There are a number of factors that contribute to the success or demise of an entrepreneur as they launch, operate, and try to grow their business. These factors can include many things out of their control, such as what the competition does, the reliability of the supply chain, the current economic climate, a global pandemic, for example.
However, there is one element that every entrepreneur can control no matter what their business is or the outside factors are. That one thing is the brain in their head. By understanding how their brain inherently operates and how to leverage and encourage its optimal performance, an entrepreneur can help put the odds of success in their favor.
When you understand better how your brain operates, you can put it to work for you and help it help you be successful. Below are two brain basics every entrepreneur needs to be aware of.
Thinking Too Analytically Can Limit You
Gathering more information, analyzing the options carefully, thinking through the possibilities, and making calculated, deliberate decisions are better for business, right?
Solutions and eureka-moments are hardly ever discovered that deliberately. If an answer to a problem lies outside of your brain’s familiar experience — which is shaped by your past, beliefs, culture, and biases — your conscious mind will most likely never find it. An analytical search for a solution can comb through the entire content of your mind’s “known” but not outside of it. Novel answers reside outside of your mind’s known contents.
You know the saying “Think outside the box.” Well, it’s good advice based on science!
Thinking Outside of the Box
When you allow your brain to integrate new information with existing knowledge on a subconscious level, it can establish new connections and see patterns that are not obvious to your conscious mind. Creative solutions and ideas are more likely to bubble up from a brain that applies unconscious thought to a problem, rather than going at it in a deliberate approach with your frontal lobe’s analytical thinking. When your thinking brain is active and inundated with information, it doesn’t have the bandwidth to connect concepts and make creative leaps.
Science shows that your brain’s resting-state circuitry called the default mode network (DMN) — which is activated when you stop thinking about something specific and just let your mind wander — is the best place to park a problem. In the DMN, your brain does some of its best, wisest, and most creative work. To encourage innovative, problem-solving, creative thinking, you will want to give your brain breaks and let it wander. Meditate. Take a nap. Go for a walk. Einstein and Darwin swore by their daily walks.
More Information Is Not Always Better
There is an implicit belief in our society that more information is better. According to economic theory, more information is always better unless the cost of acquiring further information exceeds the anticipated gain from it. Economists do concede and make the exception that more is not always better when the information isn’t free. This rule may work for economics, but in your brain, more information and more thinking is not always better, for several reasons.
Your brain doesn’t like too much information.
Research indicates that people like to have choices when faced with making a decision. However, if they are given too many choices, they feel less happy about their decision and are less satisfied with the decision-making process itself. One study showed that as people received more information, activity increased in the region of the brain responsible for decision-making, problem-solving, and control of emotions, the prefrontal cortex. However, when the load became too much it was as though a breaker in the brain was tripped and the prefrontal cortex just shut down.
You learn better with spaced sessions than with contiguous effort.
You probably know from experience and science confirms that your brain performs better if you take in information in smaller chunks with regular breaks rather than trying to cram everything into one long session. Your brain needs downtime to consolidate the incoming information before you can use it effectively. Studies show that napping can improve memory and creative problem-solving.
An Entrepreneur Can Build a Resilient Brain
Much like life, an entrepreneur is going to face adversity, rejection, low self-confidence and motivation, and probably even failure at some point in their journey. If they do not, they are the one-in-a-million lucky anomaly. These events do not necessarily determine the success or demise of an entrepreneur. It is how they deal with them that determines that. The secret to bouncing back from these challenges is building resilience. Fortunately, resilience is a skill your brain can learn.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. All of these things can be part of a “normal” day for someone running their own business. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t experience hard times, failures, and stress. In fact, the road to resilience (and success) most often involves considerable challenges and hardship. These things help you learn resilience.
Resilience is not a trait that you either have or don’t have. It includes behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed. When you break it down to the physical level in your brain, resilience is a neuroplastic process and is a factor of how well your brain handles stress.
How to Build Resilience
In his book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness, Rick Hanson writes:
“Mental Resources like determination, self-worth, and kindness are what make us resilient: able to cope with adversity and push through challenges in the pursuit of opportunities. While resilience helps us recover from loss and trauma, it offers much more than that. True resilience fosters well-being, an underlying sense of happiness, love, and peace. Remarkably, as you internalize experiences of well-being, that builds inner strengths which in turn make you more resilient. Well-being and resilience promote each other in an upward spiral.”
Hanson goes on to say that you can build a more resilient brain in the same way you would strengthen your muscles. You do it through lots of little efforts that add up over time. Little efforts throughout your day can result in real physical changes for a better brain. You can teach your brain to be more resilient by learning to be more emotionally intelligent, practicing mindfulness, working with your thoughts, encouraging a healthy mind and body, and strengthening your relationships. You can learn more about building resilience here.
Entrepreneurial thinking is not necessarily an inherent trait everyone is born with. If it’s not innate to you, it can be learned. If it is, you can strengthen and improve your brain’s patterns. When you learn how your brain naturally operates and how to optimize it, it can help you be more successful in business and in life. Life gets easier when you put your brain to work for you.
This post was first mentioned in the Authoritti5.0 Magazine