How shifting your mindset can transform your business
By Holly Anne Mitchell, founder and CEO of the LeadWell Network
In your journey to success as a DSO leader, it can be easy to find yourself feeling stuck, stressed, or isolated. These challenges can make it hard to believe success is even still possible.
But before we can create a new reality on the outside, we have to create new ways of thinking on the inside. Success is a transformation story, and the journey begins inside your head.
In my entrepreneurial journey, the challenges I faced early on provided me the tools I needed to be successful today; even so, my definition of success continues to evolve as my thinking evolves. I had a lot of adversity on my journey at a young age that forced me to start over many times. In these moments of reinvention, I paused to create space to really go inside and understand who I am and remind me what I’m here for. This is a process I call “internal renovation.”
For entrepreneurs and practice owners, that internal renovation is not just for you personally; it’s for the good of your business, because the business is always a reflection of the business owner. Whatever chaos exists within the owner will exist within the practice. The patterns that show up in your team are a reflection of how you show up as a leader. Do you bring out the best in people or the stress in people?
This renovation means taking a step back and taking stock of the bigger picture. Connect with your why, examine the possibilities, and imagine solutions. And imagining solutions requires courage, vulnerability, and creativity.
Unfortunately, the biggest thing that gets in the way of creativity is something that dentists and entrepreneurs are constantly under – stress. And that isn’t just a metaphor; stress literally affects your brain in ways that make it harder to engage in creative thinking. A simple and effective way to remove the obstacle of stress and practice creativity is to develop the discipline of allowing your mind to wander. Journaling or walking device-free can reduce your stress and expand your mind, optimizing your effectiveness when it’s time to grind. Look at your calendar and block it into three sections: grind time (productivity), mind time (creativity/thinking), and kind time (connecting to yourself and others).
Thinking beyond what you can see
There are two types of thinking: Divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Our brains are not designed to do both at the same time. Divergent thinking is examining all the possibilities that exist. This is that creative space of, “What do I want? What might be possible? What do I see for myself?” Convergent thinking is, “What is the action that I can take that will be the next closest step for me to get there?” During your dedicated mind time, it’s important to separate divergent thinking (dreaming of what and where from the space of why) from convergent thinking (logistics of the who, what, and when). If you’re brainstorming with others, allow space in the meeting for both parts of the brain, separated by a break.
Imagine trying to edit a book as you were writing it, evaluating every sentence as soon as you wrote it. The result would be incredibly time consuming, frustrating, and if the book actually managed to get finished, you probably wouldn’t feel motivated to write another one. Trying to create and critique at the same time essentially short circuits our brains, and limits our capacity for thinking.
When we look at what resources we have available, we often only see what’s right in front of us, and not what resources are available outside. The urge is to then go and get those resources – but that just leads back to the never-ending treadmill of more-for-more’s-sake. The treadmill leaves many entrepreneurs feeling exhausted, demoralized and burned out.
The transformational point in my journey came when I shifted my mindset from the treadmill mentality of rugged independent efforting to, instead, “making the request.” I started to learn to make requests early on in my career. And the more I made requests – what seemed to me to be outrageous requests – the more I was able to get to the next level by leveraging the resources and wisdom that exist within my network.
When we take a moment to ask, we create opportunities for giving around us, because people want to give. They want to contribute. The opportunities and the possibilities that exist around them may be one request away. If someone you know has a car, why would you try to ride your bicycle in the rain?
Making the most of those opportunities means accessing your network, and your network’s network. Synergize and share with like-minded individuals, and see your progress accelerate and your results multiply. This feeling of connection and contribution will also pay dividends in your mental health.
Why you need a network
The classic entrepreneurial mindset has a strong emphasis on rugged individualism and says you should only count things as successes or achievements if they were things that you went out and did yourself.
Getting out of that mindset requires a mental paradigm shift. If you can quiet your mind, identify what kind of support and solutions you need, and access your network, there are so many resources that exist within you and beyond you. Your network’s network is full of brilliant, talented friends you haven’t met yet.
The pandemic was especially isolating. It highlighted just how important it is to prioritize human connection.
It’s hard to know from outside appearances who is truly thriving on their entrepreneurial path. But in the conversations I’ve had with my dental clients and friends, those who were in the habit of making requests, and who built empowered teams they could rely on, these friends were able to think of new ways to operate and adapt to a changed world.
On the other hand, those who only tried to keep their head down and power through it alone really struggled. I know, because I was one of them. For the first few months of the pandemic, I was one of those “power through” people. Until it broke me. Alone, in my apartment in New York with nothing to do but work, my mental health deteriorated rapidly. And I knew it wasn’t only me who felt that way.
That’s when I reached out to my friends and asked: “What can we do to help others who are hurting?” We hosted an online event called “Renewal” that combined poetry, storytelling, and neuroscience to help people regulate their nervous systems and share their struggles. This was the seed from which the Dental Avengers for Mental Wellness was born. In December, my friends and I are hosting the first mental health conference in the history of the dental industry. A project created from a network of like-minded individuals who have rallied around a mission to prevent suicidality in and around the dental industry, by providing educational resources for dental professionals and their families.
Remember, each of us is a coach to somebody. A coach is able to illuminate the resources and the possibilities that were already there that may have been overlooked.
While “making the request” is important, it’s just as important to remember to reach out to those on your team, and those in your network, when their baseline behavior has changed. Especially when they retreat from engaging with their networks. Whenever I feel anxious or depressed, I go dark. That’s a cue for a trusted friend or advisor to bring me a flashlight. We sometimes have our heads down so far, or have been isolated for so long, that we forgot we aren’t alone on the journey.
That’s what I love about being a coach. It’s not about giving people advice, or telling them what to do. It’s just illuminating all the resources that already exist inside of each individual so they can keep creating what’s on their heart. It’s reminding them of the incredible dreamer they are, and the irreplaceable impact they make on the people around them.
Holly Anne Mitchell is founder and CEO of the LeadWell Network and founder of the Dental Avengers for Mental Wellness. The LeadWell Network was created to serve the Dental Industry with a new way to live, work, and thrive: from a state of extraordinary joy. The Dental Avengers Mental Wellness Summit will take place virtually on December 3-5, 2021. For more information, visit leadwellnetwork.com and dentalavengers.com.