The Mental Cycle

Ep. 7: The Mental Cycle

I was with a friend the other day, talking about this whole business ownership thing and she said: “I think our minds are wired differently.” I couldn’t agree more. Just like a ballerina is wired to think about movement and grace, the entrepreneurial mind is wired for ideas and execution. Have you ever bought a red car and then all of a sudden realized every other red car on the road? The mindset is the same. Once you open up about your thoughts and feelings, you’ll realize that you’re in great company with the tough times and the celebratory ones.

Over the years, we’ve interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs on The Green Couch, talking about the ups and downs of business from a mental standpoint. At Worx, we’ve designed thousands of branding and marketing materials for small businesses. And because I’m a silent observer, I started to notice a pattern. I realized there is a cycle in the entrepreneurial mind. I like to call it, “You Know the Drill.”

Here’s a quick snapshot of what that sounds like:

  • Oooh! I have an idea!
  • I can’t wait to get started!
  • There’s a lot to figure out.
  • Can I even do this?
  • I don’t have any time.
  • Why me? Who even cares what I have to say?
  • I don’t think I can handle this.
  • I’ll work on this when I have time.
  • What was that idea again?
  • Repeat.

Sound familiar?

It is important to recognize that there is a cycle to the way you think and the emotions that come along for the ride. The more you understand them, the easier it will be to accept and work through them. Does that mean it’s easy? Ha, no. However, each season deserves its time and know that it’s “normal” takes a lot of pressure off of you, wondering if you’re the only one feeling like this.

(Tune in to this week’s episode of The Gutsy Podcast – I spill the beans on which part of the cycle I’m in right now!)

Here’s the process I’ve seen hundreds of entrepreneurs go through:

Do you remember the moment when your big idea came to you? This exact feeling is your Aha! Moment. In this moment, the worlds have aligned, you’re energized, so excited that you can hardly stand yourself, and can’t wait to share with the people closest to you. It’s the breakthrough moment where all the random thoughts and ideas you’ve had come together to create a whole. You’ve got a little extra pep in your step and the butterflies are fluttering full-force. People can usually tell when you’re in this phase because there’s a special something about you – it’s the magic.

Ideas in Motion
This is when you hit the ground running. You’ve got the idea and need to make it happen. Your every waking moment is spent planning, researching, sketching, figuring out, sharing, and brainstorming. You become a student of Google University and get insight from your trusted peers. Sometimes it seems like you can’t get the ideas down fast enough! It’s this stage that the idea transforms from a thought to something tangible with a plan. How the heck are you going to do it? You’re figuring it out.

Mental Scramble
Here’s where we start taking a turn. This is usually when the little voices in the back of your head start feeding thoughts to you. They’re the quiet whispers that make you question whether or not you can or should actually embark on this journey. What if it fails? What if everyone hates it? What if it succeeds and I don’t know how to handle it? Who am I to do this? No one cares what I have to say. I should read another book first or take one more class. This phase is all about mental chatter and the shit we tell ourselves at 3am.

Thumbs Down
From time to time, you may find that you listen to those whispers. The excitement fades and you stick your once insanely amazing idea in a drawer and close it. Maybe you feel overwhelmed with tasks or are distracted by the 100 other things that need to be done right now, things that seem “easy” because they don’t take the brainpower your new idea does. Think of this as the silent screeching halt. It’s very common to go from doing it all to doing nothing simply because you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t do it.

And then, the cycle continues. If you think about the cycles of anything else, like the weather or new year’s resolutions, these things don’t stick around. They come, do their thing in their season and move on. It’s important to recognize which part of the mental cycle you’re in and that it’s temporary.

Sure, it would be awesome to always be in Aha! mode, but then you’d never get anything done! It sucks to be in thumbs down mode, but knowing that it’s temporary and you’re next Aha! is right around the corner is a lifesaver, especially when you feel like you want to give up.


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