June 28, 2022 by Amanda Reill
Entrepreneurship is more than just a career path — it’s a mindset. The risks, challenges, and potential payoffs entrepreneurs encounter on their respective journeys stand apart in the grand scheme of life. It’s not like any other kind of career. It’s empowering and exciting, but can also be unpredictable and nerve-wracking.
Some of the characteristics of an entrepreneurial mindset come seemingly innate, while others take more determination. All of them, however, require a good deal of self-knowledge that can set the foundation for the most critical relationship in your entrepreneurial journey: the one with yourself.
1. Value-driven decision-making. Taking an inventory of your values is critical to setting a firm foundation for where you’re going as an entrepreneur. If you don’t know what you’re about, how will you know where you’re going? And what measuring tool will you use to evaluate whether you’ve arrived? Knowing your values also creates a solid foundation on which you can build your business, while also giving you something to fall back on when times are stressful, overwhelming, or you are unsure of what to do. There are objective measurements like clients and sales that can define success, but at the end of the day, if what you’re doing isn’t rooted in your values, you’re unlikely to find fulfillment. And finding “success” only to realize that your success isn’t aligned with your values can be a disappointing revelation. As you prepare your business plan, consider adding in “value checkpoints” where you can revisit your values and ensure that everything you’re doing aligns with them.
2. Direction. Once your values-based foundation is solid, you need to know where you’re going. As Kenichi Ohma once said, “Rowing the boat harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.” That doesn’t mean that you must know what the end of your journey will look like, but it does mean that you should have a direction you’d like to follow. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to hold onto vague ideas of where we’d like to go without bringing some detailed specificity to them. Have you outlined your ideal customer? Do you know their pain points? Do you know what problems you intend to solve? Creating more clarity regarding these questions can move you from the theoretical to the practical, and you may just start to see a clearer vision of your dreams coming to life.
One executive at a manufacturing company even shadowed one of their customers from 6:30 in the morning until he went home at the end of the day. Why? To gain key insights into the behaviors, fears, and patterns of the company’s customer base. This level of “customer empathy” can bring great clarity to the direction of your business.
3. Patience. We can feel a lot of excitement when we’re dreaming about our end goals…and we tend to feel less excitement about the slow process of getting there. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the “art of continuous improvement.” He shows the math: if you get incrementally better at something, 1% per day, for a year, you’ll be 37 times better at that action in one year’s time. If you expect to speed that process up and refuse to do the incremental work, he says you’ll be at the same place you’re at today in one year: wishing things were different. This patience must be infused with a strong drive that keeps you moving forward, however slow the pace may feel.
4. Courage. What does your relationship with your future self look like, and what kind of courage will it take to get there? Do you believe that if you stay on the path you’re on now, you’ll become the person you envision being in three months or five years? It is also important to explore your relationship with failure. A willingness to fail is essential to developing an entrepreneurial mindset because it forces you to confront any tendency toward playing small that could undermine your dreams. This requires aspiring entrepreneurs to develop a resilience that refuses to take setbacks personally. In order to become the hero in our own story, we must take accountability for our actions and not allow ourselves to fall into the victim role.
5. Risk tolerance. Experimentation is one of the names of the game, and though you will do your due diligence to anticipate what problems will arise, you can’t predict everything. When the unexpected occurs, or when your original plan doesn’t seem to be taking root, becoming comfortable with a pivot has the potential to lessen stress. If you plan your mindset pivot before it becomes necessary, you’re less likely to be surprised when the time comes to adjust to new circumstances. The path to viability is rarely smooth. Even those who experience immediate “success” in terms of customers or dollars can end up facing scaling problems when staffing and infrastructure can’t keep up with demand. Developing and practicing resilience can ensure your ability to rationally tackle problems as they arise while giving confidence to your team that they are in good hands. You can then use setbacks and challenges to adjust or fine-tune your strategy.
There are two friends that can be useful to bring along for the ride: a coach and a plan. A coach can keep you accountable to both the mindset you’re committed to and the actions that flow from that mindset. Not only that, they help you discover all the pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the entrepreneurial mindset. By creating an engaging, safe space for you, they help you delve down to determine your values and goals, and how to create an actionable way of achieving them. A plan, however fluid and flexible it needs to be, is critical to hold in your hands at all times. Successful entrepreneurs are comfortable riding the edge of their potential, and pushing through into new areas of growth. A plan keeps you on track, while also holding space for the possibility of pivoting when needed. At the end of the day, a mindset of unlimited potential is one that can bring life to your entrepreneurial visions and dreams.
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