Shifting Your Mindset
Creates the Conditions for Success
by Adele Sommers
Do you have a crystal clear idea of what kinds of business undertakings align with your gifts, talents, passions, and strengths? If so, you’re in an excellent position to choose the prospects that will give you the greatest satisfaction and results.
If not, this article explains why developing a set of business or professional success criteria can help you select a worthwhile endeavor with much deeper insight, and thus establish conditions for successfully pursuing it.
Why is this crucial? Many people wander into their businesses, projects, or professions opportunistically, meaning that they grab something that comes along because it’s available and convenient. At times, this might be prudent and necessary for financial reasons.
But unless we understand our underlying success criteria, we might not recognize the options that truly fuel and inspire us — those aligned with our passions and strengths — that give us the stamina and staying power we’ll need to succeed in the long run.
From “Corporate Trunk” to “Entrepreneurial Driver”
Identifying one’s business success criteria might be more challenging for some people than for others. For example, those who leave corporate life to pursue an entrepreneurial vision may benefit from going through an incremental discovery process, rather than making one giant leap from employee to business owner. Therefore, I’ll use the following story to illustrate how this journey might occur.
Roger and Roberta have grown weary of the grind and internal politics of their corporate lives. When their kids leave home, they conclude that it’s time to switch to something more rewarding. But what? After a great deal of thought, they decide to start by contracting out their services to their former employers, which seems like the safest way to begin their transition. Later, they believe they’ll tackle some other kind venture together, such as starting or buying a business.
Although they don’t fully realize it yet, after many years of working as jobholders, their mindsets are still functioning in an employee mode. Because their outlooks revolve primarily around meeting the expectations of others, Roger and Roberta simply haven’t developed their own sets of values, visions, and goals.
In some ways, they feel as if they’ve been continuously locked in the trunk of a moving car, unable to steer. But to pursue running their own business, they’ll need to find a way to progress in stages by getting out of the “trunk” and moving into the “driver’s seat,” where they’ll have more visibility and control over their destinies.
What they’ll discover is that making this transition will require them over time to:
- Start shifting from thinking like employees to thinking like contractors
- Expand from thinking like contractors to also thinking like consultants
- Ultimately, to run a business, they’ll need to think like entrepreneurs
Seeking Their Success Criteria
Roger’s and Roberta’s journey occurs in three stages as they gradually undergo the transformation from one mindset to the next.
1) Making the transition from employee to contractor
As Roberta and Roger begin contracting their services to their former employers, they learn how to set up their own business identities, home offices, schedules, and accounting systems. At first, it feels gratifying and interesting to be sitting on the “outside” for a change, while also enjoying a stable paycheck, at least for the time being. Yet much like their prior employee days, they are continuing to work with the same quirky people to meet the same underwhelming expectations.
Soon, the projects they’re working on seem tedious and dissatisfying because of the highly predictable problems and shortcomings. Eventually, Roberta and Roger begin to question what they’re really seeking from self-employment. They secretly yearn to climb off of the tiresome treadmills that characterize their current situation. All they’ve really done is reintroduce themselves back into their old work environments without changing many of the parameters.
2) Making the transition from contractor to consultant
After much discussion and introspection, Roberta and Roger recognize that they have not yet developed an independent perspective on their professions. They see that everything they’ve done so far satisfies someone else’s conventions rather than their own.
But now they’re operating in a self-governing mode. They have no need to view themselves as quasi-employees if they choose to portray themselves differently.
It eventually begins to dawn on them that their former employers are now their clients, and that they can see themselves as consultants (guides and advisers), in addition to being contractors.
This means they have a need — and a right — to set their own policies and design procedures and best practices for their service businesses.
Whenever their assigned projects backfire with predictable problems, they don’t need to quietly defer to the people who are making mistakes. They can make proactive recommendations, set reasonable boundaries, and communicate their philosophy for helping their clients avoid similar pitfalls.
Roberta and Roger also see that they can look for new clients whose outlooks and approaches align with their own. Once they better qualify their clients, they will have more satisfying working relationships and outcomes. They are no longer feeling the need to accept clients on a financial basis only; nothing seems worth the hassle and stress of bad relationships and projects. This realization represents their first major step toward establishing their own business success criteria!
3) Making the transition from consultant to entrepreneur
Roger and Roberta are happier, but still unclear about what represents an ideal scenario and how they would know it if they saw it. They resolve to undertake a methodical, soul-searching process to better align their business goals with their mission in life.
During this insightful journey, they meticulously identify their business success criteria by examining their life passions, purpose, strengths, gifts, and core values.
By the end, they have a list of the specific ways in which they can judge their future business ventures, partners, clients, and projects. Some of the criteria are more practical and others more lofty. But each criterion seems essential to achieving balance, fulfillment, and higher contribution in their lives.
For example, their criteria include everything from maintaining a healthy mix of work and recreation to seeking only what they believe they could be the best in the world at doing. Roger and Roberta then proceed to assign numerical weights to their criteria. In this way, they produce an invaluable checklist for comparing, scoring, evaluating, and selecting future business ventures, which will thereby set the conditions for success.
In conclusion, aligning our life passions with our business purpose helps us define our business success criteria. If we move into a contracting, consulting, or entrepreneurial mode, especially after many years of corporate employment, those criteria illuminate how to choose the right situations, and establish the conditions for successfully pursuing them.
Copyright 2015 Adele Sommers