Why Mindset is Crucial...
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My Personal Backstory:
As you may have figured out from this page, I've had my own struggles with what I call "Mindset" challenges...
It's taken me time to even begin to get an understanding of what's going on...
I've already written about "skill sets" here but I got those resolved several years ago...
I've taken several productivity courses...thinking it was a "procrastination problem" ...but they didn't seem to work...
Got me to thinking... "Maybe it wasn't procrastination after all???"
Maybe it was a motivation problem? Took a course or two for this as well...
The results were not pretty: I came away feeling even more insecure and undeserving than before!
I started looking a little deeper and began listening to more positive voices — some external — that "creatives" are different! I gradually got my confidence back and... my motivation seemed — almost magically — to return...
Revelation: Beating yourself up doesn't do any good!
Our mindset is what needs to be explored. For some people, there will be epiphanies — sudden realizations — that shine a light on a previous dark and mysterious "unknown" about ourselves...
But I've also discovered that through routine introspection — and writing about it — those "little" epiphanies are sometimes big wins!
I have a morning routine that includes some "positive reinforcement" listening (brief...maybe 10 minutes total + a short meditation [5 - 10 minutes])...
I always follow this with my Gratitude writing, considering just one "lesson" I have learned from my listening session...
This is my start to the day, with introspective writing... I often get wonderfully "lost" in the writing — getting in the flow — and it starts my day off in a very positive way...
The following ideas & practices are things that helped me... along with some foundational cornerstones principles I truly find are my own "rules to live by."
I hope they will provide some inspiration for your own journey...
Have an open mind: be curious and take on "beginner's mind," a strategy I've borrowed from the Zen & Buddhist traditions (most closely associated with meditation techniques) but equally as valuable for life lessons!
It's how children naturally learn: through experimentation, curiosity, and lack of judgement or expectations!
Somehow as adulthood approaches we grow — or are taught — to forget this approach! This is a huge mistake — IMO — as it naturally discourages experimentation (gasp!...you might be wrong or make a mistake)... Formal education somehow rewards "right answers" and discourages experimentation!
BTW...I'm in no way anti-education or academia! To the contrary, I'm a huge proponent of a formal education (I have my own BA in Anthropology). Remember, there are multiple ways to learn, and our most natural learning — that of children — has its place even in adulthood!
This is especially true for taking on new and unfamiliar roles in our careers and work environments. It's even MORE true for solopreneurs, because we are often "doing everything," much of which may well be outside of our own comfort zone...or even abilities (think accounting, taxes, sales, financial projections, graphic arts, advertising... ).
Before you can "hire it out" and you are forced to do "foreign" tasks yourself, it helps to approach them with "beginner's mind," as it helps you not have expectations ("I know I suck at this!") or create your own obstacles in negative — and likely false — self-talk!
Ditto for being non-judgmental! You didn't learn to walk or talk in a day...or even weeks! New skills are no different! Give yourself proper time to learn any new skills!
Practice an attitude of gratitude:
- Acknowledge daily — in writing — 3-5 things you DO have! Everything counts, no matter how 'small' you think they are...
Why it works:
Adopting an attitude of gratitude is far more effective — and efficient — that wallowing in your own self-pity!
This isn't my own invention, BTW! There's tons of scientific research on this:
- from Positive Psychology
- Academic research:
- Mainstream Publications:
- from Forbes
- from The Guardian
I encourage you to take a look at some of the above articles...or conduct your own research (ie, search "effects of gratitude" to get started).
In stark contrast, the "flipside" of Gratitude is "self-pity," "victim's mindset," or just generally "feeling sorry for yourself!"
There's nothing more detrimental to your own self-confidence than reinforcing that which you don't (yet) have!
This is the complete opposite of gratitude — a victim mindset — is insidious and will continually derail your success!
In my own personal experience (your mileage may differ), I have traced my own anxiety triggers to starting with "feeling sorry for myself!"
FWIW, this is a trigger, which if unchecked (and often occurring — at onset — below my conscious awareness) will lead to increasing anxiety over time...
How much time depends on influences... The important point is that it's a definite trigger for me...and several friends I have personally witnessed go into "sudden" and "unexplained" bouts of anxiety...
[Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist or therapist...and I don't play one on TV or on this website! I'm just relating my own personal experiences and those I have witnessed, in hopes it might help someone reading this.]
Realize that everyone is different: what "works" for someone else may not be effective for another...
- You have to try things out to test the "fit" for you...
- Sometimes all you need to do is modify an approach, to make it fit your circumstances, personality, or work style
- Don't be afraid to experiment with approaches
- Listen to multiple voices: different perspectives and viewpoints add to our compassion and understanding of others...and help us communicate more clearly.
- But be honest with yourself: don't use this tactic to put off taking action...
- Don't get stuck in "research mode" instead of doing! At some point, you need to implement the information you have been gathering!
- Don't fall into the common trap of taking "one more course!" If you only read the sales pages of training courses, each one promises EXACTLY what they want you to hear. (They've thoroughly researched their audience!) Becoming a "perpetual student" is often another way of avoiding taking any action that is meaningful. (You "feel" busy, but you're really just practicing avoidance!) At some point, you have to put into practice what you have learned...and give it a fair shot to make a difference!
- Jumping from one course or system to another without implementing is just another form of avoiding mental discomfort!
It's crucial to do some deep digging into your own WHY!
- What motivates you?
- Why do you have a business (or special cause)?
- What are your own internal beliefs around your why? (If you don't believe you can ever be successful...or that you don't deserve "success," this a great place to start!
- How do YOU define success? If you don't know what "success" looks like, how will you know when you've "arrived?" (BTW...this will change over time. What looks like "success" to a new solopreneur is often very different after the first year or two in business!)
Keep It Simple!
When it comes down to implementation, many solopreneurs seem to have a tendency to over-complicate things...
"If it's complex, it must be better..."
I have fallen down this rabbit hole far too many times...and I can say confidently...this is just not true! It might make you feel important but overcomplicating anything just makes everything more confusing!
Take a look at your systems — email automations, client tracking & outreach, social media management, accounting systems... even your daily work flow (ie, how to know what to work on next) — and go with the least complicated choice!
Systems — especially if you're using multiple tools (Google calendar, iOS app but you work on a Windows computer [yes...it happens! I'm a hybrid where my mobile is all iOS but my computers are all Windows], writing tools somewhere else...etc. — can become complicated and unwieldy over time. This is very common, since our systems are typically built over time, often "cobbling together various platforms and apps as we become aware of them.
Your systems can become one of your biggest allies or they can become a cause of continual frustration and actual confusion... Knowing your top priorities each day is crucial to making forward progress with any business, but if you are not clear on "what comes next" you're likely to be busy but not productive...
If this sounds like something you're dealing with, it's very possible your systems are not serving you at this point. It's well worth your time investment to examine how they can be simplified.
Integration: Mindset & Values
Understanding Contributing Factors to Your Own Mindset...
If this is your first foray into some of these questions, it's really important that you have a fundamental understanding of mindset influences and factors.
Mindset is simply how you think about things: it's your automatic response and evaluation of any given situation or task or project.
It's pretty "habitual," like how you might respond to some food you don't like... Remember back to your childhood when a parent or elder suggested you try something new (Brussel sprouts, broccoli, blue cheese)??? Ewwww (nose wrinkling, imaging how awful they must be!) "But have you tried them?" the elder would ask... You knew that was coming; this had happened before! And you hadn't tried them...but you KNEW they must be terrible!
That is "mindset!" Your younger-self mind was already made up!
Now. obviously mindset evolves over time! Otherwise we'd never try anything new! And it's not something we can ever dispense with; it's part of what makes us human and gives us our unique personality!
It's when you suspect that your own mindset is getting in the way of accomplishing things that are important to you that most people ever think to examine their own...
Mindset isn't only the "dark side" of negative self-talk, low self-esteem, "imposter syndrome," feeling overwhelm, etc.
There's a much more personal collection of individual tenets... these are foundational to what makes you...YOU! These are your own individual values!
Personal Values are “broad desirable goals that motivate people's actions and serve as guiding principles in their lives". Everyone has values, but each person has a different value set. These differences are affected by an individual's culture, personal upbringing, life experiences, and a range of other influences.
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This definition is a great starting point...but I think there is more to values than the above definition includes.
Values are personal and usually — although not always — fixed. They are not what we typically think of as character traits: like stubborn, hard-worker, punctual, perfectionist...
Character traits often evolve over time as we age; sometimes they mellow out as we mature, sometimes older people become harder & more "crusty" if they've had a lot of "hard knocks" in life... These external factors often affect changes in "character."
Not some semantics debate... Definitions Matter!
Now, we're not just throwing terms around in some "semantics" debate... These terms and how we define them are really crucial to understanding your own individual mindset. You see, some of them can be quite "transparent" — unless you make the effort to really examine where some puzzling personal behavior (think: bad habit) is coming from...
But values are those things that you are not willing to compromise: ethics (whatever that means to you), honesty, integrity...
These are very different from the above definition, especially how it references "goals" which are usually considered "measurable."
Values cannot be measured; they simply ARE... The best way to wrap your head around "values" is to think of a hero of your own: what qualities does this person possess that makes her/him a hero in your eyes?
Another approach is to consider what values you want your children to reflect as they become young adults?
When considering and understanding your own mindset, it's impossible to take an honest look without also understanding your own values.
They have likely impacted — to one degree — your current mindset. BUT...mindset can be changed, often through some introspection, and especially through introspective writing.
Another factor impacting your current mindset is your own "world view"...
A worldview or world-view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual's or society's knowledge and point of view. A worldview can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.
Being conscious of your own "world view" is also an essential factor in understanding your own mindset, since our "world view" is often constructed through external forces in our early childhood (family views, sometimes conflicting; religion; cultural practices & attitudes; early education [or lack of it]).
Some of these become largely "transparent" and we accept them as "fact" when they are really only "beliefs" about the world around us...
If you have beliefs about being unworthy, for example, you might also see symptoms of "imposter syndrome" or think you "always struggle with finances." These & similar ones can be terribly counter-productive when you're starting or running a business!
So, these factors must all be examined to get to any underlying beliefs that might be sabotaging your efforts.
To help you see how to put examining your own Mindset into practice, I'll share some of my own values next...
I promised above in the headline to explain what drives me... In other words, my overarching, "big picture" WHY... So, I'd like to conclude with these Values...
#1: Helping others and teaching...
it gives me satisfaction knowing I helped "pay it forward"— this doesn't mean I can't charge for my expertise! My skills and knowledge are the continuing culmination of years of experimentation and learning. I don't negate my expertise by failing to charge for my hard-won skills...
#2: Making my own path — based on my own principles of ethics (see #3 below) — regardless of obstacles. I'm relentless about accepting responsibility for my own life & actions, and expect others to do the same (this means I will not knowingly support anyone's "victim mindset!" Bad things happen, but moping and whining about them is far less productive than taking an "attitude of gratitude" about what you DO have...
Here's my mantra:
As one of my solopreneur gurus once said, "If it was easy, everyone would do it!"
To me, this means being honest & authentic.
I will not use "shady tactics" (marketing, SEO, false promises, etc.) to further my business or "get a sale!"
It also means to me that I will only offer strategies I have actually tried myself. There's a LOT of self-help "stuff" out on the "interweb" these days, and much of it is designed by people trying to sell you their latest system or product...and as the ONLY solution you should ever consider!
Beyond this, I only offer things that have helped me or strategies I have tried as suggestions, and as I stressed above in the article opening, you have to vet them for yourself.
Helping others achieve their own definition of success is far more important than making a few bucks! (That's why there is a LOT of free information on this website!)
I hope this Mindset & values discussion is helpful to you! I welcome your comments below!