Every small business owner and entrepreneur is in a relentless pursuit to grow their business. They usually do this by looking at external methods, such as outsourcing key tasks like accounting, or installing automation software to take care of mundane tasks so they can focus on more important matters. They may try out new marketing tactics or sales strategies as well.
All of these external measures can make a tremendous difference in your business. But we often forget about internal factors, such as beliefs, attitudes, opinions, or habits of thinking, which have a massive impact on your business’ success. In fact, these internal factors are instrumental in determining the success of your business.
What Is Mindset?
The concept of mindset was first formulated and popularized by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Dweck’s research focuses on the field of achievement and success. Her theory states that factors like intelligence and ability, while important, do not guarantee success. Rather, our mindset and our beliefs about our abilities play a key role in fueling, or dampening, our success.
All of us know someone who is incredibly intelligent or gifted but somehow never realized their potential. Think of a valedictorian who ends up working a dead-end job or a gifted athlete who gives up a sports scholarship in order to stay closer to home. These people seem stunted somehow and it’s a great shock that they don’t pursue their potential. It’s easy to see that there’s something holding them back that has nothing to do with ability or talent.
In the simplest terms, your mindset is a collection of beliefs. It includes beliefs about basic qualities like your intelligence, talents, and personality.
For example, you might have a certain view regarding your own intelligence. You may believe that you aren’t ‘smart’ because you didn’t perform well in school, as it’s widely believed that school performance equals intelligence. This may manifest itself in thoughts like, “I’m not smart because I didn’t get good grades. Only smart people are successful. I am not smart, and therefore my business will never be very successful.” This negative thinking ignores the fact that intelligence means so much more than just school performance, and that many who did poorly in school went on to be great successes in their field.
Or you may have a negative mindset about your talents. You may be asked to speak at an event that could lead to great opportunities for your business, but you decline because of a self-limiting belief. You may think, “I’m not a good public speaker. When I presented my thesis in college, I choked. I couldn’t remember words and I was too nervous to perform well. I’m just not a public speaker.” However, public speaking is a skill that anyone can learn through practice.
Whether conscious or unconscious, these mindsets can directly impact your success. We’ve considered two examples that show how negative mindset can impact your success, but a positive mindset can also help you activate your potential and reach heights of success you never imagined.
The Inner Critic
Your mindset and its beliefs can be totally unconscious. It’s not always easy to identify them, but that’s what must be done in order to draw them out. For many people, a negative mindset manifests itself as an “inner critic.” This is an inner voice or private conversation that occurs in your mind on continuous repeat mode behind your conscious thoughts.
Your inner critic tells you that you’re wrong, you’re bad at the task at hand, you’re inadequate, or you lack the worth you see in other successful individuals. It acts as a judge, condemning you to failure at every turn.
Some people are aware of this inner critic while others aren’t. Even if you’re aware of this voice, you may be at a loss for how to deal with it. Many people believe that the inner critic is themselves talking. They mistakenly identify with it and this is why it’s so good at sabotaging your life and thwarting your chances for success.
All of us have an inner critic. The first step to cultivating a mindset for success is to become aware of these negative thoughts and the impact they have on you. Once you’ve become aware of this inner voice, you’ve taken the first step toward releasing its grip on you.
The wonderful thing about mindset is that it’s malleable. It can be developed or evolved. The negative mindset that’s holding you back was shaped through experiences in the past and learned habits of thinking. Through even the smallest shifts in awareness or thinking habits, you can make profound differences, and eventually take control of your mindset and steer it toward positivity and success.