Mastering The Mental Game In Your Business

“Business is a spiritual game.” — Anthony Robbins

Such as in life, our beliefs about our organization shape the way it’s viewed. 

As time goes by running the company, we develop a story about it. This narrative becomes a foundation for what is and isn’t possible to achieve within our business.

The unspoken and unchallenged assumptions, deeply rooted in our frame of reference, are responsible for the majority of the decisions we make every day. Every action and event that unfolds thereafter becomes further evidence to prop up a specific argument about whatever we’re focused on at the time — either success or failure.

And as Henry Ford famously stated,

“Whether you think you can or you think you can, you’re right.”

Whatever we tell ourselves about what’s happening, we find a way to make it true. Whether we want loose ends to continue piling up unresolved or we want our ducks in a row marching forward, we take action — or inaction — to keep reality consistent with what we believe.

Unfortunately for us, we’re human beings. And as human beings, we have brains that are constantly looking for what’s wrong.

As a result, our perceived problems are often blown up into mental catastrophes. We gloss over what’s currently working and uproot it in favor of what may completely disregard proven processes or value alignment, but temporarily satisfies our most painful problem at hand.

We’re extremely quick to abandon what we’re committed to at the core for what we want resolved in the moment. Our team is often at the mercy of this reactive behavior, diminishing their trust irrevocably.

Until we gain control of the mental chatter of our minds, we’re helpless with our business. We may leverage our strong suits to generate results short-term but over time, we burn ourselves out or end up alienating our entire team.

“Two "one-way" signs with arrows going different ways on a street in New York” by Brendan Church on Unsplash

Challenge The Story

I like to think that running a business is 90% mental and 10% what you actually do.

With all the areas of the business in need of mental processing prior to decision-making, your skills don’t matter beyond a certain threshold. The way in which you look at each area of your company drastically influences the actions you take in succession.

The cool part about it all is you get to choose — the empowering view or the limiting view. In reference to chasing dreams, I cannot remember the last time “being realistic” served anyone.

Running a business is all about venturing into uncharted waters. What worked to get you to $500K in revenue won’t get you to a $1M. What gets you to $1 Million won’t get you to $2 Million. As Jim Collins puts it, “You have to be willing to give up the good to go for the great.”

Given the business will be different as it matures, we won’t be creating nearly as much as we’ll be discovering. And to discover, involves an inquiry.

Challenge whatever you’ve told yourself about your business by questioning it. By putting more responsibility on you and your leadership. What were the top three things you were focused on when you started or took over the business? Are those three items still a focal point, or even still relevant? Given the size and condition of your organization now, what would the company benefit from the most by you honing in on?

Use Your Core Values As A Guide

One of the most valuable assets an organization has is its core value system. Typically made up of three to five irrevocable principles, the core values are a way to keep an outline of the business’ identity as it evolves.

Often times, especially in start-ups, we may find ourselves or team members confused on their ever-evolving and fluid job descriptions. The core values can clear the path of the work we don’t need to be spending our time on, paving the way for what will continue to move the needle.

Core values cannot be loose, cliche, or promoting. They must represent the truth of the organization and why it was formed. Without a strong core value system, the company will be reactive to the marketplace — not grounded in anything.

People First, Profits Second

This last piece requires the most patience on behalf of the leader. He must be committed to the growth and health of the business without it being at the expense of the growth and health of the team. As Simon Sinek so eloquently puts it,

“One of the best paradoxes of leadership is a leader’s need to be both stubborn and open-minded. A leader must insist on sticking to the vision and stay on course to the destination. But he must be open-minded during the process.”

A leader must never get stuck in their ways. They must never close their lid. The minute the leader is done learning and growing, the minute he becomes the choke-hold of the entire operation.

Putting people first solves this complication easily. And I’m not referring to abandoning a business plan to encourage fat salaries and exorbitant benefit packages. I’m simply referring to treating people like human beings. Getting the team’s opinion prior to making a decision that will impact them. Developing an inner circle of great thinkers within the organization you consider your partners. Asking people how they’re doing before requesting something of them first thing in the morning. Simple stuff. Not easy — but simple.

As much discipline as it takes to execute and meet financial budgets, it takes twice as much to remain calm and encouraging with your team during times of hardship. Leaders that do this exude a sense of commitment, security, and optimism. Commitment to being kind to others, no matter how dire the straights may be. Security that the team is more than capable of handling the current challenge at hand. And optimism that what’s unfolding in the present moment isn’t failure, but merely a clue to the organization’s future success and prosperity.