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How to Reprogram That Self-Deprecating Little Voice in Your Head Reclaim your energy and optimism for winning results as an entrepreneur with the following exercises.

By Blair Singer Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


As I have said before, the game of entrepreneurship is won between your ears. The reason you are in this game is the same reason you will succeed in it. This game tests your inner strength, resiliency, creativity and optimism.

Have you ever wondered why some people who are not nearly as smart as you, as dedicated as you or possibly even as strong as you seem to do better than you in business? Doesn't it tick you off a bit? I know it did me for a while. But here are some inner-game shifts that can give you the same advantage that some of those folks have. And guess what? They have nothing to do with technical expertise.

Related: Why Every Leader Needs Mental Toughness

Based upon the amazing work of folks like Martin Seligman (positive psychology) and Shawn Achor (The Happiness Advantage), we know a few things. How you answer this question will determine your entrepreneurial success.

Which comes first -- success or happiness?

If you were brought up like me in a typical Midwestern public school system, you may have been taught that when you achieve the win, get the grades, make the money, win the race -- you will be happy. Yet, the problem with that thinking is that you have programmed yourself to believe that happiness and success are sometime in the future. So, the here and now will never be "good enough" or could always "be better," etc. Does this sound familiar?

Research shows, however, that those who are happiest are the most successful. When you are happy, success comes easier. You are more creative and more resilient. You think bigger, are more hopeful and optimistic.

Happiness comes first.

In a recent survey, I conducted with a very successful real-estate investment and development company, we found that most members of the group were optimistic when things went a bit sour. This is good. It means that when hit with adversity, you have a positive outlook on improving, learning and getting better.

But here is the sneaky, self-sabotaging part of your indomitable spirit that you may not know. These same people, when faced with a win, were across the board pessimistic or self-deprecating about it. They had little-voice thoughts like: "Don't get too cocky." "If you get too full of yourself, something negative could happen." "It was good, but don't get too focused on the win." "I was lucky." "We got a win, but it had less to do with me than with everyone else." "When is the other shoe going to drop?"

These thoughts and attitudes are like needles in the balloon of your growth. When you are small and have little results, the holes in the balloon do not show up. But when you start to inflate it, they all show up and drain your energy, wins, creativity and successes.

The bottom line… you have to learn how to really acknowledge and take your wins and build on them. I suspect you are already winning and maybe even saying, "I do celebrate my wins." But do you really? Are you really owning them, or are you discounting them a bit, throttling back those expansive feelings that come with a win? Are you winning as big as you could be?

Let me ask this: Are you a bit uncomfortable when someone gives you a glowing acknowledgment? Do you want to deflect it with humor or humility? If you are like most entrepreneurs, you can relate to these thoughts. Yet, the science says that the more you can fully take the win, the happier you are, the better your sales, income, team, business and personal results and successes will be.

When you get a win, you feel bigger. When you are bigger, you attract more. Yet at the moment of bigness, if you are throttling it back down, you are choking your spirit. You know what it's like when you have a big win and someone else forces you to deal with some trivial miniscule problem? It's like forcing your flood of energy into a small garden hose, your impatience jumps up, your anger and resentment begin to grow, you get irritable and ultimately squash yourself down to the size of the little issue you have been presented with.

Don't do that to yourself! (More on how to deal with this one in another article).

Related: The 2 Mental Factors That Determine If You Succeed or Fail

So here are some thoughts and tips to keep you and your team in the winning column -- and to keep expanding that winning column to bigger and better wins.

Daily discipline

Just as you may have a daily discipline for keeping in good physical shape or for making sure your business is on track for the day, you and your team must have daily discipline for putting your head in the right space.

  • Every morning before you check texts, emails or the news, do a written daily gratitude exercise. One of my great mentors and coaches taught me this. While I will not detail the entire process right now, simply write down 10 things that you are grateful for every morning. Things like your health, family, your wins and accomplishments, etc. (For the complete exercise at no charge, click here).
  • At the end of your day, keep a brief journal. Write down all your wins for the day, no matter how big or small. Even if seven out of 10 traffic lights between your house and your office turned green for you on the way to work -- that is a win. Finding lost money, keys, sales -- anything. It will build your capacity to win, hold the wins and build on them.

Additional practices

These next few are not daily processes but ones that will dramatically shift your winning capacity and results.

  • Sometime in the next 24 hours, grab some paper and write down every win you have had that you can think of since high school. Once you get to 10, write 10 more and then 10 more. No win is more significant than another. If you get blocked after a handful, that tells you something about yourself and about where your head is at. It tells you that you have the brakes on your ability to achieve wins, regardless of how well you are already doing. Do this at least once a month. Have your whole team do it. Their results over the next few weeks will reflect this process.
  • Make a list of your top-five strengths. Share them with a small group of others close to you. Then have them tell you what they think your strengths are. (By the way, when they are telling you your strengths, you are not allowed to talk or respond verbally). You will be amazed at what you discover. When you are playing to your strengths, you are in the flow. Time disappears. You are fully engaged. What if you and your whole team were doing this?
  • Write a note to someone you should thank but have not thanked. After you write it, go find them and read it to them. Martin Seligman found that the act of showing gratitude to someone else and doing something for someone else taps our highest form of human happiness. He found that individuals who did one simple act like this found long-lasting increases in their results, mood levels, resiliency and happiness. You can do this exercise anytime.

All of these exercises and tips are designed to reprogram the self-deprecating little voice in your head that drains your energy, optimism and results.

Think about this -- the very strength that makes you an entrepreneur could be the strength that is now limiting your growth. You are an achiever -- a person who is constantly looking to improve. Sometimes it is never good enough. I am not saying that is bad. The toughness that you practice on yourself got you into the game and has developed huge inner strength. Yet, there is another gear for you and your team. Take your wins and leverage them. You need and deserve to be bigger and happier which will lead to more success, more reach and greater extension of your mission and entrepreneurial visions.

Be your amazing self!

Related: 10 Secret Mindsets of Multi-Millionaires

Blair Singer

Adviser and Author

For nearly three decades, Blair Singer has worked with entrepreneurs and organizations in more than 30 countries to help them increase sales and develop great teams and leaders. He is the author of three books including SalesDogs and is a Rich Dad Advisor to Robert Kiyosaki.

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