Resilience for Entrepreneurs – have your “beginner’s mind” available

I have been looking at research on building resilience for entrepreneurs.  Starting-up a new venture brings many challenges; and requires an ability to cope with increasingly complex, competitive and uncertain environments.   To prevail, an entrepreneur will need to master new skills… and quickly; and will need to work through many trials. They will undoubtedly need to be resilient.

The research shows that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT) builds resilience to enable entrepreneurs to avoid wellbeing problems and to remain mindful throughout challenging periods. It shows that MBCT  is scientifically proven to develop long-term resilience; and it is a positive tool for to business leadership.  The research indicates that MBCT is increases life satisfaction, vitality and the quality of interpersonal interactions.  It shows MBCT can  reduce problems related to stress, anxiety and depression .  MBCT is shown to empower people to view events more objectively and impassively… and it enables them to regulate their thoughts, emotions and physiological reactions more effectively .  Good stuff.

Most researchers approach this topic by viewing resilience as comprising three domains: affective, cognitive and self-regulatory…yet they’re interdependent. The “affective domain” refers to the experience of positive or negative emotions and the ability to regulate, or have authority over, ones emotions.  The “cognitive domain” includes constructs that reflect individual’s thoughts, beliefs and evaluations of themselves (i.e. their understanding of their own abilities and their self-esteem) and their interpretation of the situation (i.e. perceived control).  The “self-regulatory domain” refers to the process of self-regulation –  and strategies for persistence, willpower and grit… and for coping with their emotions, impulsiveness, pressure or stress. The entrepreneur will benefit from nurturing all three domains so that they build up the psychological fitness needed to enable them to respond to challenges.

What caught my eye in some of the material were references to self-awareness and the value of retaining a “beginners mind”.

You see,  many would-be entrepreneurs  have a lot of self-confidence (…and I mean a lot…) – which can be good… but it can cause blind spots!  It can manifest as a lack of self-awareness, referred to as  “cognitive/negativity bias” where a person suffers from “illusory superiority” by  mistakenly assessing their ability as greater than they possess. The danger is that they can fail to recognise their own limitations and/or weaknesses.  This an academic way of saying they are “overly self -confident”… and that can lead to problems!

One way around this, without battering the entrepreneur’s self-confidence, is to promote awareness –  including awareness of their own abilities and weakness… yet  also to learn to observe situations objectively – with curiosity – without prior assumptions – with a “beginner’s mind”

“Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryū Suzuki is a thought provoking book.    Suzuki’s tells us “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything… it is open to everything”.

Of course an expert mind is invaluable in many situations … but it’s not “either-or” – it’s both.  When things are unexpected or unexplained then it is important to investigate the situation and to carefully select the right solution…  it might be unhelpful if you are misdirected by your own current wisdom.  You should always stand back and be curious with your “beginner’s mind”…assuming nothing.

So – don’t be deceived by your own self-belief – always be ready to approach a situation with your beginner’s mind.


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