Mindsets, we all have one. But it’s usually not something we consciously think about – like our immune system, or breathing. We’re blind to the profound effect our mindset has on our daily lives.
noun. An established set of attitudes held by someone.
Our mindset has the power to ignite our ambitions and fuel adventures into uncharted territory. It can push us into new, exciting situations where we grow both critically and creatively. But… it also has the power to hold us back, to tether us to the familiar, the safe, the known, out of something as silly as fear. Our mindset can root us in unproductive patterns of thought and action – and when it comes to running a business, this is simply no good.
Entrepreneurial mindset – what is it?
In recent years, a new term has been gaining popularity in the self-employment scene. Entrepreneurial mindset is now part of the start-up and small business lexicon. An interesting sounding concept, but what does it mean exactly? Are there really certain people who are more fit than others to launch into self-employment? Hang on, that seems unfair. Let’s look into this.
6 defining characteristics of an entrepreneurial mindset
Here’s how we see it at Holvi. An entrepreneurial mindset is made up of 6 key traits.
Don’t worry if you don’t identify all of these traits in yourself. You can always change your mindset.
1. Self-confidence – to influence your own outcome
The most successful entrepreneurs have a deep-rooted and unwavering belief in themselves and their vision. They have enough expertise in their field to trust their own judgment – or enough guts to fake it till they make it. Yes, this is where a little reckless abandon is sometimes welcome.
Exactly how many years of experience you have is irrelevant. Some people drop out of school to start a successful business, while others retire from a long career as an employee and find their stride freelancing. What matters is your self-belief.
Entrepreneurs believe in their ability to influence their own outcomes. This empowers them to take ownership (literally) of their work lives.
Note – Dare to delegate
This confidence can also sometimes manifest as a fear of delegating, a crucial skill for any entrepreneur. Once your business reaches a certain size, it’s no use trying to do everything yourself.
2. Intrinsic motivation – to fuel your drive
What wakes you up in the morning? As an entrepreneur, you might have a profoundly personal motivation. This is called intrinsic motivation – and it’s often (but not always) what sets entrepreneurs apart from the crowd.
Intrinsic motivation: comes from within. You do something because you enjoy it and get personal satisfaction from it.
Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from outside. You do something for an external reward, such as money or recognition.
An entrepreneurial mindset is also characterised by future focus. Whatever your motivation, it’s important to hold it firmly in mind each day, map your success, and follow the path you’ve set for yourself. Our friends at Prönö explore this idea here.
3. Solution-oriented – to face down daily challenges
Do your friends come to you for solutions? Maybe you find yourself always looking on the bright side of life. The third characteristic of an entrepreneurial mindset is a tendency to interpret challenging situations optimistically – i.e., always seeing the silver lining. A big part of entrepreneurship is knowing that simply following through on ordinary little solutions can sometimes lead to unforeseen and extraordinary opportunities.
Do you view problems as opportunities? Do difficult situations make you dig deep, to unearth untapped reserves of creativity and strength? If so, entrepreneurship might be for you!
‘When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.’ – Henry Ford
Note – Know when to pull the e-brake
You need to be brave, but at the same time take a realistic approach to risks. Do you know when to pull the emergency break? A healthy mix of risk-taking and responsibility is the foundation for any successful entrepreneur.
4. Growth-mindset – to constantly evolve your skillset
Oooo, meta. A mindset within a mindset! But it’s true. And #4 is easily the most important trait of any entrepreneur. This is because it grants anyone the ability to learn all the other traits. It’s basically a superpower. And the kicker? You can grow a growth mindset. But… what is it?
Psychologist Carol Dweck coined the term when researching people’s fundamental beliefs about themselves.
A growth mindset means that your skills and abilities aren’t set in stone.
This is in contrast to a fixed mindset. Here’s Professor Dweck’s definition of fixed and growth mindsets:
‘In a fixed mindset people believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset people understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.’
Do you have a lifelong interest in the pursuit of knowledge – even if it’s limited to your field? Most successful entrepreneurs enjoy experimenting with new things as a way to learn. If you’re an incurably curious, creatively critical thinker, entrepreneurship might be for you!
5. Humanistic – to create real value for others
That’s a fancy way of saying you care about others. You know that true value is created by solving problems for other people. Some call it ‘other-focus’. Recently, this is giving rise to a new subfield of entrepreneurship called ‘Social entrepreneurship’ – but it lies at the root of all successful businesses. And it’s true not only in the product or service you create, but in your dealing with clients.
6. Community connections – to forge meaningful relationships
Do you surround yourself with highly driven, like-minded people? A key part of the entrepreneurial mindset is the willingness to join a community.
Getting in with the right group of people can be a big source of positive influence and guidance. Do you like forming real, meaningful connections with people who challenge you to grow in new ways?
As one unattributed quote goes:
‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.’ – someone wise
Note – Can you deal with trouble clients?
You might not have a manager and coworkers, but you’ll probably encounter challenging customers at some point. If you’re not afraid to pick up the phone, negotiate and find a solution to difficult clients’ problems then you’ve got what it takes to run a business.
Are you born with an entrepreneurial mindset?
Here’s the thing, the term ‘mindset’ is a bit of a misnomer. The truth is, our thought patterns are rarely set in stone. Even if you identified a fixed mindset in yourself, you can slowly change it.
It might seem like the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are a rare breed of exceptionally bright minds, born with unique traits into unusual circumstances. But this is almost never really the case.
More often, an entrepreneurial mindset is built up naturally over time. This growth isn’t necessarily conscious, but it can be. So that’s our brilliant insight: you can actively choose how you want to develop your mind. As one 19th century poet put it:
‘There is not a dream which may not come true, if we have the energy which makes, or chooses, our own fate.’ – Arthur Symons
Maybe entrepreneurial mindset is just that, an energy. A complex mix of traits reacting with circumstances, fuelling your next business venture.