Taking the plunge from full-time employee to business owner is no small feat. To move from a stable job with a steady income to one where uncertainty is the flavor of the day every day takes courage, competence and confidence. Most of all, it requires an emotional tolerance strong enough to deal with the pressure of change and unpredictability, not to mention the mental fortitude to navigate through it.
As an entrepreneur, you now wear myriad hats you previously didn’t, such as accountant, marketer, product developer, salesperson and the dreaded small-business taxpayer. As your own boss, there’s significantly more pressure to manage, stress to deal with and bills to pay, and if you don’t succeed, you fail -- hard. Conversely, as an employee, your focus is more myopic as you hone in on your specialty that defines your job role, such as accountant, restaurateur or cowboy (hey, why not?).
Fortunately, there are mental games you can employ to give yourself an edge. Here are four of them:
1. Breathe, but be smart about it.
Some targets we chased in the SEAL Teams were juicier than others. The likelihood of getting into a gunfight or dealing with otherwise non-compliant customers was greater for some than it was for others. When we knew this, my heart rate would beat faster than normal once we moved to our set point (the final point prior to making entry in the building), so I made a concerted effort to lower it to quell my nerves.
It looked like this: inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds. What this does is help you self-regulate and focus on your breathing rather than the pressure of the moment.
2. Answer your questions.
Playing the “what if?” game is a recipe for self-defeat -- you become your own worst enemy. If fear of the unknown has you tied down, try this: after you find yourself posing the “what if?” question to yourself, answer it. That’s right, answer the question.
By doing so you bring that unknown fear into reality and make it more tangible and certain. With certainty comes clarity and with clarity comes opportunity to crush all challenges.
3. Avoid “yes” or “no.”
Ask yourself open-ended questions that cause your brain to explore. Developing greater depth and breadth of thought are precursors to genius (not really, but it makes sense, right?). The mind is a powerful thing. It will find the answer to any question you ask it.
Replace closed-ended questions that begin with a “Do … ?,” “Are … ?” or “Have … ?” with open-ended questions that start with “What … ?” or "How … ?” For instance, rather than asking, “Did you have fun at the Halo tournament in Vegas last week?” you can try, “What about the Halo tournament did you enjoy?” The former closes yourself off to exploration while the latter keeps exploring.
4. Find an accountability partner.
It’s easy to let goals slip away if you’re not held accountable, but when you enlist the support of others to hold you to daily progress, you’re more likely to actually follow through with them. I know what you’re thinking: “Well, I’ll enlist my buddy’s support when I have a plan.” That’s not the point. By then it’s too late.
The point is to garner the attention of someone who can hold you accountable to initiate behavior you wouldn’t otherwise take, because if you already have a plan, then all that’s left is to check the boxes.
The good news about mastering the mental game is that it’s all up to you. You decide just how far you’re willing to push yourself based on the purpose and passion that propel you. To make it easier, choose one of the above exercises and employ it for a week. Track your progress.
Gauge where you are at the end of the week and decide whether to continue on with that exercise or try a new one. Either way, you’re training the mind to win.