I see a pattern in my work with clients: many of them are very successful women who have taken their business to 6 or 7 figures. They’re brilliant, ambitious and hardworking — skills that made them successful.
At a certain point, though, they all feel stuck. Despite their best efforts, they can’t seem to grow their business further. There are so many things demanding their attention, yet none of them seems to move the needle as much as they wish. Despite 14-hour workdays, their business doesn’t go in the right direction.
Their bodies start to act up — sleeping problems, migraines, back pain, the list is endless… When they visit a doctor, they are told that stress is the cause and that they should work less — but how? Their company needs a CEO.
Whatever they do, they can’t win.
And that’s often when they come to me.
These clients are overwhelmed by their success. They often grew so fast that the old strategies and systems don’t fit anymore, but they are too busy to set up new ones. Understandably, that’s what they want to do first. But that’s not their real problem; it goes much deeper than that.
IS IT REALLY MIND OVER MATTER?
It was the psychologist Carol Dweck who first coined the terms growth and fixed mindset. She had observed a group of school children and noted that those who viewed themselves as flexible and able to change were more successful in later life than those students who were convinced that their intelligence and abilities were fixed.
Is your perception of yourself flexible? Do you believe that you can become a better parent or give up the idea that you are not as smart as someone else? If you do, you have what Dweck calls a growth mindset. You believe that your talents and abilities can improve through effort and persistence.
If, however, you are convinced that you cannot change, your mindset is fixed. You believe that talent, not effort, creates success. And here lies the problem.
According to Dweck, a mindset is a “self-theory” that we hold about ourselves. This theory usually has its roots in experiences we had, either as children or later in life. They form the basis of our self-beliefs. For example, you might believe that you are bad at maths because your parents say it runs in the family. Or a friend once commented that only hardworking people become successful — and you remember that sentence every time you clock in another 12-hour day.
These inner beliefs have a profound effect on skill acquisition, personal relationships, professional success, and many other dimensions of life — whether you are aware of them or not. And they can affect your business by triggering certain behaviours.
You might believe that an ambitious businesswoman can’t outsource everything; she has to stay in control. You hesitate to outsource things that a good VA could easily do and get frustrated because you lack time to focus on new projects. Your core belief — no-one can do that as well as I do — stifles your progress.
MINDSET CAN AFFECT YOUR SUCCESS
Many of my clients are successful “despite themselves”. They lack a clear strategy and systems that could help them to increase their sales. Their overheads are much higher than necessary, but they hesitate to introduce changes that would increase their profit.
They also lack boundaries that would prevent them from burning out and feeling frazzled. Working late into the night messes up your sleeping patterns and makes it harder to concentrate. Having no fixed work hours leaves no time to recharge and decompress. Eventually, your body will follow your overworked mind and make you stop.
That’s what happened to me. I am a serial entrepreneur — before I became a business strategist, I had my own e-commerce company. I made six figures and worked nonstop. I loved what I did, and I was convinced that my body could take care of itself. Instead, I collapsed at my front door one day. The doctors couldn’t find a physical cause — they told me the stress had been too much for my system. It took me many months to accept that I needed to change my lifestyle and the ideas I had about myself.
Self-sabotage can come in many forms. Successful women have often been able to work through any imposter syndrome they faced by creating defence mechanisms — but at a certain point, they always come up against the same hurdles. Like all of us, they have an inner story that they keep telling themselves, often without being aware of it. It is this story that builds the foundation upon which their self-belief is built. Like every story, it has its limitations — the stage is set, the actors cast, and the textbook is already written. If they encounter a new challenge, they tackle it with their own story methods and are quite often very successful. But at a certain point, their efforts don’t seem enough. That’s because the script is fixed. There is no new role there. They simply cannot imagine themselves reaching a level above their own story.
Often, they react by adding more props to the stage. A new logo, a different social media strategy, attending more workshops can all be signs that you are avoiding the inner work necessary to grow. They give the illusion of progress, but these tactics cannot replace a change of your thought process.
What you need to do is to replace the story itself.
Every next level of your life will require a new level of you. An entrepreneur’s growth will inevitably bring up resistance and limiting beliefs that are challenging and uncomfortable. Once you face your limiting beliefs, scaling your company can truly begin. You are not boycotting yourself anymore; now you are deeply aware of your triggers and have tools in your arsenal to deal with them.
SHIFTING YOUR MINDSET
Typical areas of mindset blocks are money and self-belief. Tackle these first.
Money often brings up mixed feelings. For many, it symbolises freedom, power and independence. Others see it as the cause of many evils in the world. But money itself isn’t good or bad. It is a tool — and one you need to learn how to wield. That’s why I recommend this following exercise to all of my clients.
- What does abundance look like? In all areas of life?
- What limiting beliefs do you have about money?
- Where did those come from?
- What new beliefs about money do you need to adapt to reach your goals?
Observe your thoughts when you deal with your finances. Which phrases come up again and again? We all have a money pattern — It’s crucial to recognise yours.
As an entrepreneur, you need creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. You also have to be a great listener, a great motivator and very good at looking for the best in people. All these necessary skills can suffer if you stay within your old thinking boundaries: you might not see an employee’s potential because s/he doesn’t fit an ideal you learned while growing up or miss an opportunity because of a blind spot in your thinking. An entrepreneurial mindset is critical to success in a rapidly changing world. That means you have to make growing, developing and improving a priority. There is only one problem: Humans don’t like change. We are by default adverse to it.
Why are we so afraid of change?
Our default mode is to create conditions that we believe will make us feel better and in control. When things happen which don’t match our carefully designed model (as will inevitably be the case), we get scared. Fear is a natural reaction to many new situations in life. It is, however, not an emotion that has to control us. Instead of pushing it away, we can just let it pass.
Once you can see your fears for what they are — the embodiment of your inner belief systems built in your childhood — you can face them calmly and realise you created them to make you feel safe. Once you have outgrown them, you can let them go. They might still pop up now and then, but they won’t paralyse you anymore.
We are all afraid of the uncertainty that comes with change. Yet everything on the surface of this earth changes. Change is not something to be scared of; it is something that provides excitement and progression. Your mindset work is twofold: it will teach you to recognise unhelpful core beliefs and replace them — but it will also support you in critical times when you need to be agile and willing to change.
A pattern is a good thing — you just need to choose the right one.
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