start began with you and it will succeed or fail because of you. So spend more time on you and what you believe to be true about yourself.