Starting a business is possibly one of the most challenging things a person could do. Putting yourself out there, feeling vulnerable before masses of strangers, that sting of rejection or being drowned by paperwork … the least we can expect is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows on the path toward building a legitimate company and eventually writing your own pay checks.
Whatever the challenges of our sector or the individual barriers to success, all too often the biggest thing holding us back is – you guessed it – ourselves. Worry, negative thinking and self-doubt can literally cripple us, wiping out the confidence required to embrace opportunities and be the best we can be. But how can you alter this destructive way of thinking? What can you do to literally change your mind? Neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP, could have the answers.
What is NLP?
NLP is a unique approach to personal development that was developed in the United States in the 1970s by Dr Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Unlike other ‘talking therapies’, NLP is not concerned with why you are thinking a certain way, or even what it is you are thinking about, but rather how you are thinking and how you can change this.
How can NLP help?
NLP is a go-to of personal development practitioners and business coaches globally to help people overcome negative patterns of thinking. It really pinpoints those spirals that have become so habitual you don’t realize they’re happening until it’s too late – and it stops them in their tracks.
NLP then proposes simple, intuitive strategies to start interrupting negative thoughts and as well as learn to anticipate when negativity might crop up – and then block its passage. You’ll find that the first few attempts will work well – but what counts is your ability to remain alert to your thought cycles in the long term and consistently alter them so the changes are lasting. Think of it as a game, as if you were a beginner being asked to learn to play poker or any other strategy game – grasping the basics is relatively easy, but to really attain some level of success, you have to slowly and patiently master your craft.
Let It Go
Worrying is like wishing for what you don’t want. Worrying about things that you have done and can’t change, or things that might happen but aren’t certain, are a waste of energy.
There is a famous scene in Bridge of Spies, where captured spy, Mark Rylance, is asked why he isn’t worrying about being executed. Rylance calmly replies: “would it help to worry?” That is NLP in action; worrying doesn’t help, so why not try and resist doing it?
Of course, it’s good to learn from past mistakes and prepare for possible futures, but you shouldn’t let either of these drown out what is happening here and now. If you catch yourself fretting over things you have no control over, take a leaf out of Rylance’s book and ask yourself “does this really help me?”
Change what you think people think
One of the biggest things we worry about is what people are going to think or say about us. This anticipated criticism could often cajole us into constantly “playing safe” and missing out on a ton of opportunities.
The thing is you don’t know what people think of you – If indeed they are thinking anything at all. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you, if you realized how seldom they do.”
Once you understand that a lot of the time you are embellishing if not creating troubling thoughts, you can decide to make up something better. Why not assume that everyone loves you and thinks your ideas are great, and see how much confidence and command that gives you? Before you know it, they really will think and react to you as if that was the case.
Silence your internal voice
The key to NLP is the idea of your internal voice. (If you think you haven’t got one, that’s the negative voice talking again!) For some people, this is the nagging voice of a teacher or a parent, while others can quite happily nag and doubt themselves without any help.
Just like worrying, doubting yourself and letting negative people into your head doesn’t help, but they can feel hard shut off, especially if you’ve let them gnaw at you your whole life.
Yet getting rid of them is simple, you just have to take away their power. Imagine that miserable schoolteacher with a cartoonish squeak, or caricature the droning doubt of relatives into jabberwocky. You’ll be surprised at how quickly their power over you will fade, leaving you with a quiet mind to think more positively.
At the end of the day, it is your mind and so you can decide how you think about yourself and your business. So stop holding yourself back.