Business is a wonderful way of expressing your freedom.  You literally design, develop and create a future for yourself that currently doesn’t exist. You get to decide what the vision is, how it will unfold and what goals will be achieved.  It is a massive act of empowerment – sometimes the first major act of empowerment a woman will take on her own.

This freedom you have, to explore ideas and test them out, will lead to hundreds of opportunities to challenge and strengthen your beliefs about yourself and the world around you.

For starters, the space that you operate in often significantly increases.  You realise you need to be seen in more places and be in front of more people if this business is to get off the ground.   Beliefs about your ability to speak in public, to negotiate and to ‘sell yourself’ may rise up as you contemplate being in these new spaces and how you will be perceived there. 

You also discover a multitude of problems that require answers which you don’t have.  Searching around for those answers and deciding which will work for you, is part of this new freedom.  Rarely will you find a handbook that solves every problem you come across when you start a business.

But most importantly, going into business leads you to explore who you think you are as a woman, and what you think you are capable of.  Your personal strengths and stretches (a stretch is something that you haven’t quite accomplished yet but are on the way to it), and your beliefs about what you can and can’t do will be behind every decision you make and every challenge you face. 

Nowhere to hide

In my experience there is no hiding from your beliefs about yourself once you start a business.  Those beliefs that tell us what we can and cannot do, are always present in business.  Sometimes they stare you in the face as you gaze at your balance sheet, while others sneak into bed with you as you try to get the day’s dramas out of your head.   Sometimes they feel like a weight on my shoulders and a noise in my head that I can’t shake.  However, I’ve had a recent epiphany about my beliefs that I thought I would share.

I was lying awake at night, worrying about things that had happened that week.  In my half-asleep state, I could imagine each of the topics I was anxious about, hovering outside my brain like wasps, all waiting for me to focus on them.   As soon as I paid attention to one, it zipped into my mind and, like a virus, downloaded its program.  Everything I feared about that situation flooded into my brain.  My heart started racing and all I could think about were the terrible things that I believed would go wrong.

But as I paid attention to the ‘wasps’, I realised I could label the programs that they contained. One was a program called ‘Financial Future’ and it was full of data about how much money I needed to earn and whether I could afford this or that.  This program was loaded with old stories about failure, success and fearing for my security when the business didn’t do well.

Another hovering program was easily identified as ‘Bathroom Disaster’.  If you have ever tried to replace a few tiles and discovered that every builder wants to rip out your entire bathroom, you might relate to this program!  Both were programs of fear and potential loss.

How we write our code

As each ‘program’ buzzed around my brain, competing for my attention, I felt anxious and helpless to stop them.  But then it dawned on me that I had written these programs!  None of them would exist if I hadn’t spent countless hours, days, weeks and sometimes years, focusing on those exact worries!

So, how did I write them?

Every belief I hold about myself, my business, and my life, has created thousands of neural connections in my brain.    When these old fears come up – whether it is about money or business or losing control – the ‘belief code’ that I have been carefully adding to throughout my life, is quick to take over my thoughts.  My brain is so practiced at using these same neural pathways that my ‘belief code’ runs automatically in the background of my mind.  I had basically handed the keys of my brain over to the program and said, ‘Come on in!  The doors always open!’

What are you uploading?

I’m sure you also have programs filled with ‘belief code’ that rule your thinking.  The programs operate in the background of your mind, quietly uploading their data, and you find yourself drawn back to them again and again.  They disrupt your work flow, they seem to tell you to focus on them and not on things that are more positive and helpful.  Their data is full of beliefs about yourself that you feel helpless to change, such as, ‘I’ll never get through this’, or ‘If I was smarter I’d know what to do.’

I often get stuck right there.  Stuck in a belief that I can’t change these beliefs!

But now, I saw that I had created each belief program and with that, came control.  I realised that if they belonged to me, I had a choice about what to do with them.

  • I could do nothing and continue to allow any belief to drop into my brain and run itself.  OR
  • I could consider whether I wanted to change just one of the beliefs about myself that made up this program and see what happens.  This is what I’ve been practicing now for about 2 years – working on changing one line of belief code about myself at a time. 
  • But I also realised that maybe I could just eject the entire program of beliefs, put it on an imaginary shelf and let it stay there!

So, I tried that.  I imagined this unhelpful program being ejected from my brain and set out of reach, on a very high shelf.  Then I did that with all the other hovering programs. I imagined a stack of folders labelled with each program, on a shelf far away from me.

And to keep them on the shelf, I picked a replacement program that I had used before and knew would help to calm me.  

Replace an unhelpful program

This program is called ‘Be Here Now’.  It’s a very simple program which has just one instruction that I repeat: Be. Here. Now.   That means the only program I’m focusing on is being where I am right now.

I kept the other programs on the shelf (this took a bit of effort for the first few minutes) and paid attention only to the warmth of the room, the quietness of my breath, and imagined the cells of my body filling with gentle, calming light.  This is very basic mindfulness, but that’s all I needed it to be.

Within minutes I was relaxed and feeling safe and in control.  The other programs had nodded off in boredom – when they aren’t the centre of my attention they drift away into the background.

Does this program make you happy?

It made sense to me that if I’m going to be self-employed and choose to manage a business with its ups and downs, that creating helpful programs to deal with challenging situations is better than using the old ones that make me anxious and fretful.

So my task this month has been to identify the programs I have written.  What are the stories I tell myself over and over – the self-talk that sits in the background of my mind and pops up every anxious moment.  What are the beliefs I have about myself and my ability to handle things?  (Here are two I’m very familiar with: ‘I’m drowning..’ when I get overwhelmed, and ‘It’s a losing battle…’ when I think about all the things I should do but can’t find time for).

My next challenge is to learn how to write better programs.  It has only recently occurred to me that if I can write programs with such worrisome and fearful code, couldn’t I also write a program with happy, loving and supportive code?  I’m not sure I really know how to do this yet, but I’ll be putting any of my lessons learned around this in the Practices page.

Even if I choose to keep a fearful program, at least I would have the helpful programs on the shelf ready to upload if I wanted to swap them.   And our brain tends to trust any program that we write for ourselves more than those that are given to us by someone else.

How to move forward

It seems like a useful thing to identify our programs, so I’ve developed a step by step process for you in my Practices Page.   If you want to do it the way I have, then it just takes a half hour of your time to get the idea.

Exploring, launching or expanding a business will test you in many ways.  The belief programs you hold about yourself will rise to the fore and at some point, you will wonder if you are cut out for business.  As the programmer of your thinking, what programs have you written that drop into your mind and trigger fear and low confidence?

The great news is that as the programmer, you can rewrite a program at any time!  Wouldn’t you rather write a program of self-confidence than keep the one of self-doubt?  Give it a try and see how a change of program can change your experiences.