Your mindset, your thoughts, can buoy you up, inspiring you to take courageous action, or they can drag you down, keeping you up at night with worry and paralyzing you with fear. Even though our brains are wired to dwell on the negative, on past mistakes, how we think in this moment is something we can control.
Changing our minds in the present moment can be hard work! I know from experience that when things aren’t going well, one of the toughest things to do is to turn your mind from impending doom to what is possible and what can be done.
The good news is that the more you practice these mindset boosters, the easier they become. They do, in fact, become habits that kick in when you need them the most.
The even better news is that the more you practice them, the more impact both you and your company will have. Staying on track and not allowing yourself to be pulled down will save you a lot of time and energy. The time and energy you free up can be spent on your company’s financial performance and having impact.
S0 let’s look at ways you can do a mindset reset and the practices that will support you in doing so:
The Future Doesn’t Just Happen – You Shape It Every Day
Have you ever seen or read about people in the direst of circumstances who are transcendent, happy? And others who seem to have everything, and yet feel deprived? The way you choose to think about a situation, the parts of yourself that you call on, even dig deep for, are what determine your present and your future. Your thinking is integral to your character.
When things look negative, question it. There’s always a way to think about a situation that includes a gift, an opportunity. This may seem contrived at first, but think about situations where you’ve suddenly had a shift in perspective and a solution appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. That’s the effect you want to be able to call on.
“Circumstance does not make the person,
it reveals the person to himself or herself.”
People become leaders of successful, impactful companies by becoming the people who can lead those companies first. They walk with integrity. They make smart decisions. They step up and into opportunity with courage. They acknowledge their fears, but don’t indulge them. They learn and grow.
You are becoming the leader of your high impact company right now, in how you show up every day. Treating people with respect. Listening to ideas. Choosing how you use your time and energy. Making decisions with your mind AND your heart.
You can shape your future by consciously developing the mindset of the leader who leads your company in these ways.
Doubling down on mission is one way to ensure that your company moves more in the direction of your impact. New Belgium Brewing became a benefit corporation in 2018, ingraining its commitment to internal and community impact in its legal framework, and is now the fourth-largest craft brewery in the US.
Fear and Getting Through the Storm
We all have fears. Fears about how the company will do financially this year, about that crucial new hire who looks promising but is unproven, or about how your new offering will fare in a busy market. Fears can abound, especially if nurtured and given attention.
“The future you constantly worry about
Is nothing other than a projection of fear and desire from the past.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Fears can instead be a tool, an indicator. They can lead you to research, to ask good questions, and to explore options. As long as you don’t allow fears to take over the present, they can actually be valuable.
One way to be vigilant about fears is with mindfulness. Mindfulness, that focus on the present, is more than a business fad. It’s a practice that decreases stress and increases productivity.
The leaders of outdoor apparel maker Patagonia are committed to using their successful company as a vehicle to put mindfulness into action. Patagonia founder Yves Chouinard describes navigating what could be a terrifying Class 4 rapid as a teaching:
look ahead and prepare
- be proactive
- don’t ignore what is coming
- think through scenarios
- do what is necessary to get ready to the best of your ability
- trust that you can handle whatever happens
go into a drop
- take calculated risks
- once you decide, follow through wholeheartedly
read the river
- be vigilant
- be perceptive
- adjust as needed.
That intuitive process has helped guide his business for the last 50 years. Chouinard believes that if the process isn’t sound, if your intentions don’t come from the right place, the outcome, even if profitable, doesn’t matter.
Practicing wisdom by making decisions from a place of love rather than fear can open the door to creative solutions. When Patagonia’s CEO Casey Sheahan was faced with laying off 150 employees during the financial crisis, shortly after he took over from Chouinard, he was torn up about the decision. His wife asked him, “Are you making this decision from a place of fear, or from a place of love?” When he realized that it was fear driving the layoff decision, he found another way, leading to unheard-of sales levels after a few rocky quarters.
Fear can be a driver of decisions and actions, but they don’t have to be. Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Big Magic, tells the story of treating her fears like an inevitable passenger on a road trip. Fears can and will be there, but they can Never. Ever. Drive.
Focus on Your Impact
Do you find your Impact Purpose, a clear statement of the impact you want to have, inspiring? Does it fill you with energy? If it doesn’t, at least most of the time, you might be on the wrong track. Your clarity about the impact you want to have, whether it’s social or environmental or both, can serve as the rock on which you build your impactful business.
When you steadily focus on your Impact Purpose, you’ll find your thoughts turning from short-term pain to what you could achieve in your business and community. This thinking about others, and not just yourself, is a way to bring you out of the doldrums or away from unhelpful divergent thinking, and back into focus on your impact.
Reinforce this by having your Impact Purpose statement in front of you, every day. Have it on your desk or screen. In your wallet. On your fridge. Wherever you will be regularly reminded of what you intend, personally and with your company.
Plan your day and week with your Impact Purpose in mind. Include it in your decisions about how time, money, and resources will be spent, and with whom. Thoughts aligned with purpose are a powerful creative force. Fill your attention with something worthwhile.
The greatest achievement was at one time a dream. Stay with your dream. It’ll be part of your becoming.
You Are the Company You Keep
You may have heard the notion that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. That speaks to the influence that those around you have on your thinking and therefore on your actions.
Some companies who are committed to having impact take this to a highly conscious level. Design firm LimeRed, led by Emily Lonigro Boylan, only works with individuals or organizations that have social impact. LimeRed only engages with clients whose values they share, who are kind and innovative, and who are also accountable to their stakeholders and communities.
You as a business leader can also take this to another level by incorporating it into decisions about who you include on your team, your suppliers, and your partners. Do you vet who you work with every day through this lens? Do you extend this to your advisors, your pet projects, and your friends?
You’re more likely to have impact when you devote all your energy and resources toward people and companies that also want to have impact in harmony with yours.
Your mindset matters to your own fulfillment and well-being. It matters to your company, as you engage with your community and the larger world. Optimize your opportunity to have impact by doing this mindset reset.