Change of Perspectives – Emotional Agility and Female Entrepreneurship
Karen Wendt, SFTL President & expert in responsible, impact and sustainable investing
Emotional Agility is a concept that is rooted in neuroscience. The more we understand how our brain works, the more we can influence how we think and act. We can even delete old thinking habits and replace them with new, more future-oriented and entrepreneurial ones. The reason is the neuroplasticity of our brain. It’s also true that our body and our limbic system have stored old experiences, and they are directing us when we are in autopilot mode, which, according to Nobel Prize winner Kahnemann, happens 80% of the time.
We are using heuristics and shortcuts, and we are regenerating past experiences, which provide us with the continuation of our past lives. Our reptile brain, the limbic system, is optimised for speed and here to protect us through its fight or flight reactions, and therefore stores all we experience. The downside of these fight-or-flight reactions is that we get stuck in our old habits.
The newer brain we have, the neocortex, allows us to reflect, change perspectives, and make new experiences. We can even overwrite the old ones. Kahnemann reminds us that being on autopilot means thinking with our system one, which is fast, while reinventing ourselves requires us to use our neocortex to work with our system two, which is reflective and therefore slower (Kahnemann: Thinking fast and slow). System two takes in a lot more information. Emotions are rooted in system 1, and this is the reason why we might react all over again in the same manner to a new situation.
Agility means now to use more of our system. One good idea is to do three new things every day with the consciousness that we open up to new experiences and with the intention that we do not want to replicate the past. It has not been so long since women entered the entrepreneurial space, and there are still a number of antiquated belief systems in the way of female entrepreneurship and success. Let us not blame others but move ourselves. Let us first see how our thinking influences us.
How thoughts can affect your success rate
Nelson Mandela said it best: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I would add that it will remain impossible unless you do everything in your power every day to make it happen. Our minds are powerful, and our thoughts determine how we perceive the world.
So first of all, you need to get rid of all dream-stealers. You are too young, you are too unexperienced, etc. Don’t do it. The truth is, you will never get it perfect the first time, but you will put yourself on a learning curve.
Women tend to want to plan and to ringfence against all eventualities, and here is the result:
Here are just a few examples of how our thoughts can affect the chances of closing a round of capital.
- Thinking too conservatively about venture capital, then, may it have unattractive growth potential as a consequence?
- Starting fundraising too late means you risk getting exhausted by exhausting yourself, and you may run out of money.
In order to start your own start-up, you need to be a firm believer in your success. If you do not believe in that, why should anyone else? One risk, therefore, is to be too critical of yourself. It might be better to accept that you do not know it all and that you will fail until you succeed.
One huge advantage women have, however, is that they are normally quite good at execution. Do they believe they are always right? No, they don’t. Ego increases execution risk; investors look for coachable founders. That is the female chance.
So the first thing to do as a coachable founder is review your perspectives on entrepreneurial issues. A change in perspective is powerful, in particular when you allow yourself to see even failure with new, constructive eyes.
How to create a change in perspectives?
When you create programmes for your clients that involve some kind of life change (as opposed to a knowledge-based self-learning programme), you have to think through thinking blocks. In other words, either you or your client couldn’t achieve their goal because their or your thinking was blocked. Usually, there are several blockages.
Let’s use a simple every-day example: you can’t communicate with your partner without getting angry. This is not fixed simply by giving away a few communication tools. Making change happen is a conscious, long-term journey (your system is not so quick). Very often, when you are reflective and change your behaviour, 6 months later, however, the old patterns return (anybody who has stopped smoking might have experienced that) because the old beliefs overwhelm the methods and knowledge you created and installed into your daily behaviour.
In order to make transformation sustainable, you need more than a couple of tools and behaviours to change. You need a change of perspective. Transformation is aided by those “aha” moments when your eyes are opened and you suddenly see things from a new perspective. So when you are in transformation, try to think about the internal journey.
What beliefs are holding you back, and what new beliefs do you need to help you succeed? What are the perspectives that need to change?