You’re an entrepreneur reading a business psychology blog. My guess is, you read a bit of self development material. Maybe you’ve invested in courses, seminars or retreats – all geared toward equipping you with inner resources to Achieve Your Potential.
Over the last few years, you’ve probably heard about dozens of problem-solving, reframing, negativity-busting techniques and philosophies designed to keep you operating at your peak no matter what happens.
Why is it then, that none of them really work when things go majorly pear shaped?
This post reveals the missing link between learning personal (or business) development techniques and the ability to actually use them in your darkest moments.
Crisis happens. Even to the world’s best entrepreneurs.
Unexpected tax bills pop up. High value clients turn on you overnight. Your invoices don’t get paid and the people sending you bills don’t care about your problems. Share prices fluctuate for incomprehensible reasons. Natural disasters wipe out investments.
Stuff goes wrong.
The success of an entrepreneur isn’t measured in money but in their capacity to make smart decisions in the midst of crisis.
Almost every business or personal development guru has advice for times of chaos. I share a tried-and-true formula with my clients, designed to transform any crisis (be it concrete or emotional) into a learning and action-taking experience.
When the s*** hits the fan, you scramble to remember those lessons from your wise role models. You try to “stay positive” and use the “5 ways to be better” and whatever else you know.
No matter how hard you try, the overwhelming feeling that things are going wrong grows. It starts as a twisting, sickening sensation in the stomach which quickly (and inexplicably) fills your mind with horrifying imagery.
Entrepreneurs don’t fear shark attack or zombies. Instead, they visualize a rapidly approaching future in which mortgage payments can’t be made. They see their disappointed spouses. They see their peers judging them as failures.
When all that is spinning through your mind, like a house of entrepreneurial horrors, just try staying positive and using that awesome planning technique.
It doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work because you’re not in a headspace where any technique is going to work. Your brain is physically altered – bathed in fear inducing chemicals. The options available to you shut down as you start to see your failure as the black pit at the end of a tunnel without doors.
Your state sucks. So change it.
Here’s the secret. In times of crisis, looking for a solution isn’t the solution. Trying to figure things out is not the way to move forward.
Changing your state is the only thing that works.
Your emotional state is intimately tied to your representation of the world. Feel overwhelmed and your perception of reality will reflect your state. You’ll begin to realize how much you’re juggling and start to freak out. Feel sad? You’ll sort through “reality” to pick out all the examples of how crappy life is while ignoring all the evidence to the contrary.
Your emotional state is like a filter you view the world through. The question is, are you using beer goggles (where you and everyone else look hot!) or some nasty form of depressing, overwhelming eye wear?
The other thing tied to your state (and thus your world) is your physiology. This is the real secret.
It’s impossible to stay depressed while doing jumping jacks or going for a really good run. The endorphins just won’t allow it!
Sure, the clinically (habitually) depressed will revert back to their favorite shade of blue once the effects of the run wear off… but by that point, we already have all the evidence we need.
When you radically shake up your physiology, your state changes. New, refreshing and invigorating chemicals flood your brain.
Exercise is one way to do it… but there are hundreds of others too.
For me, listening to certain music is a guaranteed state change. So is taking a shower – perhaps because of the powerfully different physical sensation.
Newcomers to entrepreneurialism try to deal with their problems by soldiering on. They remain resolutely in their offices until the solution arrives. Or, more likely, when they convince themselves that things are so hopeless that it’s okay to give up.
Street smart entrepreneurs know that a change of state is the number one priority. They know that giving themselves the time to push “refresh” on their brain will pay dividends later.
Next time you find yourself frozen by crisis, take a moment to go and do the most irrelevant form of state-changing behavior imaginable.
Eat a 2000 calorie cupcake. Have sex. Watch a video of a cute cat on YouTube.
Do anything* that’ll alter your brain chemistry for the better, even if it’s only temporary.
(*okay, maybe not anything… but you get the idea.)
The alternative is to approach your biggest challenges in a state of shock and barely contained fear. Your best intentions to solve problems using clever tactics will fail because of the mental state you’re bringing to the table in these moments.
Did I mention that your biggest challenges are also your biggest opportunities? Think about that.
Athletes know that state (they call it “being in the zone”) is the crucial component to success. Entrepreneurs are no different.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to solve your problem before half time. You have all day. Actually, you probably have a few days. You have the time to radically change your state in a fun way.
Put down the phone and switch off the computer. Forget everything you’re telling yourself you “should” do.
Go change your state. Unlock the mental resources that will allow your tactics, planning and positivity to flourish.
No matter how big your worries are, I can guarantee that you’ll find solutions faster and easier… if you begin by doing jumping jacks under a cold shower, listening to ACDC while eating chocolate.
Every technique you’ve ever read about works. Every philosophy and attitude is a winning one.
It’s just that when you attempt to use them while your head is on fire, figuratively or literally, your mileage will vary.
Give yourself and your tactics the best possible chance. In times of crisis a powerful emotional state your only priority.