Entrepreneurs are often results-driven individuals and many of them stand out as what we would normally call real goal-getters. These are the people we admire so often for coming up with an idea and pursuing it undeterred. They believe in their idea and they burst with enthusiasm. These people would of course inevitably meet at least one person who will try to curb their enthusiasm by mentioning at least one thing that will go wrong but their (unsolicited) advice will fall on deaf ears.
Of course, not all entrepreneurs are like that. Many learn through experience to take a more balanced approach. Many are more conservative to begin with…there is a continuum rather than a fixed number of “categories”.
However, what I am trying to highlight is that some of us are more inclined to chase goals so much so that we might fail to prepare for the worst. In my opinion having a big enough mission to believe in is cornerstone for big breakthroughs and big companies have become big precisely because they had this energy-driver but this not mean that one should completely disconsider risks. As the saying goes ,“hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. Without any consideration to the possible stumbles progress might actually take longer or become highly unlikely; for example, one can overlook the effects of innovation, fail to consider the importance of cash-flow planning (profit is not cash), underestimate the macroeconomic risks, build a company without a sufficiently flexible cost structure, miscalculate the effects of taxes, misjudge the availability of resources etc. So, how can one go about it?
First of, you have to assess how much of a ”goal-getter” are you. When considering your objective think of some simple questions such as “what do you want to achieve?”. Your answer will reveal whether you are looking to move towards something (eg. Financial independence) or whether you are seeking to move away from something (eg. I don’t want to worry about money anymore). In fact, in Neuro Linguistic Programming, these two thinking patterns (aka meta-programs) are known as “towards” and “away-from” respectively. It is important to consider that one’s meta programme might be different depending on the context (eg. Family relationships, health etc), so if you are seeking to determine yours in a business context than frame your questions accordingly. In practice, it takes a bit of know how and diligence to determine your meta programme correctly because some initial answers can be misleading; for example, after answering “financial independence”, I can ask “what does financial independence mean for you?” and get an answer which is revealing an attempt to avoid something. One can also consider past experiences and see if (s)he can recognize a tendency to rush into things without recognizing potential pitfalls which seem obvious with the benefit of hindsight (by the way, do you remember saying that often?). In any case, what I am trying to highlight is that a strong Towards pattern can be a source of problems. If however you find that you have a balanced thinking or a “healthy” dose of Towards thinking, hold on to it..it is important for effective goal setting. If you find that you could use some “safety” measures to curb your “Towards” tendency start with making a habit of using SMART goals. What this means is that whenever you are setting an objective you should start weighting in the context and the repercussions. Ask yourself questions such as: 1. What will happen if I do…? 2. What could stop me from achieving this? 3. When do I want it? 4. With whom do I want it? 5. What resources do I need? 6. Have I done it in the past? 7. What feedback do I need to confirm whether I am on the right path? etc In other words, put some thinking into it. Allow yourself to consider the broader picture, account for the context and repercussions.
It also helps to work with someone who has a greater “away” thinking pattern to help you consider risks. However, you have to assess first whether you would be listening to such a person as here again, there is a meta programme that can get in your way. How do you know when you’ve done a good job? Do you trust your own decisions or do you seek some form of external evidence? In the former case you have an internal frame of reference whilst the latter would be an external frame of reference. Do you find yourself often asking for someone’s opinion and completely ignoring it if it’s not what you were thinking? (that was me before learning NLP).
In most cases an internal reference with an external check is the best option in the sense that you can decide based on what you know but after getting an opinion from someone else too; naturally, I am assuming you are asking for the opinion of someone with relevant knowhow or experience.
If you are closer to an internal frame than there is the risk of totally rejecting the “nay-sayers” so you would need to be aware of that. A few steps that can help with managing that risk for making sound decisions:
1. Shut down your internal dialogue whilst LISTENING. Do not think of your counterreply…just LISTEN. 2. Ask yourself “what if…the counter opinion would be true?” You don’t have to decide at this stage if it’s right or wrong; instead just consider this scenario even though you are unsure about its probability. The mere fact that you allowed yourself to consider it can bring to light a possible flaw in the plan. 3. Ask yourself “how can this affect my success in reaching my objective?”. Where possible quantify the impact of the risk’s materialisation to get a clear picture. 4. Ask yourself “how do I know when I am wrong?”
You should also know that you can change your meta programs and even gain the mental flexibility of choosing the pattern you are using depending on the context. As Richard Bandler joyfully puts it, NLP is not about playing God, it’s about increasing the options that one has.