FOUNDER FUEL: Fuel your resilience with little wins each day
It takes a special kind of resilience to be an entrepreneur – we all know running a startup is a marathon, not a sprint – so we need to make sure it stays topped up to go the distance. This little habit is all about doing just that.
Resilience was rated by founders as the most important skill or characteristic needed as an entrepreneur, with 92% of founders selecting it over problem-solving, motivation and even communication skills. And we can see why…
Resilience: The ability to succeed personally and professionally in the midst of a high-pressured, fast-moving and continuously changing environment.
Sounds a lot like an average entrepreneur’s day to us – with the pace and problem-solving that we all know and love resilience is key. To be resilient we need to be adaptable and be able to bounce forward from setbacks. This is about emotional fortitude not a character trait, and it’s fair to say that most entrepreneurs are naturally pretty high on that scale versus the average.
The challenge though, is that these natural resilience resources are also worn down by the constant change and challenge that so many of us thrive on as entrepreneurs. So in order to always have the resilience we need, our job as founders it to keep the account topped-up. It turns out that a little sprinkle of positive focus everyday goes a long way.
That’s what this Little Wins FounderFuel habit is all about – by taking stock at the end of our day and naming just a few wins – however big or small – we top up our much-needed resilience.
Who is saying Well Done to you today?
When in conventional jobs there is usually someone more senior to say “hey, good job” or “you did well on that project”. But as founders – when we’re steering the ship, leading the team and getting stuck in – there isn’t a default source for these Well Dones. The science says that’s not great. Negativity Bias is out to get you (and your resilience).
Ever noticed that constructive feedback rolls around your brain for hours (days?) but the positive feedback just doesn’t stick? This is due to the brain’s Negativity Bias – an in-built sensitivity to unpleasant news, that is so automatic we have no idea it happens. Most likely an evolutionary protection mechanism that kept our ancestors alive in the cave, it is now skewing our perspective silently to have bad-news bias at work.
As entrepreneurs with our fast-paced days it’s easy to see how the negativity bias starts to creep in. How many times have you got to the end of the day and ended up feeling frustrated by the one thing you haven’t done, rather than celebrating all the things that you have done? This can impact our mood and emotional state, and over time erodes that resilience bank account. Not only that, staying in this negative emotional space for too long is proven to eat away at our immune systems too, and we can all do without sick days as founders.
So to be resilient founders we need to redress that balance. Answer: Cultivate the optimism.
Practical steps for founders
At the end of each day, as you’re packing up or on the commute, spend two minutes writing at least three little wins down from your day. Most of our founders have a little notebook dedicated just to these wins. Some days you’ll be able to refocus on something you achieved that really made a difference. Other days it’ll be about the small wins that made progress, and on even the worst of days you can always find three things to be thankful for!
For your team, bake it into the culture with an end of day wrap up to share one thing each person is pleased with for the day, or have team members share positive praise about each other each week.
Take it further: At the end of the week, reflect on the week and celebrate your three big wins before deciding how you’ll reward yourself.
Using positive thoughts to rewire the brain for the better
Having a Little Win or Well Done moment triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps control the reward and pleasure centres of the brain, so it boosts your mood. It can also contribute to innovative thinking and creative problem-solving which is something we all need more of as founders too.
Studies show that making a daily habit of telling yourself the things you accomplished feeds confidence and improves your relationship with yourself and others. The positive effects of dopamine are relatively short-lived though, so to have an ongoing positive affect we need to build it in regularly – hence the daily habit. Over time this kind of habit is shown to rewire your brain to have a more positive outlook on life – which sits at the core of resilience.
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