How Psychology Can Make or Break Your Business

Are you aware of the unconscious psychological forces that can improve or undermine your business?

Recognizing which traits are which — and learning how to use them to your benefit — can support or impede your company’s growth, according to two experts in the field. Therapists Peter Shallard, also known as “the shrink for entrepreneurs,” and Joyce Marter, CEO of Urban Balance, work closely with business owners to help them understand their thoughts and behaviors and use the knowledge to their benefit on the job.

Here are a few psychological traits that Shallard and Marter say you should either exploit or avoid.

What Can Boost Your Business

  • Conscientiousness — According to Shallard, conscientiousness is a trait you should cultivate. Research has shown that meticulous, careful people are more likely to have higher incomes, better health, and happier marriages. Conscientiousness is also what motivates entrepreneurs to follow through. “It is the trait required to be a finisher,” Shallard explains. “Most failed entrepreneurs only get to the starting part.” How does one cultivate greater conscientiousness? While he cites the Army as the best example of an institution which “basically powers up people’s conscientiousness,” he says anyone can cultivate conscientiousness by participating in activities “that involves greater ritualized habit building [such as] learning martial arts, committing to any kind of exercise regime, or working with a personal trainer. Whenever someone deliberately creates and commits to structure in their life, they’re building those conscientiousness muscles.”
  • Risk tolerance — According to Marter, “tolerance for risk is the most essential psychological trait small-business owners must possess to successfully surf times of uncertainty and challenge.” To be successful, you must find the right balance between being averse and addicted to risk-taking. On one hand, if you’re overly anxious and fearful of taking risks and “crave predictability and security,” entrepreneurship may not be the career for you. On the other, if you’re compulsive and reckless, it could spell disaster for your business. What can help quell a compulsive need and encourage a healthy amount of risk is having the right people to keep you in check. Marter suggests finding a good financial adviser and/or accounting consultant to aid in both.
  • Creativity — Creativity is a must for any successful small-business owner. It allows you to think outside the box and to solve problems, even when the going gets tough. To keep creativity flowing without allowing it to overwhelm you, Marter encourages “clients to only make one significant change at a time, as entrepreneurship is a bit like a house of cards — you want to stabilize each layer before building the next.”
  • Confidence — This may seem obvious as an important trait for entrepreneurs, but it’s having the right amount of confidence that can make or break your business. Coming across as overly confident can put your company at risk, Marter says. “If taken too far to the point of arrogance, this trait can become a liability. Arrogance can lead to ego-driven foolhardy and can damage relationships and reputation, both of which are key for business owners,” she notes. “A little humility demonstrates respect for both self and others.”

What Can Ruin Your Business

  • Fearfulness – While some fear can motivate you to work harder, too much of it can paralyze you. “Fear of failure and success … stem from identification with the ego and fear of loss,” Marter says. To manage fear, she suggests that entrepreneurs “practice meditation or other mindfulness techniques that will help you align with your highest self and life mission.”
  • Self-sabotage — “So many entrepreneurs sabotage themselves in the pursuit of a goal,” Shallard says, “because while part of them, usually the conscious, logical mind, desperately wants something … another deeper, unconscious, intuitive part doesn’t want it.” His solution? “The first and biggest step to resolving internal conflict and self-sabotage is to actually admit that it’s going on.” Instead of addressing the issue, entrepreneurs often ignore it, making the problem worse, he says. “Once you ignore the unconscious mind in such a major way, it begins sabotaging [your] actions in order to be heard.”

About Brandi-Ann Uyemura

Brandi-Ann Uyemura is a freelance writer with a passion for inspiring others. She holds a BA in English and a MA in Counseling Psychology and has worked as an associate editor for Psych Central, a copywriter for various online retailers, and a columnist for The Writer magazine.
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