If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to learn how to keep your head in the game.  It’s important because if you don’t, you’ll give in to the chatter in your mind.  You’ll likely end up getting stuck, and probably give up.

How to keep your head in the game as an entrepreneur: Introduction

Most people don’t talk about the mental and emotional side of being a small business owner or solopreneur.  The truth is, it can be incredibly challenging to keep your head in the game as an entrepreneur.

The good news is, it’s totally possible to learn how to manage your mindset.  Today, I’m sharing 5 strategies to help you keep your head in the game, so you can persevere in your entrepreneurial journey.

Keep it all in perspective

As entrepreneurs, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details.  Focusing intensely on the impending success or failure of each tactic you attempt can be a recipe for stress, burnout, and giving up altogether.

Don’t get me wrong, the short game matters.  It’s important to be invested in the tactics and strategies you utilize in your business.

However, I always encourage clients to play the short game in the context of the long game.  In other words, keep it all in perspective.

If this one marketing strategy doesn’t work, that likely doesn’t completely ruin your chances of hitting your long-term goal.  Heck, if this one quarter or this one year – or these five years – don’t turn out the way you wanted, that probably STILL doesn’t totally crush your chances of achieving your goal.  It might mean more challenges, but it doesn’t have to mean the end – unless you decide it does.

Likewise, part of figuring out how to keep your head in the game is choosing strategies that DO align with your long-term goal.  That sometimes means ignoring the shiny new thing everyone else is trying, or the “genius” advice from the marketing guru that doesn’t align with you, your values, or your goals.  As a result, you’ll make tactical and strategic decisions that are a better fit for you and your business in the long run.

Navigate “negative” emotions effectively

So many small business owners and solopreneurs struggle to navigate so-called “negative” emotional states.  Some of the most common ones are:

  • Self-doubt
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of what others will think
  • Overwhelm
  • Perfectionism
  • Impostor syndrome
  • Indecision

While most people may view these emotions as “negative,” they’re totally normal.

The brain is designed to think of scary “what-if” scenarios, and to make them seem very true and devastating.  That’s a survival tactic.

The thing is, your survival as a human being is very rarely at risk.  For example, if you have a failed launch for a new online course, you’ll survive.  It may result in more challenges, but, guess what?  You’ll survive those, too.

The part of your brain that comes up with all the scary “what-if’s” and pushes self-doubt into your thoughts?  It doesn’t have the ability to discern when your survival is actually at stake.  That’s often a manual process that humans have to think through.

When it comes to all of those “negative” emotions, understand that they’re normal.  See them as a stop sign, not a brick wall.  Choose to navigate through them instead of giving in to them.  You’ll learn so much about how to keep your head in the game from that shift, alone.

Question the beliefs and stories in your mind

Along those same lines, managing your beliefs and stories around yourself and your business is fundamental to keeping your head in the game.  Your beliefs and stories guide your make time management decisions on a macro level, so they’re incredibly important.

On a neuroscientific level, the human brain wants to operate as efficiently as possible. Your brain uses your beliefs (thoughts that you think repeatedly over a period of time) as filters for incoming information.  In a way, your beliefs are kind of like decision-making shortcuts.  In a decision-making process, if an option doesn’t align with your relevant beliefs, your brain suggests that you reject that option.

Example: A belief about networking

For example, let’s say you think networking could be helpful for your business, but you have a belief that you’re bad at networking.  If someone invites you to a networking event, and you buy into your current belief, what’s likely to happen?

  • Very likely:  You’ll decline the invitation
  • Somewhat likely:  You’ll accept the invitation, but feel uncomfortable at the event, leave early, or only talk to people you already know
  • Less likely (again, if you buy into the belief):  You’ll go to the event, meet some people, and develop your networking skills a little bit

Each time you choose to buy into the stories and beliefs you have around yourself and your business, you’re reinforcing the associated neural pathways in your brain.  That means you’re doubling down on them – whether or not they serve you in achieving your goals.

How do you change that?  The best way is to question those beliefs, and to start working toward new beliefs.

Naturally, you won’t go from believing “I’m bad at networking” to “I’m an amazing networker” overnight.  Instead, try practicing a bridge thought.  Bridge thoughts help you progress from what you believe now to what you’d like to believe in the future. A few examples might be:

  • I’m open to networking
  • It’s possible for me to learn to network
  • I’m working on my networking skills
  • I’m curious to try different networking approaches
  • I don’t have to be an amazing networker, I just have to show up

If you notice beliefs or stories that seem to be barring you from making progress or growing as a business owner, challenge them.  Use bridge thoughts to start changing them.

Lower the stakes

My next strategy for how to keep your head in the game plays perfectly off of beliefs and stories.  It’s called, “lowering the stakes.”

Like I said earlier, your brain is great at coming up with scary what-ifs, and making them seem devastating.  For example, let’s say you have a consultation coming up with a potential client, and things have been slow in your business lately.

Because you haven’t made a sale in however many days, you might find yourself thinking, “I NEED to make this sale.”  You might notice your brain offering up all kinds of frightening scenarios if you don’t make the sale.  For example, it might conjure up visions of not being able to pay your vendors, feeling like a failure, deciding that you’re no good at selling, feeling embarrassed or disappointed, or having to close your business.

When you think of if that way, there are heavy stakes riding on that one consult call!

How to lower the stakes

What happens when you think, “I NEED to make this sale?”

You might show up with a graspy or desperate attitude, for instance.  Maybe you get more pushy in terms of trying to get a “yes” out of the potential client.  Maybe you’re so nervous on the call due to all of the pressure, that you struggle to connect with the client.

Where does that get you?  Well, it probably doesn’t get you closer to making that sale.

How do you get over that catastrophic thinking?  A great first step is to lower the stakes.  Answer these questions:

  • What will actually happen if I don’t achieve the result I want?
  • How could I respond in a productive way that serves me?
  • If that worst-case scenario played out, how would I take care of myself and my loved ones, to make sure we would be okay in the end?

I say this all the time, but going through this exercise is like showing your brain that there isn’t a monster under the bed.  Your brain wants you to believe that your very survival as a human being is on the line.  99.9% of the time, it isn’t, and pretending that it is will get you nowhere fast.

Decide what you make failure mean about you

My final strategy for keeping your head in the game is to consciously decide what failure means about you.

Let me explain what I mean.  When a human fails, the brain’s default response is to make that failure mean something negative about the human.  Things like:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m an idiot
  • I shouldn’t have even tried
  • I’m a total failure at [whatever the task was]

This is essentially a survival response from your brain.  Again, it’s trying to keep you safe in a scenario where you don’t really need protecting.

If people laugh or make fun of you for failing, that’s certainly evidence of their own character, not yours.  Failure is a normal part of life, just like success is.  If you decide to make failure mean one of the unhelpful thoughts above, you’re setting yourself back.

What if you could make failure mean something that helped you move forward and try again, or move on to the next opportunity?  Things like:

  • It’s okay that I failed, because failure is part of the process
  • I gave it a try, and now I have data to work with
  • I’m grateful for what I learned from my experience
  • That failure gave me knowledge and skills that I will put to good use next time

At the end of the day, failure doesn’t have to mean anything negative about you as a person, unless you allow it to.

How to keep your head in the game as an entrepreneur:  Conclusion

Managing your mindset is crucial to long-term success as a small business owner or solopreneur.  Today, I shared 5 strategies to help you learn how to keep your head in the game, no matter what comes up in your business or your life.  Here’s a recap:

  • Keep it all in perspective
  • Navigate “negative” emotions effectively
  • Question the beliefs and stories in your mind
  • Lower the stakes
  • Decide what you make failure mean about you

As a time management and productivity coach, one of the most important parts of my job is to help my clients keep their head in the game.  If you’d like some help with that, schedule a free call with me to find out more.

About the Author Amy Schield

Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

Follow me