Fostering entrepreneur mindset is the talk of the town in business circles. For smart founders wanting to beat blocks and boost growth, it’s the “it” thing to master. Granted, without a flexible attitude and focused relentlessness toward our goals, our businesses will go the way of bulky 2-pound flip phones.
But what about entrepreneurs that do have their mindset right, and still fail to hit the targets they most want? Why does this happen across every age, ethnicity, gender, industry, and business size? Is it really due to “not thinking right”?
After spending two decades serving, coaching, and consulting hundreds of clients, from large companies to “mom and pop shops,” across several industries… I say no. There’s a missing piece. Because despite the right product, pricing, and positioning, many founders don’t find the right mix of strategy and moxy to hit their most coveted targets.
Could it be mindset training isn’t enough for sustainable growth in typical conditions?
Why entrepreneur mindset is tough to sustain under stress.
- Our thoughts, emotions, and behavior are built from childhood experiences.
First, data shows personal mindset is shaped from many places: past experiences, ingrained teachings, current health state, and more. Even genetics factor in. And much of how we operate today is based on childhood patterns.
That said, it makes sense that our natural entrepreneurial mindset is a product of our personal mindset. When we understand that we’re dealing with ingrained beliefs, perspectives, and thought patterns (“mindset”), we see why creating lasting change is easier said than done.
If those ingrained patterns are unhealthy, stifling, or unhelpful, business suffers. Because we do business the same way we do everything else.
- Our body defaults to habitual patterns, and primal instincts, under stress.
Under stress of a perceived threat, our body chooses the best response, drawing on physical senses and past experiences. Notably, this happens mostly without our awareness and it’s pretty instantaneous. When the body perceives a threat, it automatically activates certain processes to help us fight or escape.
And primal behaviors take control, which suppress our thinking brain. At that point, we’re in survival mode.
In survival mode, fear-based brain areas stifle our ability to keep cool, think clearly, and maintain long-term focus.
This is why you forget the words to that presentation at go-time, although you practiced for weeks. It’s also why, when your staff sends error-filled work for the fifth time, you yell first and think later.
These behaviors are completely natural, predictable results of the thinking brain being taken offline once our body perceives “danger.”
In these cases, typical mindset work—learning to be more easygoing about day-to-day business stuff—isn’t very helpful. Remember, all that is out the window if our fear center shuts it down.
So how do we keep the body from automatically judging launches, sales, public speaking, taxes, and tricky management situations as “dangerous?”
The missing link to managing mindset under stress? The body.
Alright, we know the rational thinking brain is physically hijacked under stress. We know that “stress” is gauged subconsciously, using bodily senses and past experiences. We also know this happens without us ever realizing it.
Popular mindset training would tell us to hack our habit cycles to create an “entrepreneur mindset.” Or to become more adaptive, resilient, and positive.
Truth is, we need a little context for that to work well. And the “context” we need is a body receptive enough to assimilate mindset change across the long haul.
We know sustaining the mindset we want is easier when entrepreneurial life is calmer. To sustain change even when the “bad news” hits the fan, we have to learn how to disrupt the body’s habit of overriding our thought-based changes.
Final thought: Over-focusing on mindset can keep us in feast or famine.
Looking at entrepreneurial “mindset training” as the golden ticket is dangerous. It furthers the harmful implication that if we’d only be “disciplined” enough to “think positively,” all our business challenges would be solved.
But thinking differently isn’t enough. Because what happens when we try and keep falling short of our own standards? More self-doubt, more self-blame, and lowered self-confidence. And this, ironically, means even less likelihood to achieve the goals we so want.
Because beating ourselves up keeps us on the hamster wheel, fueling more self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
While mindset shifting works for millions of entrepreneurs, millions more still seek answers. Mindset training just isn’t enough. This is even more true for founders from marginalized populations.
Maybe those of us dissatisfied with this rabid “mindset” trend will follow modern science, investigating the inexorable link between the body and mind. Then, instead of relying strictly on thought-based hacks to change our behavior, we’ll consider that there are more nerves traveling from body to brain than the other way around. And we’ll work through the body to foster a lasting entrepreneur mindset, to reach greater success, growth, and innovation—faster.
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