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‘Whether I’m working with entrepreneurs or other people who need some kind of emotional adjustment, it all comes down to self-reflection,’ stated mental healthcare specialist, counselor and coach Taylor Wilkins. ‘Self-reflection exercises help you find a much deeper level of confidence and sense of purpose in what you’re doing.’ But before self-reflection can be useful, it requires a deep-dive into self-awareness.
From his 10 years of experience, Wilkins has developed some specific approaches for helping people negotiate and manage the emotional and mental rollercoaster. By way of background, after graduating with a degree in neuroscience from Middlebury College, he jumped right into mental healthcare, working in both group and one-on-one settings with young people. In January 2015 he founded Tailored Quill, a private coaching business that focuses on ‘painful psychology.’
‘I start everyone off with really diving into self-awareness,’ Wilkins continued, ‘self-awareness of their belief systems, of their thought patterns, to the extent to which they feel worthy of what they’re working on, what they’re doing.’ With all of the excitement around starting a business, these foundational aspects can be forgotten. However, as Wilkins pointed out, entrepreneurs ‘bring with them all of those fears, all of those insecurities, all of those limiting beliefs.’
Exploring And Applying Self-Awareness
In light of the ongoing debate of whether you can improve your Emotional Intelligence – and by extension, self-awareness – we asked Wilkins for his opinion. ‘I would argue absolutely that self-awareness can be dramatically improved throughout someone’s life,’ he answered. ‘Once you have an epiphany or a little breakthrough in self-awareness, of understanding something about yourself you never had before, you can’t unlearn it. It opens a door in your mind. This is a new freeing space to explore about yourself. You’re becoming more self-aware for a reason, there’s something that you’re seeking, there’s something you’re thinking about that you want to understand.’
Wilkins sees two complications, however, that can inhibit a person. ‘A lot of people, ironically, get really scared because they don’t know how deep the reflection is going to go,’ he explained. In other words, how honest do you really want to be with yourself? The other factor is that it’s a two-step process: exploring and applying. ‘The problem with self-awareness is that you might learn how to reflect, you might learn how to learn things about themselves, but then you don’t apply it.‘
Discover Your True Core Motivators
In regards to going deep into self-reflection, part of the journey is getting at your core motivators, which is where Wilkins lends a guiding hand. ‘It’s two things. It’s a selfish motivator and a selfless motivator. It’s like your driving forces on a daily basis. Why do you actually engage in the things that you engage in and how do you engage in them. The selfish motivator is how does this one thing serve me, fulfill me as a person. The selfless motivator is how does this serve beyond me.’
Identifying the selfless motivator is generally easier, according to Wilkins. ‘If I asked you why you chose this job, you would most likely say, because it serves XYZ community. Or why did you start your business? Because it has this social impact that I care about. A lot of people are very quick to explain what it does for whoever their customer is.’ That’s the selfless aspect, but as for the selfish part, who wants to admit selfish behavior? Moreover, the selfish one is not always obvious; sometimes it requires pushing the client beyond superficial responses.
Go Deep Into Your Personal Narrative
Here Wilkins takes a more insistent line of questioning: ‘So a social impact mission is great, but why you? Why are you the one who has to be doing it? Why can’t it be anyone else?’ He then noted, ‘That’s where people really stop to think. It’s funny because I’ll ask that question and at first they answer it superficially.’ For example, some might say their selfish motivator is to make enough money to buy a house for their family. ‘It’s a good dream, but it’s still pretty surface level. Making money for business owners can be the go to selfish motivator, but I keep asking why, why, why to get to the point where they give me a passionate answer.’
Flummoxed by the questions, his clients’ initial answers can be at times not only superficial but defeatist. ‘Language that I hear a lot is when they say ‘I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.’ And these are people who have started a business,’ Wilkins observed, ‘so obviously intellectually that it doesn’t make sense.’ Other clients who are struggling with something specific might simply say, ‘I’m not the kind of person who can do that.’ Wilkins hates that kind of response
Clarity Of Purpose Is Empowering
He just keeps encouraging them to go deeper. ‘With a lot of people I work with, they’re embarrassed to think selfishly. I work with people who don’t think they’re allowed to think selfishly. It’s something they feel like they have to earn, or they’re worried that it’s like entitlement or arrogance.’ However, as Wilkins aptly pointed out, ‘It comes down to the classic mantra, You can’t serve others unless you serve yourself.’ For his clients he lays out the argument of how can you support other people – customers, employees, stakeholders – if you don’t support ‘your own happiness and fulfillment.’
‘They finally get to this very personal attachment they have to their goal. It might just come across as a story, a story from childhood or high school. There’s this issue in the world they want to solve. That’s kind of how the conversation goes.’ Once the core motivators are identified, it brings the client a ‘huge sense of purpose and clarity. I mean they have direction but they didn’t really have this idea of what’s the whole driving force behind it. So once they have that sense of purpose and clarity they get empowered. It’s freeing.’
Avoiding Self-Sabotage When Things Go Sideways
In terms of applying these core motivators, we wanted to know how they might help an entrepreneur when faced with unexpected challenges and the self-doubt that can rear its ugly head. Wilkins explained, ‘The getting in your own way, the self sabotage, it’s all about those belief systems, like, Oh I’m not good enough; I’m not worthy of this; I don’t know why I’m doing this; I can’t do this. It’s all the self-talk and the fear that then affects your confidence and self-worth. When we bring purpose and clarity to why they’re doing what they’re doing, then we’re actually able to change around the language they use for themselves for their self-confidence, self-talk, their beliefs and their fears. It allows them to talk differently to themselves in those times of stress.’
Rather than a defeatist attitude, an entrepreneur can now remind themselves why their passionate about what they’re doing, and then look at available resources for tackling a problem. ‘It’s a much more directed strategy,’ Wilkins said. Additionally, it’s important to have motivator reminders. Whether the reminder is a little post-it or a big poster, it’s the language that’s critical. It’s got to be compelling. ‘I like to get creative with it too,’ he noted. ‘If it works for the client I’ll ask them to come up with funny or creative, unique titles for their purposes. Maybe it’s just coming up with funny nicknames for them or little associations.’ He said it can be like you’re playing a character in a story – it could be as simple as and adventurer hunting for treasure.
The Gremlin Versus The Bulldog
Such reminders can extend to visualization exercises. During one particular client visualization activity, the client depicted a little gremlin doll on a leash. ‘The gremlin represented her creativity and anxiety that she was trying so hard to control on a leash. The gremlin’s all over the place. She’s trying to control the gremlin, yanking on the leash. It causes all sorts of tension and stress. In the visualization exercise I said, ‘Change that to your favorite dog. So she changed it to a bulldog.’ Wilkins then guided her through a visualization in which she throws the leash away. What does the dog do, he asked? The client responded that the dog often explored a little bit, but always came back. ‘So I said that it looks like you can trust to relinquish a little bit of control of these things. Your ideas and creativity will always come back to you and it will always be available, less as a stressful gremlin and more as a supportive bulldog.’ The client held onto the visualization of the bulldog and drew it at one point as a reminder. ‘It’s about knowing that there are areas of your business that you can relinquish control of and trust the process will serve itself,” Wilkins concluded.
Trusting the process brings us to an important message Wilkins feels should be on an entrepreneur’s radar. ‘Some think that at any stage of the entrepreneurial journey you have to have all the knowledge to do whatever it is you’re supposed to do before you start the business,’ he said. ‘With that comes the belief that you’re somehow behind, that you’re somehow not keeping up with where you’re supposed to be. They always think they’re somehow behind the curve, not meeting some kind of expectation of pace, of movement or growth.’ However, he emphatically pointed out, ‘Of course you don’t know everything you need to know. You don’t know what you’re going to need to know.’ The idea that you’re somehow ‘behind’ shocks him, because there’s no one setting your pace, there is no pace. Rather, you really have to trust the process. ‘That whole experimental mindset, I like teaching people that.’
Taking it a step further, Wilkins has built his business on the notion that in the final analysis, life and business are ‘a game.’ There’s a tendency, he believes, to ‘attach a heavy meaning to the game, which results in intense competition with ‘a huge amount of unnecessary stress.’ He reminds us that ‘a game is supposed to be fun. Let’s take the stress away and have some fun.’
Note: Wilkins has an extensive blog well-worth exploring.
May 2, 2019 at 01:59PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs