Last fall, I went to a business breakfast for women. I love these meetings, because they are both professional and social at the same time. We enjoy delicious food together, get to know new people who either are entrepreneurs already or who aspire to start their own businesses. It’s always an inspiration. Every business breakfast follows the same schedule: We meet, introduce ourselves very briefly, have breakfast and one of the participants will give a talk about a selected topic (which usually has to do with their own business).
Women tend to be overthinkers when it comes to starting a business. They have great ideas, but – full of doubts – never take action.
That very morning, the speaker – let’s call her Julia – started with telling a story about her own journey. When Julia turned 30, she suddenly felt a bit anxious and awkward. Not because she was getting older, but because back in her early and mid-twenties she used to imagine herself being an entrepreneur – before turning thirty! However, she didn’t know how and where to start. At a start-up congress, she attended a round table for female entrepreneurs. The speaker said: “Women tend to be overthinkers when it comes to starting their own businesses. They have great ideas, but they hesitate and, full of doubts, never take action. Men are the opposite: They have a business idea, they go for it and, eventually, might become successful – or maybe not.”
Julia recalls this being her wake-up call. She stopped hesitating and soon after, she started her own business.
This sounds a lot like those post-modern heroic legends like the ones featured on MTV Made, doesn’t it?
Those stories go like this: A chubby, unsecure kid who hardly knows how to hold a ball in both hands aspires to be the next basket ball star of the varsity high school team. Comes MTV with a drill instructor, the kid gets up at 5 a.m. every morning to do crunches and stuff, cries a lot and looks very pitiful. After 8 weeks, the kid hardly passes the tryouts. More crunches and crying. Suddenly, something wonderful happens: The kid transforms into a sporty teenager, scores 5 three-pointers in a row at the final game and everybody is very impressed.
So, without a yelling drill instructor at our sides, how do we get from the point of hesitating to the point of taking action and making “it” happen?
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy says it’s about the tiny tweaks!
In her research, Amy Cuddy looks at how testosterone (=power hormone) and cortisol (=stress hormone) levels are influenced by an individual’s body language. She invited different people to her lab and asked them to do certain body poses for two minutes. Participants who did power poses (like stretching out in an office chair and leaning back with their arms crossed behind their heads) have been found to have lowered their cortisol levels by 10%. Those who were asked to hunch up in an office chair (which is not considered a power pose), increased their cortisol levels. The latter group, thus, felt more anxious and stressed out.
Amy advises us to do power posing every day for two minutes: In the bathroom, in an office behind closed doors or wherever possible: Stand up straight, feet hip-wide, shoulders back, arms stretched out. Make yourself big. Posing like this, she says, makes us believe that we are more confident, lowers our stress hormone and increases our power hormone levels. Thus, we will become more confident in the end and others will see us this way, too. It’s that simple.
Configure your brain! (Amy Cuddy)
In her TED talk, she gives a great explanation of how this works in detail and what the science behind it is. At the end of the video, Amy reminds us to “fake it ’til you become it”. There’s nothing wrong with that, she insists. You’re not an impostor. You really just put yourself out there and practice what life and work would be like if your dream had already become reality.
A very good friend of mine once gave me a similar piece of advice: When you are hesitating about how to start with something and you get all anxious and would prefer to not start at all, just imagine that your goal had become reality already and then think about which steps to take.
So the very first steps of entrepreneurship are “fake-it” steps: Attend a start-up meeting in your region. Talk to others about your future business. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Enjoy yourself. Be open and friendly (– remember, you will attend these meetings regularly now, meet the same people over and over again and you’ll build social relations with them). Pretend to be just one day away from founding your business (– no need to tell this to anyone. Just pretend it to yourself.). This works for aspiring freelancers, too. Go ahead, try it :-). But watch the video first. It’s great.