Self-awareness is essential to succeed as an entrepreneur
When you're preparing your business plan, you do a careful assessment of the external business environment. You look at your target market, your current competition, ease of entry for future competitors, consumer trends, and how you will differentiate yourself from your competition..
Well, that's all well and good. It's essential, no question about that. But just as important as understanding the dynamics of your external environment is understanding the critical dynamics of the "inner game" if you want to be successful in business. You've got to have self-awareness to succeed.
What am I talking about, you might ask? ....... In the same way that you look "outside" and study your competition as part of preparing for potential threats to your business, so too you need to look within. You need to check "inside" and see if there are any obstacles that could get in the way of you enjoying success as an entrepreneur. Here are three to watch out for ....
1. Procrastination & "over-thinking" it
Investigate, analyse, plan, act and review ...... Isn't that how it's all meant to go? Except the problem with procrastination is that we can get stuck in the analysis stages - thinking, thinking and then maybe doing some more thinking.
Hey, by all means make sure you've got all of the information that you need - and think through the risks and the various permutations - but there comes the time when you've got to recognise you've done enough research and it's the time for action! Otherwise it becomes paralysis through over-analysis.
So what can underlie procrastination? ..... Sometimes it can be the fear of making a mistake. Sometimes, it can be waiting until we feel we've got the "perfect" plan or product, so that we won't make a mistake.
But so often in business, there can be advantages in being "first to market" - there can be recognition and profile in achieving this. Although obviously this should never mean delivering a shoddy product that will damage customer goodwill! It does mean however that you don't want to continue to delay release of your product whilst you keep on refining and incessantly adding further enhancements to the design. Quite often product design enhancements can continue to occur after release, as long as the product has been functional and offered value in the eyes of your customer. In other words - you don't necessarily have to wait for perfection.
Innovation is not about coming up with a good idea - it's about acting upon the idea. A good idea is worthless until its converted to action. And if you are able to achieve "first to market" then at least for a while, your rivals will be chasing you whilst you have been able to gain important market share, as well as build some brand loyalty.
Then there can be a quite different type of inner obstacle at the other end of the spectrum - action without adequate thought or analysis. This can be the entrepreneur who is driven by an uncontrollable sense of urgency - and the fear that someone else will steal their idea and get to market "first". At the extreme, it's like jumping out of a plane with a burst of adrenaline, and later checking on the way down if you've got your parachute on properly, if at all. It's captured in the old phrase "Ready. Fire. Aim"
Other times it's just the passion and enthusiasm of these entrepreneurs that creates this overly-optimistic expectation that the market will love their idea or product - what's not to love!! ..... So they recklessly rush to market neglecting any proper due diligence in testing the concept and may risk over-capitalising in the business before realising they've seriously over-estimated the level of demand or under-estimated the strength of their competition. .
3. Worry and anxiety
There are many variables that you can encounter when you're starting-up and running a small business. Some things are outside of your control - whether it's the state of the broader economy and it's influence on consumer confidence, or even the weather itself (flood or drought) and it's impact on your operations. Interest rates, fuel prices, the reliability of your internet service provider are some other examples.
There's stuff that happens that we can't control and to which we must be able to accept and adapt.
As an entrepreneur, one of the toughest lessons can be learning not to worry about what "might happen". We simply have to focus on what we can control. If the market changes - then we pivot. Sometimes we will alter our tactics - sometimes it requires a bigger adjustment and our game plan and strategy must be altered.
But the point here is, there's no benefit thinking and dwelling on what can go wrong. We prepare a contingency plan of course .... But then we've got to control our mind and our thinking, so that we don't lose sleep imagining these worst-case scenarios. We identify the risks - but we also step back and assess their likelihood and probability, so as to keep some perspective. So do not allow your mind to regularly indulge in fantasising about what can go wrong.
Otherwise it's like carrying around a little imp on our shoulders who keeps whispering in your ear negative chatter that fuels your fears and escalates your anxiety. Remember, your mind is meant to serve you - in the same way as your car does. After all, you don't climb into your car and let it take you where it will. You drive the car, you determine the direction you want to go. Same with your thinking - take control.
Besides, I'm often reminded of the Mark Twain quote
"I've wasted half my life worrying about things that never happened"
Winning the inner game
There's no point beating your competition if you can't also win the inside game. It takes self-awareness, a healthy level of emotional intelligence and a dose of humility to continue to work on improving yourself.
Ever seen someone winning a race - several strides ahead of their nearest competition. And then they stumble just before the finishing line? And there was absolutely nothing on the track that could have caused them to stumble ..... Or have you ever seen a tennis player just a point away from winning the match, who had been serving superbly throughout much of the game - and yet all of a sudden, double faults on match point up - then finds a way to lose
Well, I would say that fear of success might just possibly have come into play. After all, you've got to feel deep within that you deserve to be successful and that you deserve to be happy - otherwise unknowingly you will find ways to sabotage yourself.
The inner game, the mental game, is one that you can't afford to ignore as an entrepreneur. Mental toughness is an essential quality to cultivate. Whether it's to help you achieve your goals in life, sport, or business, the psychology of the inner game adds another dimension to success that you need to seek to understand.
About the author
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a corporate training business in Melbourne, Australia. He is an experienced management coach and a qualified psychologist, with a passion for helping people achieve their goals in life and business. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile