Published:  11:59 PM, 08 November 2018

Ways to escape mental traps that sabotage your success

You're neither perfect nor fatally flawed, regardless what the voice in your head is telling you

Ways to escape mental traps that sabotage your success

Malachi Thompson

The path to success holds many unforeseen peaks and troughs, many of which we are often unprepared for emotionally and mentally. However, when we step aside to exercise introspection of where we are mentally strong and where our traps of weakness lie, we open the door to become powerful change agents.

Entrepreneurs have a unique journey of mental trials, tribulations and personal growth are just as essential to creating and sustaining a successful business as having an viable product and/or service. Here are four ways you can overcome mental traps you'll stumble upon in your road to success.

1. Invest time in activities that counter imposter syndrome

Feeling like a fraud is not an admission isolated to junior entrepreneurs. Imposter syndrome is a common feature for any individual with high-performance standards and expectations who takes accountability for their actions, decisions and behavior. Despite the successes you've achieved, you believe you're not good enough.

The solution is spending more time and negating your unhelpful belief system. Stop allowing space for those falsehoods to be cognitively reinforced. There is a gap in the foundation of the beliefs that positively serve you. So focus more on ways to fill it.

Get into the practice of searching and looking for reasons that validate your efforts. Look for feedback from clients and colleagues. Is there reputable literature or expert podcasts that endorse the value and impact of your achievements? Refrain from comparing yourself to others. Instead look for the proof within you that you have value and competence beyond your current expectations.

Dig deep. It will be there. Actively recall images and past experiences which fly in the face of the current, substandard perception you have of yourself. Spend time to re-ignite the emotions. When you then ask yourself if you really are a fraud, you can guarantee there will be doubt. When you reach deep inside, the answer that comes will usually be that you are far from that.

2. Become aware of, and stop buying into, your confirmation bias
Exercising confirmation biases is self-validating. Asserting your position with evidence to back it up makes you feel good about yourself. You feel proud, confident and accomplished. On a deeper subconscious level, you feel safe and that is often the most important feeling of all. The problem lies where the lens through which you see is limited. You can miss opportunities and you're vulnerable to dangers your biases make you blind to.

Becoming effective leaders develops through a willingness to listen to, receive and appreciate the input of others. The key is to choose wisely from those around you to become trusted advisors but expect to be rattled, knocked off your perch and irritated by some of the feedback you might get. You might not like what you hear or are recommended to do.

Stand to be corrected. Invite others opinions. Invite others to explain different perspectives and reasons to you that you cannot yet see. It can hurt but learn to allow this discomfort. When you've let the sting of it subside, go back to review the information again. You will have more mental and emotional space to see the messages and true value they could bring. You're listening to learn how to do better and be better. Recognize there will always be people who know better and you're limiting your success if you choose to remain insular.

3. Stop blaming everyone else

Before success often comes struggle. Going down the road less travelled as an entrepreneur means there is a risk of not succeeding. There are risks of trying, failing, making mistakes, losing money and suffering collateral damage that affects ourselves and those around us in our working and personal lives.

Blaming others is easy. Holding yourself accountable emotionally and mentally for the struggle and the downfall is harder. Recovery seems like a long and arduous road but at the end your resilience is increased by re-establishing your point of power.

Review your experiences of laying blame outward. When you recall one of these, allow yourself to imagine what it would have been like if you had accepted responsibility. Ask yourself if you contributed to the demise. If you did, imagine how people would have responded to you if you had admitted responsibility. It will feel uncomfortable, however, you will likely feel relief. From there, you're already in a better emotional and mental space to work on cleaning up the mess. Consider then turning this imagery into reality.

Apologies are better late than never. You might have to work to regain trust and respect but you will be working far less doing this now than if you keep blaming others for your mistakes. There's only so much people will take until you lose their trust, respect and loyalty forever. They'll respect you more when you own your mistakes as opposed to seeing how well you can sweep them under the carpet.

4. Lose the perfectionism

When customers seek a service or product from you, they're unlikely to know if what you've provided is "perfect," so consider whether there is a threshold of chasing perfection beyond which you hurt both yourself and your clients. Perfectionism is often a mask for fear of being rejected, being judged, criticized and ostracized should you not be approved of or accepted. What we often forget is that acceptance, loyalty and respect come when we admit we're humans vulnerable to making mistakes. We're not perfect. Our fallibility allows customers and clients to relate to us and like us.

Observe any of the most highly-respected and successful business founders and leaders in any industry you can think of. Chances are their following increased and the level of respect grew not because they produced perfect products but because they admitted they were flawed. JK Rowling's following only grew when the world learnt she was a 31 year old single mother struggling on welfare as she penned Harry Potter whilst commuting on a train. Her raw authenticity has won her fans the world over.

The writer is a leadership & 
performance consultant 

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