Last Updated Nov. 29, 2016

7 Mental Barriers That Hold Entrepreneurs Back (and how to overcome them)

BY Navid Moazzez

In this guest post my friend and Virtual Summit Mastery student Sonia Thompson is going to share 7 mental barriers that hold entrepreneurs back (and how to overcome them)

You’ll enjoy this — take it away, Sonia!

Entrepreneurship is exhilarating.

You get to be your own boss. You're the master of your time. You get to control the way you work, where you work, and who you work with.

But who's going to control the one who has the biggest impact on the success of your business?


As an entrepreneur, as many things as you have to tackle, there's one thing that can derail your success if you don't keep it in check: your mind.

The way you think about you. The way you think about your work. The way you think about your business.

These are the things that will make the biggest difference in what you're building. So let's ensure you have what you need to get over these common mental barriers that hold entrepreneurs back.    

1. Having the wrong idea about freedom

Once I quit my corporate job, I felt like I needed to rebel from all things structured.  So I stopped setting an alarm clock, I went to the gym in the middle of the afternoon, and I ran errands and other things during the day.

In other words, I didn’t treat my business as seriously as I should have.

As a result, I ended up working super long and erratic hours.  I worked on weekends. My personal and professional lives seemed to blur together.

I desperately needed structure.

As an entrepreneur, especially if you work from home, you already have to deal with other people infringing upon your schedule.

It’s as if they can’t wrap their minds around the fact that “working from home” actually involves work.

So people drop by, they call and ask “what are you doing?” and they volunteer you to do things.

But if you want other people to respect your work day, you have to respect it first.

Thankfully, I learned how to add some structure to my days. But I so wish I had this advice from Pamela Wilson, long-time entrepreneur and VP of Educational Content at Rainmaker Digital, back in those early days:

Your freedom won't get threatened by putting some guidelines around when and how you work. In fact, you may find even more freedom as a result.

Action step:

Design your ideal work day. Make note of when you get up, when you work, and all the other things that are important to get done during the day.  Then work to set things up to make this ideal day your actual schedule.

2. Figuring everything out on your own

Of course you can figure things out. You're an entrepreneur. You're smart. You're resourceful. And you can always find a way to get things done.

But how long will it take you to figure out how to do every project? Given enough time, most of us can get the job done. The challenge is that time is a finite resource. There’s a limit to how much you can get done in a day.

And with every decision to devote your time to one task, you are saying no to doing something else. That makes it more important for you to make the choice to invest your time doing the things that will bring you the highest return for your business.

The challenge is to determine what things are ok to figure out on your own, versus when you should enlist the help of someone who can point you in the right direction.  

I asked Danny Iny, the founder of Mirasee, about this a few weeks ago.  Here’s his point of view:

Here’s an example to illustrate. Let's say you’ve never run Facebook ads before and running a high converting campaign is necessary for your product launch. The time and money it takes to learn by trial and error may be a risk your business can’t afford to make.

When your time is short, and needs are high, get guidance and direction from an expert.

It'll take a lot of the pain out of the learning process. And it will put you on the fast track to getting the results you want.

Action plan:

What's something that you need to learn to meet your goals? Identify three people or resources that know how to do what you need to do. Then explore ways to learn from them.

3. Using somebody else’s roadmap

Following instructions to the letter is great if you want to do something like put together a Bookcase Billy from Ikea.  But when it comes to building your business, not so much.

That’s because your company has a unique DNA. It’s got its distinct set of circumstances, nuances, and quirks. And that special sauce gets watered down when you follow the instruction manual of someone else too closely.

That’s no good because your special sauce is what will get your ideal clients to flock to you.

When you’ve got a bunch of businesses doing the same things, in the same way, you end up with a bunch of me-too products. Clones. That’s no longer a safe strategy.

Here’s what Kyle Eschenroeder, co-founder of Startup Bros had to say on this topic:

Best-selling author Srini Rao had a similar observation. He wrote about it in his book The Art of Being Unmistakable:

“If I were to use a map long enough, eventually I would become fearful of ditching it for a compass. However, if I want to do interesting work, take risks, and see what I am really made of, I have to be willing to use a compass instead of a map. The day I ditched the map for the compass is the day I walked off the edge of the Earth, and my work became an experience that only I can create for people. Every time I have been given a map, I have gotten lost. The map was based on where somebody else wanted me to end up. By following the map, at best I will become a pale imitation of the person who drew the map.”

There's a million ways to get things done. Invest the time to find the path that allows you to thrive while being you.

Follow the principles of what has worked previously, but not every step precisely. Learn the best practices, and then put your unmistakable spin on it.

Action step:

Identify at least one thing about your business that makes you different. Next brainstorm three ways to amplify that point of difference. You can use it as a trumpet call to the people who will most appreciate how you stand out.

4. Being a perfectionist

Most entrepreneurs don’t have a desire to put out low-quality work. They strive for excellence in everything they do.

And while excellence is an exceptional standard, it can get you into trouble when everything has to be perfect before it goes out the door.

In your mind, there will almost always be something more that you could do. One more little tweak that you could make.

But if you obsess too much on making what you’re working on mistake free, you run the risk of not shipping.

Perfectionism has kept far too many entrepreneurs from putting their work out into the world.

In her best-seller Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott wrote about how negative perfectionism can be.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

Melissa Dinwiddie, the founder of Living a Creative Life, is a recovering perfectionist. Here’s how she describes the impact letting go of perfectionism had on her work:

Striving for excellence is good. Not putting your work out in the world because it isn’t perfect is not.  

You’ve got to work to find the sweet spot in your work to where you feel something is great enough to publish to the world.

Great is not the same as perfect.

Action item:

Identify what your criteria is for something being great enough to ship. What is your lower threshold of quality?

Next create a system that helps you consistently produce work that meets your standards.

5. Fear of tooting your own horn

Most people aren’t very good at promoting themselves.

They forget all they have accomplished and often struggle with verbalizing how the products and services they offer can help other people.

But what if your products and services could change someone’s life for the better?

It may not be the cure for Cancer or the solution to hunger or global warming. But if it can brighten someone’s day, or make their life better in some way, isn’t a slight bit of discomfort on your end worth the benefit to the other person?

Here’s what The Sales Evangelist, Donald Kelly had to say about it:

In one of his famous speeches, Martin Luther King Jr. offered a different point of view on the parable of The Good Samaritan.

If you’re not familiar, the story goes like this: there was a man who was hurt and clearly in need laying in the road. And all the people who were “supposed” to help him kept passing him by.

But The Good Samaritan stopped and tended to the stranger.

According to Dr. King, the people who didn't assist the man in the street likely thought to themselves “what will happen to me if I stop and help?”

When instead, like The Good Samaritan, their question should have been “what will happen to this man if I don’t stop and help him.”

When it comes to your business, be like The Good Samaritan.

Instead of focusing on what people will think of you, or the discomfort you will feel in promoting your business, consider what will happen to those you serve if they don't know that you’ve got something to help them.

If promoting your business makes you feel uncomfortable, you’ve got to reframe your thinking.

Instead of “I’ll sound like a jerk if I keep talking about myself…,” think “If I tell them about what I’m doing, it might improve their situation.”

Action step:

Think about three people who’ve got a problem that your business can assist in solving. Next brainstorm three ways you can let them know that you’ve got something that could help them.

6. Looking at metrics the wrong way

Businesses are about people. Not metrics. Not money. They are about people. Solving problems for and creating value for people.

And as you go about your day to day work, especially if you don’t have direct personal interaction with your customers, it can be super easy to lose sight of the fact that people are what your business is all about.

So you start focusing on vanity metrics such as web traffic, subscriber numbers, and SEO rankings.

You get caught up thinking about how much money you banked last year.

And while those things can be leading indicators of what’s going on in your business, they don't always give you the full picture.

They don't always tell the story about the people your company exists to serve.

Jon Nastor, best-selling author, and host of the hit podcast Hack the Entrepreneur, talked about the role data should play as we run our businesses:

The impact you have on your customers is why you get to do what you do every day. It's how you get to live the lifestyle you desire.

Don’t lose sight of that by focusing your energy on the wrong things.

Your customer is the center of your business’ universe. Every data point and metric you track, should be assessed with a lens toward the people you have the privilege to serve.

Action item:

Keep a file of stories and thank-you's from the people you've helped with your business.

And then each day before you start work, take a look at one of them. It'll remind you of what's important.

7. Getting mesmerized by bright shiny objects

So many entrepreneurs struggle with this.  And it doesn’t help that it seems like there’s a new tool, social app, or “game-changing” strategy popping up.

Today it’s Periscope, yesterday it was Pinterest. What will it be tomorrow?

So not only does the attractiveness of the new things seem appealing, but the desire to get in on the ground floor and be an early adopter shows up fierce.

And if you let it, it will derail all your existing plans.

It’s not that new things are dangerous.  You should be open to new opportunities.  

You’ve just got to view those new possibilities in the context of your existing plan. You’ve got to be clear about your leverage points, and focus your energy on the things that will bring you the greatest results.

Jay Papasan, co-author of the best-selling book The One Thing described the benefits of staying focused this way:

So the next time a bright shiny object pops up and works overtime to seduce you away from your existing projects, ask yourself these questions.

  • What is my objective?  
  • How will this new thing help me reach my goal?
  • Will it help me reach my goal faster than my current plan?  How?
  • What is the learning curve required to enable me to implement this effectively?
  • What is the opportunity cost if I choose this new tool? If I invest time on this new thing, what do I need to stop doing? What impact will halting that project have on my business?

Investing the time to answer these questions thoroughly and thoughtfully, we help you make the right decisions about where to focus your energy.

Action step:

Define what your objectives are and be super clear about your plan for helping you achieve them. Then brainstorm what criteria needs to exist in a new project, to deviate from your strategy.

It’s time to ditch these barriers once and for all

Strategies, tactics, and new tools are necessary. But they won't do you much good if the engine of your business, your mind, isn't well-tuned to get you to your goals.

So make sure you devote adequate time getting your mind focused and functioning like the well-oiled machine that it is.

Ditch these mental barriers that hold far too many entrepreneurs back. Then you'll start to see real results in your business.  


About The Author

Sonia Thompson is content marketing strategist that's obsessed with roaming around South America. She helps entrepreneurs combine the right mindset with the right strategy to grow their businesses. Sonia is also the host of the Entrepreneur Survival Summit, a free virtual conference that's all about helping business owners think like successful entrepreneurs. 



Author: Navid Moazzez
The Huffington Post says Navid Moazzez is the world's leading expert on producing profitable virtual summits. His students have generated 100,000's of email subscribers and millions of dollars in sales in the past 12 months alone. Navid's mission is to show you what is REALLY working to start and grow your profitable online business, wherever you’re starting.
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