Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset is positioned as a cure-all in many business circles. For smart founders wanting to beat blocks and boost growth, it’s the “it” thing to master.
And it makes sense: 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 who do have their mindset right, and still fall short of the targets they aim to hit?
And why does that happen across every age, ethnicity, gender, industry, and business size?
Is it really due to “not thinking right”?
After two decades spent serving, coaching, and consulting for 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 achieve their most coveted goals.
Could it be that mindset work isn’t enough to speed success under typical conditions?
An entrepreneurial mindset is tough to sustain under stress.
In some cases, it’s impossible.
- Our thoughts, emotions, and behavior are built from childhood experiences.
First, data shows our personal mindset is shaped from many places: past experiences, ingrained teachings, current health state, et al.
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.
We’re dealing with ingrained beliefs, perspectives, and thought patterns. So creating lasting change by just “thinking differently” isn’t as easy as we’re told.
Because if those ingrained patterns are unhealthy, stifling, or unhelpful … business suffers.
We do business the same way we do everything else.
- Under stress, our body defaults to habitual patterns and primal instincts.
Under stress of a perceived threat, our body chooses the best response. To do that, it draws on both our physical senses and our past experiences.
Of note, 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.” (Literally.)
In survival mode, our brain’s fear center cuts our ability to keep cool, concentrate, make good decisions, and consider the future.
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 going largely offline because our body perceives “danger.”
So in these cases, typical mindset work—like learning to “be more easygoing” about day-to-day business stuff—often isn’t very helpful. Remember, all that’s out the window if our fear center shuts it down.
So how do we keep the body from automatically judging launches, sales calls, speeches, taxes, and tricky management situations as “dangerous?”
The missing link to controlling our behavior under stress? The body.
More specifically, the nervous system.
Alright, we know that 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 all this happens without us ever realizing it.
Popular mindset-based solutions may have us hack our habit cycles to strengthen an entrepreneurial mindset.
For instance, if we want to stop drinking coffee after lunch, drink hot cocoa instead. And say a few affirmations to convince ourselves we love hot cocoa, and are already energetic, positive people.
I’m oversimplifying a bit to make a point.
No disrespect to mindset coaches, because these sorts of hacks do work.
But we need a little context for these sorts of hacks to work more consistently and completely.
The “context” we need is a nervous system calm enough to access all that great mindset work when we’re feeling stressed. And to be able to do it across the long haul.
We know sustaining the mindset we want is easier when entrepreneurial life is calmer.
But 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.
Over-focusing on mindset can keep us in feast or famine.
Looking at “mindset work” as the golden ticket is pretty dangerous.
It fuels the shame-based implication that if we were only “disciplined” enough to “think better,” all our business challenges would be solved.
But thinking differently isn’t enough.
Because what happens when we try that, and still fall short of our own standards?
More self-doubt, more self-blame, and lowered self-confidence.
And that, ironically, means we’re even less likely to reach the goals we so want.
Because beating ourselves up keeps us on the hamster wheel, fueling even more self-doubt, perfectionism, fear of failure, and imposter syndrome.
The Red Pill
While mindset shifting works for millions of entrepreneurs, millions more still seek answers. For the rest of us, mindset training by itself just isn’t enough.
This is even more true for founders from marginalized populations.
Maybe those of us blown by this rabid “mindset” trend will follow modern science a bit further to explore the inexorable link between body and mind.
And we won’t rely strictly on thought-based hacks to change our behavior. We’ll consider that there are more nerves sending data from body to brain than the other way around.
And we’ll work through the body to build a healthy, resilient mindset for the long haul. So we can reach greater success, growth, and innovation—faster.