“I don’t know where to start.” I hear this phrase often as I begin working with aspiring entrepreneurs and career-changers. That phrase can mean a couple different things, and in order to determine how to help the person, I need to understand what it means to them. Sometimes those words mean, “I’m overwhelmed. The dream I have is big and it seems like the space between where I am and where I want to go is large, and I don’t know how to break it down into pieces I can manage.” When that’s the meaning, we focus on designing a roadmap to LEARN… because the only difference between where that person is and where they want to go is the knowledge of the steps along the way.

However, sometimes those words come from the belief that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to move forward. Fear of making a mistake, fear of failure, fear of embarrassment (what will people say!? They will just roll their eyes and say I have no chance of success…) combine to influence the would-be entrepreneur and prevent him or her from making a move. Make no mistake – these fears are powerful! If left to their own devices, they can prevent your creative energy from being channeled into productive activities. Instead of moving forward, you remain paralyzed, doing your “safe” job, your “expected” role, with YOU telling your dreams that they are childish or will lead you to certain financial ruin.

As a parent, if your child came home and said they weren’t going to try something because someone else told them they couldn’t do it, you would be outraged! You would tell your child to not listen to that person; to “ignore the haters” and move on, giving it his or her best shot. For entrepreneurs in this position, it’s important for them to see that they are doing this to themselves. Only once we address this negative self-talk head on, can we truly make progress.

This is not a one-time discussion; we all fall victim to doubt and negative self-talk from time to time. The key is to identify it, and design replacement behaviors to begin to train our minds to reject the negativity and move forward in a productive, positive manner. Colin Powell, retired four-star general of the U.S. Army, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State, addresses this issue in his rules for life: “Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.” Differentiating between destructive and constructive feedback is a critical skill for protecting your mental health and moving forward to achieve your goals.

One trait I’ve seen over and over in successful entrepreneurs is the belief that regardless of what has happened before, this time is going to be a success. As it has been said, success is determined not by how many times you fall, but by how many times you get back up. That resilience doesn’t come from thin air- these entrepreneurs have found a way to tell the “Negative Nancys” inside their heads to go pound sand. They just don’t hear it. They are their own biggest champions.

Which reason is the one keeping you from moving forward?

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