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Redesign your mental model: 3 questions small business owners should ask themselves every day

February 18, 2020

There’s no getting around it. It’s tough running a small business. Amidst the constant busy-ness of business, SMB merchants are often stressed, time-pressed, and pulled in every direction by things and people demanding attention.

The work day offers little space to think beyond the next minute, little margin for error, and even less room for strategic thought that nurtures a growth mindset. If you’re able to carve out even a few minutes for reflection, this post will help you use that time to the fullest.

How mindset affects your success

Why does mindset matter? Because it predicts achievement, as Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck discovered.

In one study she conducted, Dweck offered children a choice: either redo an easy jigsaw puzzle or try a harder one. Some children chose to redo the easier puzzle to ensure they succeeded. For them, success meant feeling smart. Other children, however, chose to work on the harder puzzle. For those children, success meant growing smarter by tackling a more difficult puzzle. These children demonstrate the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

In years of research, Dweck has discovered and confirmed that success depends on mindset. It’s imperative that you, as a business owner, take steps to turn your mindset to success—a growth mindset.

How to change your mindset to success

You’re a busy business owner. How do you stay stress-free and create the space and time you need to embrace a growth mindset? Consider redesigning your mental model or thought process about how the world around you works. Transformation can start with a simple habit that takes mere minutes a day, a habit that reshapes your perspective and reawakens the entrepreneurial mindset that inspired you to start your business in the first place.

Whether you think of it as a new habit, ritual, or routine, a change in behavior can set you and your business up for more success this year. This change is as simple as asking yourself three questions.

1. What do I want?

This first of three morning questions serves to remind you what you’re trying to accomplish and why you’re doing what you do.

  • What drew you to the business you’re in?
  • Why did you start your business?
  • What is your favorite part in the adventure of being a business owner?
  • What does your ideal work day look like?
  • What do you absolutely love about the job?
  • What keeps you coming back for more?

This question helps you recapture that inner fire that motivated you to launch your business. Centering your thoughts on that memory can fuel excitement for your day, whet an appetite for the day’s challenges, and inspire even more big-picture thinking.

2. What or whom can I help?

This question refocuses you on your purpose, on whom or what you’re serving, and reminds you how your business connects with your community.

Focus on the day at hand, and consider where you or your team may need the most help.

  • What decisions will they need you to make for them today?
  • How can you guide them to use their abilities to maximum effect for the business?
  • What might your customers need from you today?
  • What needs exist in your area that your business can fulfill?
  • Do people often travel through your community? If so, how do their needs different from locals?

Taking a few minutes in the morning to consider how you can best help your team, your customers, and your business sets your own expectations for the day. And it helps you brace yourself for the inevitable and unexpected problems of the day, so you’re not blindsided when problems and people require your attention.

3. What should I focus on today?

This question bridges your new morning ritual to the day at hand. Like choosing an intention for meditation, yoga, or prayer, this question helps you identify a focus and drive your day’s efforts towards that goal.

Try a few different ways to approach this topic with other questions.

  • What needs to happen for your business to run smoothly today?
  • What do you want to happen at your business today?
  • Can you find a balance of priorities that includes both needs and wants?
  • Can you identify a way to help employees perform better?
  • Can you solve a business problem you’ve been stuck on for a while?
  • Is there new merchandise to set out for your customers?

This exercise can help bring more clarity to your game plan for the week. For example, today, you’ll focus on having your team set out new inventory, tomorrow you’ll have the team work on new merchandise displays, and the following day you’ll focus on encouraging the team to point out the new inventory items to each customer that walks through the door.

The wind-down question

One of the toughest realities for business owners is finding time to let go of the day’s busy-ness and wind down.

A simple way to keep your mindset focused on growth and begin to quiet your mind for the day is focusing on the positive outcomes of the day.

Ask yourself: “What was today’s biggest win?” or “What did I learn today?”

Whether you’re in your car driving home, in the carpool line picking up the kids, or in the bathroom brushing your teeth, reflecting on the positive outcomes of the day can help clear your mind of the day’s frustrations and refocus it on the good you accomplished.

And taking a moment to focus on the positive outcomes of the day, even if small, can offer a much-needed mental respite from that nagging sense of frustration or failure that can creep up at the end of a busy day.

Putting it all together

To create a habit, routine, or ritual, engage seriously with your morning questions and answers. Jot them down in a daily journal. Make a voice recording during the morning commute that you can play back to yourself anytime you feel you’re losing focus on your goals. Speak your thoughts aloud in a mirror while dressing or showering in the morning.

Once your morning questions become routine, share them. Help your employees, colleagues, or business partners establish a growth mindset, too, by setting aside time once a day, once a week, or even once a month to discuss morning questions together.

Taking time to practice this new habit can transform your mindset, and, in turn, prepare you to lead your business and your team to the next level of growth.


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