Breaking free from the constraints of your current thinking habits can lead you to ever higher levels of success.

I recently attended a meeting (virtual, of course!) to talk about why business owners might be reluctant to take on a coach.  We came up with lots of reasons, but then someone asked “what if it’s us?”  

We paused.  

What did this mean?  

“Well,” they went on “we are so steeped in our own language, what if we just don’t tell them what the return on their investment will be in a way that they get it?  What if we don’t ‘meet them at their bus stop’?”

We paused again.

Of course.  

They were right.

We had been thinking about the problem the wrong way!

And thinking about things in the wrong way, or more accurately, in our habitual way is usually how we sabotage our own success.  How we get in our own way.

Let me illustrate this with the answer to a question:   

What is the difference between Derek Trotter and Elon Musk?

If you’re thinking one’s fictional, then that tells me something about how you need to develop your thinking!

If you’re thinking one’s broke (at least until a lucky break with an antique watch) and the other is the richest man in the world, then you’re getting closer.  But the question is Why?

The answer is the way they think.

The following quotes bring this to life:

Wooly Matt David Jason via photopin (license)

“This time next year we’ll be millionaires

Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter

For Del Boy, it‘s all about the money.  He only really thinks of himself, constantly putting long suffering Rodney through horrid, if comical, trials and tribulations.  He relies solely on his own judgement, always thinking himself the cleverest person in the room the ‘Creme de la Menthe’.  And because of his thinking habits, and lack of self-awareness, he keeps making the same mistakes over and over.

“For me it was never about money, but solving problems for the future of humanity

Elon Musk
dmoberhaus Elon Musk via photopin (license)

For Elon, it’s all about solving problems, big problems, GLOBAL problems.  He thinks about what differences he can make to humankind.  He believes there is always a better way to do things, including in the way that he does things (and, no doubt it was this belief that led the richest man in the world to hire a coach!). He is self-aware and seeks to avoid habitual thinking patterns.

Now, I’m not suggesting that any of you are Derek Trotters, and most of you probably don’t aspire to be the next Elon Musk (though more power to you if you do!).  These are obviously extreme examples to demonstrate the big differences that they way you think can make in your business.  

But what about specifics?  How does the way you think apply to common challenges that you might experience in your business?

Before I answer that, I want to expand a little on on what I mean by your way of thinking.  We are all subject to habitual biases in our thinking.  These biases, or Cognitive Intentions™ (Stevens, 2020), lead us to preferring certain ways of thinking over others.  For example, you may have a habitual preference for thinking Towards goals rather than Away From risks.  This habitual preference can blind you to potential problems that will adversely affect, or prevent you from reaching a goal (see Can you be too goal oriented).  Being aware of the biases in your thinking can help you to overcome them.  It can help you to be more balanced in the way you think.  And greater balance means better thinking.

With the above in mind, let’s get into those specifics.

Getting out of overwhelm

Overwhelm is often paralysing.  You just don’t know where to start.  Either there are too many things to do, or too many options to choose from.  Making a decision feels impossible.  So you keep playing the options around in your head, implicitly deciding to do nothing.

If overwhelm afflicts you, it’s likely that you have a thinking style that is biased towards Options over Procedures.  People with this bias can find it difficult to make a decision and can become overwhelmed as a result.

Getting more balance

Your business is going well, but it’s all consuming.  There’s no time for anything else in your life.  You rationalise that you’ll have time for other things you enjoy when you just get over the next hill.  Except you’ve been saying this for years.  Your friends and family understand, but you wonder for how long.

If balance is a problem for you, then there could be a number of factors at play.  But whatever else may be involved, it’s probable that you have a thinking style that‘s biased towards Sameness over Difference.  This bias causes people to keep repeating the same behaviours, even if it’s not working for them.

Reigniting your passion

The challenges have taken their toll, and the excitement has worn off.  You miss that ‘first flush’ you felt when you started your business, and no longer jump out of bed looking forward to what the day brings.

If you’ve lost the passion for your business, then there are a couple of dominant aspects in your thinking style which could be at the root of this.  One of these is related to your motive preferences – what motivated you when you started your business, whether that was Achievement, Affiliation, or Influence, doesn’t seem to present anymore.  The other aspect is a likely preference for Difference over Sameness.  People with this bias feel a frequent need for change and get easily bored if things stay the same for too long.

Getting clarity

You’re working hard, but you’re not seeing the results.  But where is the issue?  And how do you fix it when you find it?

If this sounds like you, then you’re in good company.  Lack of results is common in companies of all sizes.  In this case the bias in your thinking style will be related to the root cause of the issue, i.e., you’re thinking style will be biased in a direction opposite to that of the root cause preventing you from recognising it.

Getting unstuck

When things aren’t clear, you feel stuck.  This is different from overwhelm where you have too many ways forward and can’t decide which is best.  If you’re stuck you usually know what way to go, you’re just not clear on how to do it!  Like overwhelm, being stuck can be, and often is, paralysing.

If you’re stuck, then, among other possibilities, you probably have a thinking style that’s biased toward big-picture, Global thinking.  This bias makes it difficult for you to focus in on the detail.  Another alternative is a bias toward principles, the Abstract, over Concrete facts, which can make it hard to identify the key facts at play in the situation. 

Overcoming frustration with your staff or your team

Problems with people come in all shapes and sizes from the mildly bewildering to the off-the-scale frustrating.  And sometimes it doesn’t seem to matte what you do, nothing seems to work.  It’s like you’re speaking a different language, or live in different worlds!

There are two causes of this frustration one or both of which will be at play to a greater or lesser extent.  The first is a thinking style which is biased toward looking inwardly and/or away from affiliation/relationships.  The second is a habitual thinking style which is contrary to (though quite possibly complementary with) the thinkings style(s) of those you frustrate you.

Hiring the right people

The quality of your hires can make or break your business.  If you’ve ever hired someone who has proven less than adequate (or worse), then you know just how annoying (and expensive) it can be!

There are a number of thinking style biases which could be at play if you have a poor hiring track record, but some key ones are having a bias toward Options rather than Procedures, and bias toward being Trustful rather than Skeptical and for being easily convinced. 

Improving team performance

A highly engaged team is a highly performing one.  A highly engaged team can be up to 25% more productive than the average.  And a business with highly engaged employees can achieve revenue growth up to 2.3 times greater than businesses with averagely engaged teams1.  So what’s stopping you from having a highly engaged team?

As the book Nine Lies About Work illustrated, what engages a team can be quite counterintuitive.  Having a thinking style biases you toward your own internal frame of reference could be a barrier.  Having a thinking style that is biased toward outcomes rather than people and relationships could also be an impediment. 

Being accountable

One of the biggest challenges that business owners can face, particularly in the early days, is being accountable only to yourself.  It’s a major cause of procrastination, and can easily result in your business idea failing to even get off the ground.

A thinking style that biased toward an external frame of reference, being habituated toward being accountable to others, can be the cause of this challenge.  This is particularly true where the activities that you need to be accountable for require aspects of thinking that are contrary to your habitual thinking style.

Be a little more ‘Elon’

There are tools, processes, and methods that can help you to address each of these biases on a case by case basis.  Most coaches will have some or all of these at their disposal.  However, the majority of these tools, processes, and methods can only help you here and now, in your current situation.  And even then, you only get the real benefit of them if you are working with a coach that has a higher level of Dynamic Intelligence™ (Stevens, 2020) than you do (see How to pick a coach).

What you really need is a way to help you pinpoint the key imbalances in your Dynamic Intelligence™ and then put in place a vertical development approach to overcome these.  Over time, this approach will help you to avoid or overcome similar situations and issues without the aid a coach.  It will help you to become a little more ‘Elon’.

Image © 2021 Dr Darren Stevens

An Identify Compass® profile with feedback from a Constructed Development coach will show you your key thinking habits as well as their likely impacts.  You and you coach can then use this knowledge to define a plan for your vertical development. 

If you‘d like to find out how your thinking might be holding you back in your business, then why not book a no obligation discovery call with me.  


Leave a Reply