Want to know what your biggest battle is going to be?
The battle with your own mind.
One of mentors, Gemma Went, told me that by far the most common reason people struggle in life isn’t lack of ability or even money, it’s because they aren’t able to master their mindset to move past self-doubt.
But what is mindset? It’s a word you hear thrown about all the time these days but what does it really mean?
Here’s the definition according to the Oxford English Dictionary:
Your attitude, in particular to yourself and what’s possible for you, will make or break you.
Let’s take a look at a self-defeating mindset in action. My own.
Last year I spent the best part of a month creating a pretty damn great social media planning tool that I planned to sell to my email list. I worked damn hard on it, was really proud of what I’d created and was really excited about getting it out there.
Until it came to pressing send on the email announcing it.
I froze. Faced with actually putting my hard work out into the world, all kinds of self-defeating irrational thoughts started racing through my head.
“What if it’s a piece of crap? What if it’s full of mistakes? What if no-one buys it? As well as the polar opposite – “What if it sells like hotcakes and I can’t cope with the extra work it generates?”
All these thoughts were totally and utterly nuts. But I let them defeat me. I eventually pressed send on that particular email but I still haven’t fully promoted that tool, because fear made me run to safe ground.
So take it from me. Your mindset will defeat you before anything else – if you let it.
The buck stops with you baby, so getting a handle on any mental blocks, or ‘stories’ you’re telling yourself, is key.
Single motherhood is a HUGE journey of self-discovery. Throw self-employment into the mix and you’re going to challenge yourself like never before.
To get through and to feel successful, whatever your definition of success may be, you have to battle your inner demons and learn how to deal with your mental blocks and self-doubt.
You have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
In fact, a healthy amount of fear is usually a good indicator that what you’re doing is worth the risk.
So be prepared for battles with yourself – your self-doubt, your perfectionist tendencies (yes, perfectionism is fear too), your guilt, your fear of being successful, your fear of failure and your fear of not being good enough – to name but a few.
Like negotiating landmines in a war zone, your mental blocks will come out of nowhere to challenge you on an almost daily basis.
Denise Duffield-Thomas. Melyssa Griffin. Tara Gentile. Many of the most successful people credit learning how to master their mindset as THE biggest factor leading to their success.
In fact, when you see people who appear to have it all together it’s not because they’re not afraid, we all are, but because they’ve acknowledged those fears and learned how to stop them being in the driving seat.
We are all plagued with doubts about our own abilities. You are. I am.
“I’m not good enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not kind enough.” Just a few random thoughts from my own head!
Fortunately, I’m a member of Denise Duffield Thomas’s Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp, which is all about mastering your mindset. Thanks to her I now have a good set of tools to deal with self-doubts and fears, both conscious and subconscious.
I’m nowhere near there yet, being able to master your mindset is a constant work in process. But I now have a set of tools to help me tackle mindset issues when they crop up – which is often.
Here’s the process that works for me:
1. Face your fears head-on.
You’ll never master your mindset by avoiding your doubts and fears by using a blanket ‘think positive’ approach – they’ll still jump out of nowhere to bite you on the bum. I’ve found it more effective to examine my fears and confront them for what they really are.
Ask yourself this: “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Write down EVERYTHING you can think of no matter how ridiculous. So if you’re considering becoming self-employed your list might include:
- I won’t be able to pay the bills!
- I’ll end up working every waking hour!
- I’ll get lonely being at home by myself!
- I’m not smart/disciplined/capable enough.
- I’ll make loads of money and then all my friends will hate me.
- I won’t have anything in common with my 9to5 friends anymore.
- I won’t be able to afford to get my nails done anymore.
WHATEVER comes to mind, write it down. Keep going until you can’t think of anything else.
2. Analyse your fears.
Look at each of the fears you wrote down above and consider the following:
- What is at the root of this fear? Is it real, or is it an assumption?
- How likely is it that it will really happen?
If it’s never likely to happen, discard it. You’ve already neutralised it.
Then divided the remaining fears into two groups:
- The fears based on concrete stuff like money, your physical surroundings, your knowledge (or lack of it).
- Fears that are based on assumptions about your own capabilities, or lack of them.
The first list you can use step 3 to address. The second list you’ll have to hit with all your best master you mindset techniques in step 4.
3. Research your fears into submission.
Knowledge is power. What can you do to shed a clarifying light on any of your fears? Particularly the fears you have about concrete things like money, gaps in your knowledge, or particular situations you’re worried about.
What can you do right now to master your fears?
Make a list of them and then either brainstorm solutions or schedule some time to do some research.
For instance, if you’re worried that working from home will be lonely, brainstorm ways you can address that. Maybe you could work from a cafe a few couple of mornings a week, join a local co-working space, or get to know the home workers in a Facebook group.
If you’re afraid you won’t be able to pay the bills, spend an hour or two doing some research. Gathering information about all your bills, how much they are, when any contracts end, then find out how you can reduce them.
You might find you that you don’t really have anything to worry about.
At the very least being fully formed is likely to take your level of concern down a notch or two.
I’ve always been big on research. So I’ve often used this technique to master my mindset when I’ve been fearful about moving forward. When I was considering having a baby by myself, at first I assumed I’d never be able to afford it.
I was living in Australia where there was no maternity leave entitlement, I had to pay for fertility treatment and as I wasn’t yet a citizen felt sure I wouldn’t qualify for benefits or help with childcare.
Then I did my research. I found out that the Australian Medicare system would partly cover my fertility treatment. Then I discovered the government were about to introduce paid maternity leave AND that I did qualify for benefits and extra support with childcare.
My assumptions had been TOTALLY wrong. If I hadn’t sat down and researched all my options I could have stayed stuck where I was and might never have had my daughter. Crazy thought!
So don’t make assumptions, find out THE FACTS. The truth could set you free.
4 Tackle your self-doubt
You may never shake off self-doubt. But while it may always be a passenger in your life you don’t need to let it take the wheel. Instead, employ an armoury of brain training tools to tackle it with. Mastering your mindset is a daily practice.
Master your mindset practices to add to your daily routine:
I picked up this tip from a webinar Melyssa Griffin gave recently, and I love it.
Whenever a negative thought about your own ability to succeed pops into your mind, write it down and then straight away write down three pieces of evidence that prove it’s not true.
The more often you do this the quicker you’ll train your brain to cancel out the negative thought with a positive one.
For instance, as soon as I get a new client or project I’m always immediately hit with the fear that I’m not really any good at what I do and they’ll be disappointed they chose me. Here are three pieces of evidence that this is NOT true:
- the great feedback I received on a recent piece of work;
- the fact that I’ve been earning a living as a writer and communicator for the last 15 years;
- the positive comments I received about a recent blog post.
If you’re anything like me you might have to dig deep for the positives, but it’s worth persevering because it’s an exercise that will help retrain your brain.
EFT, or ‘tapping’
Bear with me on this one because it can see a little wacky at first. EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique, is a kind of brain re-programming technique that invites you to accept your fears and doubts and neutralise them.
You tap key meridian points on the head, face and upper body while repeating a phrase such as: “Even though I’m hopeless with money, I deeply and completely l love and accept myself.”
I write a journal daily because it’s a great way to process thoughts and worries. By free-writing for just 10 or 15 minutes I’ve often been able to rationalise that worry and turn it on its head. So to explore what’s really bothering you and reveal the heart of your fears, write them down.
Depending on the issue It might take more than one journalling session to unpack an issue. But for simpler day-to-day concerns, this can be a useful technique to stop unfounded worries nagging away at you for longer than they need to.
Fears, doubts and self-defeating thoughts – self-employment and single motherhood will uncover them all.
Unfortunately, can’t just ‘think positive’ and hope everything will be fine. The best way to master your mindset is by examining your fears, not denying them. By doing so often they vanish in a puff of smoke when you realise what a bunch of nonsense they are. But unexamined they would continue plaguing you.
When you put them under the microscope, often they’ll not withstand close examination and vanish in a puff of smoke. But unexamined they would continue plaguing you unnecessarily.
As I’ve already mentioned, this mindset stuff is the task of a lifetime. So you’ll need to repeat these exercises regularly. Download the worksheet and pull it out whenever you can feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by self-doubt and build at least one of the master your mindset practices into your daily routine.
Download the worksheet and pull it out whenever you can feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by self-doubt. I also recommend building at least one of the master your mindset practices into your daily routine.
(Please note: I am not a psychologist or mental health expert. If you suffer from depression or anxiety I recommend seeking professional help from your GP or local NHS talking therapies service.)