Entrepreneurs don’t think like most people. They swim upstream when everyone else swims down. They say “yes, I can” when others say, “No, I can’t.” And they zig when others zag. All of these qualities take a certain type of personality: someone who possesses not only the competence to answer a consumer need but also the confidence to challenge the status quo. These qualities also require persistence, because the ability to hunt down solutions to complex problems, and keep hunting, separates the “gonna-be’s” from the “never-will-be’s.”
The gonna-be’s find reasons to succeed — and keep succeeding — while the never-will-be’s find excuses not to keep going. And what separates the two is how they think, specifically whether they think effectively.
Now, there’s good news and bad news with learning to think effectively. The good news is, it’s possible to rewire your brain to look for positives instead of negatives, to see failure as a temporary state of learning rather than a permanent state of acceptance. The bad news is that rewiring isn’t easy. It requires a keen sense of self-awareness to recognize what that voice in your head is saying in uncomfortable situations. It takes courage to admit that your current mode of thinking can be improved. And it takes consistent effort, to cultivate a new process.
So, are you ready to optimize your thinking? Here are three strategies to get started:
1. Measure and manage.
What gets measured gets improved, so the first step to optimizing how you think is to take an inventory of two things: 1) the situations that cause you anxiety, fear or restlessness; and 2) the words and phrases you tell yourself in those situations. Imagine the number one situation you try to avoid at all costs. It may be public speaking, working with someone one-on-one or raising your hand to voice a concern in a meeting. Next, identify the negative words and phrases that come to mind when you think about it. Some examples are, “I hate public speaking,” “I get nervous in front of crowds,” or “I’m not good at this.”
2. Visualize success.
If you can imagine the negative, then you can also imagine the positive.
Now it’s time to flip the negative on its head. Once you’ve identified the situation and the negative self-talk that comes to mind, visualize yourself in the hot seat. That is if public speaking makes you want to run the other way, imagine yourself delivering a presentation. At this point, you’re probably feeling the same emotions arise as if you were actually there (and this is an imaginary situation!). But these feelings are good because they mean that you understand the power of visualization. If you can imagine the negative, then you can also imagine the positive. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t, so every time a negative enters your thought stream, replace it with a positive.
It doesn’t even matter if you don’t believe what you tell yourself at first, because the more often you tell yourself XYZ, the more inclined your brain is to believe it’s true. The key here is consistency. Every time that little “I’m not good at this” thought comes to mind, immediately replace it with “I’ve got this” or — even better — “I’m going to crush this and everything else in my path.”
3. Establish benchmarks.
Set small goals for yourself to measure progress. Make it a goal to pay attention to your self-talk every day until noon — if the thought of doing so for an entire day is too much. Or, start with just one single event, and every time a negative thought enters your mind, flip it on its positive head, and visualize success. Repeat this every time that the thought of that feared event occurs. Once you’ve overcome this hurdle — and be aware that nothing will happen overnight –move on to the next. You’ll know you’re “there” when you find yourself in those situations you used to dread and have no tendency to take flight.
How you think determines how you feel, and ultimately how you perform. Leverage your own thinking to overcome the inevitable setbacks and you’ll be on your way to becoming the next success story.