How to maintain a healthy mental attitude in business

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Flo van Diemen van Thor
Leadership Development Coach and Mentor

As anyone with a bit of business experience will attest, for us entrepreneurs it can be hard to keep our mental attitude at the level we need it to be. Even the most experienced, toughened entrepreneurs can wrestle with trying to keep a positive mindset while on the outside everything looks great.

Many of us fear seeing our ideas rejected or our enterprise suffer under our shortcomings: it’s only natural to experience self-doubt. After all, if we are the only ones on the planet buying into our brilliant business idea, it’s a pretty lonely existence. Never mind hoping to pay the bills with it someday…

Neither is it particularly energising having to explain to well-meaning friends and family why our exciting new start-up isn’t earning us a living – yet. When it gets personal like this, our self-esteem dips and our mental resilience heads south.

Keeping calm and carrying on enterprising is tough

And so we work hard to maintain a positive mindset and project confidence.  This makes perfect sense, because an idea presented with passion and enthusiasm is far more likely to gain the support it needs to come alive than one that doesn’t!

While it is true that projecting a confident image to yourself and others is important, no-one is going to believe us if it is evident that we’re faking it. In fact, when the going is tough, the need to maintain an upbeat façade can be the very thing that stops us from achieving what needs to be done.

It’s all about balance

In their book, The Upside of your Dark Side, authors Biswas-Diener and Kashdan argue that we cannot deny that emotions are key to our mental attitude, whether we like it or not. In fact, emotions can be very helpful in business situations, including (and sometimes especially) negative ones. Being fully aware of and engaged with what makes us unhappy helps us spring into action and address it.
Here are two examples.

1. Angry people are less gullible

We don’t like the feeling of being angry, so we work hard to make it go away. We do this by asking questions and demand more answers than we would if we were happier. The stakes have changed, and we are emboldened to ask yet another question in response to an answer. In other words, we are less easily influenced by someone’s arguments if we are angry, and that can lead to very different outcomes.

2. Anxiety is a safeguard

High levels of anxiety are bad for our health. Anxiety is also a very clear indicator something isn’t right, so don’t ignore it and investigate instead what it’s about. Anxiety also leads to a heightened mental state which we can use to tap into our creative reserves which we need for problem solving.

In summary, maintaining a healthy mental attitude is about ‘wholeness’, a balancing of the good with the bad and understanding the role of each. Negativity can be very informative and help us get back on track. If and when it hits us, let’s interrogate it, and we might just find the answer to our problem.

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