3 Dangerous Mindsets That Keep Your Business (And Your Life) Small

Why Mindsets Matter In Business

When Brian Acton was rejected by Facebook and Twitter, he said he was grateful for the connections and opportunity. He went on to develop WhatsApp, which he sold to Facebook five years later for 16 billion dollars.

I wonder what would have happened if he went home sulking and gave up trying. He has what Carol Dweck calls “growth mindset.”

In her bestselling book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success“, Dweck presents findings from years of research into how people cope with failures. It turns out, there are two main mindsets that guide how we respond to failure, rejection and mistakes.

Dangerous Mindsets #1

The first one, the fixed mindset, believes that talent and intelligence is something you either have or don’t. If you have to apply effort in learning that means you are not smart or capable. The fixed mindset leads to becoming a non-learner: “If it challenges me I don’t want to do it.” Being uncomfortable with having to learn something stems from a dangerous belief that if you don’t know something you are dumb or failing.

People with fixed mindsets often feel like impostors when put in unfamiliar situations where they have to learn something. In fact, they may avoid situations where they feel inadequate or challenged and work very hard to stay within the safety of what they know.

Dweck uses the example of Enron to demonstrate how a mindset closed off to improvement, growth and learning shockingly brought down one of the most powerful companies in history. She writes, “a company who cannot self-correct cannot thrive.

Do you have a fixed mindset in business?

The quickest way to know is to observe how you respond to situations where you find out something you did not know, are challenged to learn something new, and when you fail. Do you tell yourself that you are no good at this business thing and that you should just quit? Or do you simply brush it off, minimize or outright deny problems?

Do you avoid taking risks because it involves learning something new? Do you equate success with naturally being capable, never needing to do much learning?

Another way to know is to see how you respond to feedback. The most obvious feedback is how your business is doing, in all of its aspects. In business, just like in life, a fixed mindset will lead you to ignore problems even if they are egregious. Because facing them and fixing them would mean you acknowledge that you don’t know, you have failed or you have more to learn.

In the years that I have been a part of many networking groups for therapists, I have rarely seen established therapists seek advice on how to grow and get better. All I see is how well they are doing.

Success means you have made mistakes.

I am here to tell you, we do not like to share our mistakes or admit that we don’t know something. I blame the advanced degrees, the need to project a certain image of success, or maybe we all have fixed mindsets and are obsessed with winning. When I decided to go into private practice the hardest part was reaching out to a colleague for help.

I didn’t want her to think I didn’t know what I was doing.

In therapy and coaching business, our resistance to changing our practices is shocking (more so in therapy, honestly). I remember when therapists first started creating social media accounts, the backlash from the community was astounding. Everyone had something critical to say about it. Why? Sure, some had privacy concerns but what it boiled down to was rejecting something that challenged their skill level. Something they had to learn, that school did not teach.

Are we moving with the times?

I have observed lately in people who have been in the business for a while and even consult for new therapists and coaches that they preach the same old marketing strategies I heard years ago. Nothing new, except for maybe advocating for podcasts (which I think are awesome).

What about funnels, email nurtures, Facebook conversion campaigns? Why aren’t we offering workshops and membership programs? What about video counseling and high-end service packages? (some are doing these, but that is the exception to the rule.)

Fixed mindsets!

It pains me to see colleagues who are brilliant, have excellent products but don’t know how to promote them. Because in order to know, you have to admit you have to learn something from someone else.

And that can be painful when you think of yourself as a success.

This is partly the reason I started Private Practice Coaching & Consulting, to encourage new and experienced therapists to think outside the box, think big and do the impossible.

Dangerous Mindsets #2

18 years ago, when I was in college in Albania, I made a decision that I was going to come to the U.S to get an advanced degree in counseling. I was going to open my own private practice and make a lot of money because in America people paid therapists $40 dollars an hour! I was optimistic, focused and worked my ass off for a whole year and a half. But everyone said “There is no way you are going to get a Visa.”

“It can’t be done”mindset 

Is possibly the most dangerous one you can have in business. One way to understand this mindset is by using the thinking vs doing paradigm. Thinkers like to contemplate and weigh options. They are logical, calculated and often risk-averse. Doers take action. They can be impulsive but not necessarily reckless. They understand that thinking won’t make it happen.

Thinkers often tell doers “It can’t be done.” They tend to get caught up in their thinking which limits the doing, which in turn prevents the accumulation of new evidence that can refute their thinking (it’s a nasty trap.) So while all my friends were telling me it couldn’t be done I was busy studying for the TOEFL and then the GRE, applying to schools, researching funding sources, crafting and perfecting my statement of interest, etc.

A doing mindset

Is more than a mindset, it’s a discipline of doing. I learned this from running half-marathons. You can’t think your way through 13.1 miles. You have to put on your running shoes and get doing.

When in thinking mode, paralysis often follows. Especially if you combine the fixed mindset with a thinking mindset. Then you are in for years of wanting to grow your business or make a change but never doing it. Which then leads to feeling discouraged, hopeless which reinforces the non-doing. The only way to break the cycle is to put one foot in front of the other and start doing. As my coach puts it, “massive imperfect action!

Dangerous Mindsets #3

You may have heard the phrase “There is always strength in numbers.” I used to believe this. Often, I would lament that private practice can be isolating and I was starved for networking. I joined Facebook Groups, went to networking events, joined a peer supervision group and yet…I felt like something was missing.

A few years ago an article came out in the New York Times that led to an important “aha” moment for me in my business. It talked about how brainstorming sessions are often the worse possible way to stimulate creativity.

The group mindset

Is especially relevant for therapists and coaches. Because we are now in groups more than we have ever been. Networking groups, mastermind classes, Facebook support groups, etc. It certainly didn’t use to be this way. What’s dangerous about the group mindset is that it stifles creativity. How can you think outside the box or develop new, creative ways to do business when you are exposed to the same old tired ways of doing things?!

Don’t get me wrong.

I have nothing against networking or contributing in groups. In fact, I lead my own Facebook group. But I don’t want the members of my group to ever develop a group mindset of how to do things. The group mindset encourages an unfair comparison of your inside with other’s outside. It limits your vision to that of the group and skews your assessment of reality in potentially damaging ways.

Personally speaking…

After 3 years of my doctoral program, I emerged feeling very worried about my practice. I was panicking about changing office location, networking more and being more involved in groups. But the biggest change came when I stopped hanging out in groups and branched out to explore fresh ideas of doing marketing that no one else was doing.

Meditation helps me tap into my creativity. I go to it often to get centered and gain perspective on what is important to me. Reading is another avenue for brainstorming new ideas and thinking outside the box. Sometimes ideas about an ad copy or how to craft a beautiful email nurture come when I am running.

There is a time for group-think and a time for solitude.

Till next time, be awesome and watch your thoughts.



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