Building a Positive Mindset: The Key to Being a Successful Entrepreneur
With all the demands of the business staying positive can feel like pushing a rock up an icy hill. But that positive mindset is the critical determinant of thinking as an entrepreneur finding ways for innovation and growth. How do we get the rock up that hill?
Most of us have about 10,000 thoughts every day. Only 5% are about the present. Psychological studies show that we spend most of our time ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. And neither side is generally positive.
Why do we tend to emphasize the negative?
Well, apparently natural selection got us here. Our ancestors with a strong fight or flight tendency were afraid of the saber-tooth tiger and made a run for it to live another day. The positive ones tried to brush the cute cat and instead became lunch. So, as human beings, we have developed an innate focus on the negative.
But in our world today the tigers are not a regular part of our day although we still exercise our natural protective behaviors. It shows in our thinking and how we spend our time.
How many days have you had where there were several great things that happened and one bad event? And what did you think about the most? The bad one. We dwell on the negative stuff. And it probably wasn’t even that bad! But we go over it in our mind and fret about what we could have done differently or what this or that meant. We waste a lot of energy on this and it does nothing for us.
So, being positive takes work. It takes effort and is worth it. The fascinating aspect about thinking positively is that it is contagious and lasting. When you bring a positive perspective to your work, the people around you feel it and find themselves feeling that way as well. And the more positive you are, the more positive you become. It sticks with you.
And this is coming from someone with years of anxiety and depression. Believe me; I know how to focus on the negative. It isn’t worth it.
Five Habits to Support a Positive Mindset
Over the past few years, I have made five changes that have supported my shift to see things with a more positive outlook. I think every entrepreneur can fit them in their day as they just don’t take a lot of time and they are pleasantly addictive.
The first one is a big one - exercise. These are activities I always felt got in my way of working. I was delusional though. Exercise has become my way of building energy, clearing my mind, and keeping me positive. I found cycling although it can be anything that works for you.
Psychologists encourage a combination of higher intensity aerobic activities with strength building and mobility exercises as a full program. There is no question that exercise requires time and effort but it pays back in huge ways: physical, mental and social. We found in The Mindset Project survey that 100% of entrepreneurs who had healthy lives, healthy companies, and healthy growth exercised and 100% found it effective. They know something! One hour a day away from your business exercising won’t kill you although it may very well save your life. It did for me.
Finding calm in the sea of chaos around your business is tough. And you need time to make it all stop – just for a few minutes. So, I started meditating several months ago. It is now one of my favorite parts of the day. I never thought I would say that. It seems like I have a herd of monkeys racing around my head bouncing rubber balls so how could I possibly meditate? I can and I do. It is a short 15 minutes that calms my mind and puts me in a better place. I find it just settles me and it even makes me feel a greater sense of calm throughout the day.
I simply used an online app called headspace.com. There are many others and you can find one that fits you. For me, headspace.com provides a really simple path to making meditation a daily habit. It is one change that has had an amazing shift in my overall mood and outlook. It just takes 15 minutes a day and no incense or chanting is required. I love it!
Time to think and reflect is a key element of staying positive. The third habit that has helped with enhancing my positive outlook is a short daily journal.
Keeping your confidence is a critical element of success as an entrepreneur. The days can be challenging in so many ways and most you don’t even see coming. Working from a grounded perspective is essential for the best decision. All I do at the end of the day is answer four questions aimed at focusing on supporting my confidence: what was positive, what did I learn, what did I do well, and what am I grateful for.
Thinking through the questions puts me in a place of gratitude rather than one of attitude. Social psychologists have shown in research that simply noting what you are grateful for each day will create a positive shift in perspective within 30 days. For me, I really need to bring attention to the good in my life so I can keep my mind focused on the right things. An interesting point is that almost each day my answer to what I am grateful for is a person. Rather than an event, a relationship is what I am most often appreciative of. People are what make life worth living so that really shouldn’t be a surprise but it brings attention to how blessed we are by the wonderful people in our lives.
Again, it is only 15 minutes each day and it really settles my mind on what is right rather than the other stuff which really doesn’t matter that much anyway.
Relationships are what make it all worthwhile. If we isolate, we lose those people who can help us the most. And for me, I always felt the business had to come first and there would always be time later for family and friends. I lost so much from that way of thinking. I hurt others and I hurt myself.
A true friend who stuck with me through it all encouraged me to set up anchors in my week – regular time with people who really bring positive energy to my life. Studies have shown that loneliness now kills more people than smoking. And most people only have two real quality relationships. Technology is pushing us to be more alone even while being more electronically connected. With anchoring, I see how blessed I am to have six incredible people who bring me quality of life. I set time aside for them first and foremost each week so I stay connected. I feel incredibly lucky in having them in my life.
To make it possible to keep it all together, the final habit is probably a funny one for many of you: sleep. Without enough sleep, you gradually lose your ability to think sharply enough to stay ahead of the game.
Many studies have shown interrupted sleep patterns are a precursor to mental health challenges so getting enough hours of restful sleep every night is essential to success. And you can’t catch up on the weekend – you just get more and more tired. This is where burnout really starts and takes hold of your life.
It really is eight hours – six hours of restful sleep and a couple hours of rumbling around. It lets you face the day with the right energy and your mind is rested and ready to go.
I can say now that I am more positive and optimistic about life and business. I see things with a sharper mind and I feel more creative and productive than ever before. Yes, I work fewer hours but those hours are more profitable. More importantly, I have a life and not just a business.
It can feel frightening to take time from the business – it always calls you back just this one time – but I really encourage you to put you first. You matter the most. Without you, there is no business. And you at your best is a healthy you: fit, calm, confident, connected and rested.
Where do you start? Begin with one step at a time. Whichever one calls you the most, start there and build out. Do what works for you to get a life.