As entrepreneurs, we are constantly striving for success and for bigger and better results as we seek to dominate and disrupt our marketplace. A challenge that many experience when faced with such goals is in how to get the results we want, when we can only influence one side of the equation; who we are and the things that we do.
The external, environmental factors such as the economy, market-forces, the actions of competitors and the needs, wants and desires of our customers all play a significant part in our successes. It would be foolish to ignore these. What is really important to accept, is that we can’t do much to change them. All we can do is react and respond effectively.
- The state of the economy may determine whether people are willing to pay for our services, and how much; our reaction may be to amend our prices or to do some marketing to stimulate interest, but we can’t change the economy as a whole.
- Our competitors may bring a new product to market which undercuts or out-performs ours, forcing us to innovate or pivot.
- Our customers may become apathetic or disinterested inour services, or their needs may change. This would demand that we create new ways to serve them or bring our products to market.
It’s important not to resist or ignore such forces, and great businesses and effective entrepreneurs will adapt and flex to the changes forced upon them and still come out on top.
There is one area though that is completely within our gift to own, control and to influence; that is in how we develop and improve ourselves.
Change is an inevitability of life and as entrepreneurs we will be best-equipped to help our customers to solve the meaningful problems that they face, if we are committed to being the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
This is the essence of self-improvement.
“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”
-Stephen R. Covey
Superficially, many tend to think of self-improvement as the process of continuous learning and development; reading, attending courses and seminars and trying to become better as a result. Self-improvement means so much more than this, and encompasses:
- Gaining new knowledge and skills as well as developing and honing those we already have
- Reaching a better understanding of who we are through introspection and self-analysis
- Identifying our innate limiting and supporting beliefs and where necessary, challenging these
- Figuring out how to make the most of the resources that we have
- When we turn our focus upon each of these, and take action towards each aspect of ourselves, we are more likely to getwhat we want and deserve out of life.
You wouldn’t build a house without having solid and sturdy foundations upon which to start. In the same way, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of ourselves as the foundation upon which to build and become the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
We have to get to grips with who we are, how we think about ourselves, the world, money, achievement and success. Our beliefs and prejudices about all of these things will determine our future success as we seek to grow and develop.
To know ourselves, to be able to acknowledge our own strengths and weaknesses, to recognise where we need help and where we have room to improve is critical in achieving self-mastery. An appreciation of where we’re starting from becomes the launching pad for our future self-development.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”
The Growth Mind-set
A key differentiator between those who develop and improve and those who remain stuck in their ways, constrained into achieving the same results as they have always achieved, is the ability to adopt a growth mind-set. It is the desire and the willingness to become better, to improve and develop that sets apart those with a growth mind-set from those with a fixed mind-set.
To grow can require an acknowledgment of weaknesses, fears and inadequacies, and this can be uncomfortable to admit, even to ourselves. Everyone has fears and weaknesses, and it’s empowering to face up to these rather than to deny or hide from them. Admitting them, and then doing something to develop and improve brings even greater power to those who are willing to do so.
To figure out where you sit on the scale between a fixed and a growth mind-set, consider these examples and determine which more closely represents your preferences.
Those with a fixed mind-set are threatened by goals that are too taxing or stretching. They would rather protect and defend in their current position than stretch and grow outside of their comfort-zone.
Those with a growth mind-set are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses and failures. They are open to learning, to taking steps backwards in order to ultimately advance. They set challenging and stretching goals as a means of forcing themselves to improve and achieve bigger and better things.
Work and change
The fixed mind-set discourages the taking of risk and the learning and application of new ideas, tactics and techniques. To change and growrepresents unnecessary effort, and brings the risk of failure. It is easier to stay-put or to give-up on improvement than to risk failure, hardship or embarrassment.
The growth mind-set encourages the pursuit of new ideas and the practice of them with regular action-taking. The effort and time put into self-improvement is viewed as a worthwhile sacrifice for the future results and accomplishments that this investment will bring about.
Success and Results
The fixed mind-set tends to deliver results that are un-spectacular and at best, predictable. It promotesmore lowly, risk-averse and steady performance which isn’t compatible with innovation or creativity. As a result, it’s unlikely to bring about expansion or significant success.
The growth mind-set is open to exploring new and better ways of doing things, creating new products and services and serving existing customers better as well as winning-over new customers. Results achieved tend to reflect this and higher performance is enabled which brings about greater success.
Neither is necessarily right or wrong, but everyone sits somewhere on the scale between having a fixed mind-set and a growth mind-set. We all have the capacity to improve and grow, but what varies is how willing some may be to acknowledge that, and to then do something about it to improve themselves.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
Self-improvement and personal development can take many forms. Great gains can be made from regular reading, listening to audio-books and podcasts which introduce new ideas and practices and explain new theories. For greater depth you may wish to invest time and money in attending seminars and training courses where you can delve further into new ways of doing and learning things to enable improvement. Training courses enable a more interactive learning experience and also bring accountability between the student and the teacher (as well as amongst peers). This is largely missing when self-improvement is confined to reading books and listening to audio content, which places the emphasis on you actually having to apply the learning for yourself.
The most comprehensive and in-depth means of pursuing self-development is via group or one-on-one mentoring, coachingand masterminding. This is likely to come at the greatest cost but will also yield the biggest returns in terms of the improvements that you see in your life. Having the accountability to a mentor or coach, as well as to other group members is essential in ensuring that you are not only exposed to new ideas and practices, but also that you take steps to employ them in your life.
This is the key point in relation to self-improvement and I cannot emphasize it enough; to bring about meaningful and lasting change in yourself, you must take action and apply the learning in your life repeatedly and habitually in order to actually achieve personal growth.
So often I see those who dabble in self-improvement and convince themselves that by skimming through a book or by attending a training course they will achieve the gains thatthey desire. What they fail to acknowledge is the absolute need to apply the learning and to embed it in their lives through constant and consistent action. Wanting to change in itself will not bring about change and improvement unless the new ideas and principles are practiced over the long-term.
I am constantly striving to improve and to work on myself, both to address my weaknesses and to build upon my strengths. Self-improvement becomes a compelling and enjoyable process for lifelong growth, provided you are committed to it for the right reasons and for the long-term.
I recommend that you consider the ways in which you can bring about a growth-mind-set in yourself. The process of self-improvement can be hard, and at times painful and challenging, but the results are worthwhile when you see them in your life.