Success in Mind

Success in Mind [@MakingTheTrade] S1E7 – Dr. Bonnie Lynch, Psychologist with @ClintBowers
Entering the mind of the Entrepreneur, Psychologist Dr. Bonnie Lynch from helps crack the code on how to endure the journey ahead.


Thanks for joining us Dr. Lynch. As a Psychologist that specializes in overcoming fears, what motivates Entrepreneurs to trade a traditional career path for self employment?

We talk in Psychology about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation…intrinsic meaning that you’re motivated by the thing itself.  There’s something that you just get a kick out of inside yourself about doing your own business.  And there’s extrinsic, you could be in a desperate situation in your job, you hate where you work.  maybe you have huge bills that need to pay, so looking for a way out of that kind of financial mess.  Maybe you’ve got somebody else putting expectations on you that you should do this as it’s not really your idea…so that extrinsic motivation—something from the outside pushing you to do it.

Most of us have really have a combination of those two going on.  To the extent that you can find that intrinsic motivation in yourself to be an entrepreneur or two run a particular type of business—whatever you’ve been dreaming of, if you can make it that kind of experience for yourself the research is that you’re much more likely to continue.  And common sense would tell you that you’re also more likely be happy about what you’re doing if the work itself is the reward.  This is another reason that people become unhappy when the work and companies a lot of times because companies aren’t always in the know about what it takes to really motivate someone.   Your boss may give you raise after raise and you can still be miserable. It’s the same way in entrepreneurship; you can start making a lot of money in your business and it doesn’t mean that things are suddenly going to be great for you in life because if you don’t have any intrinsic reward it’s really hard to keep going through the hard times and it’s really hard to find satisfaction when you do get some monetary gain.


As an entrepreneurial journey evolves, how can one adapt to necessary change while still holding on to what they set out to do?

Entrepreneurs tend to have this streak in them that makes them sensation seekers, not content with the status quo—there’s always that sort-of restlessness that everybody has—but I think that entrepreneurs have it in really high measure.  It makes them maybe a little more blind to the probabilities of failure or success.  There’s something interesting we know about in Optimists versus Pessimists in Psychology—people who tend to be pessimistic have very accurate memories for everything that’s gone wrong in the past people.  People who are Optimists tend to forget about the stuff that didn’t go so well.

I think a lot of entrepreneurs who stick with it are just those optimistic personalities who—whether inherent in them is that streak—or they developed it over time, because you can develop that mindset; they’ve just learned to kind-of slough off the failures, chalk them up as learning points and move on.  And when they move back at their trajectory, they don’t tend to remember all the bad stuff that happens and say that’s my fate now or it wasn’t meant to be.  They tend to look at them as learning experiences, move on and savor all those wonderful things that happen.


With pressure to perform from all sides all the time, how can one’s perspective be both their greatest asset and their worst enemy?

I don’t know of anybody—even a Tim Ferriss or an Oprah Winfrey or anybody you can mention who is wildly successful—I don’t’ think there’s one person who hasn’t had self doubt along the way.  And if you don’t, you’re not being realistic.  Because, not everybody is going to be wildly successful. The question we always ask ourselves is am I one of the one’s who going to fail or am I going to succeed?  We spend a lot of time in our minds playing out the possibility that we’ll fail, and what that looks like in all its dimensions. We start setting up this mental pattern; it’s kind of like a groove in an old road where wagon trains have gone through—there are these deep ruts, and every time we think those same thoughts about can we really do it, am I good enough, what was I thinking getting into entrepreneurship just wear those grooves deeper and deeper in our minds.  And this is not just figurative, this is neuropsychology that shows us, yes those habit patterns are physiological; they are actually laid down in our neurons.  So, we need to be really careful what we’re laying down there—if you want to live in that rut then yes, keep thinking those thoughts but you can pull yourself out of that by changing the thoughts that you fill your mind with.


Even after many success, feelings of self-doubt are all too common with Entrepreneurs. How can we maintain a positive, confident sense of self along our journey?

The first thing I would recommend to people who are going through those feelings of self doubt or impostor syndrome or feeling alone is to really just sit and look at what’s going on in your mind.  Even if you only do it for five minutes a day—if you could sit down and without judgment, without any agenda, except to look at what’s happening in your mind…you can really see the things that you’re obsessed with; and sometimes you’ll see those self defeating thoughts, those fears about failures that haven’t happened yet.  Sometimes we live in that failure, we experience it multiple times and never actually happens in the real world. So just looking at what’s happening in your mind for a few minutes each day can help you counteract those runaway effects of laying down more and more and more negative thought patterns.

Once you see what’s in there, you can start to replace it.  For example, before you go to bed at night instead of worrying about the bills that aren’t paid, or the work that you didn’t get done or where your business is going…it’s helpful to envision where you want to go, envision the success that you want to have, and make that the last thing that you lay down in your brain before you go to sleep at night.  Your subconscious mind can work with that and can reinforce it while you sleep—there’s nothing magical about it; it’s just sort-of a residue of what you’ve been thinking about during the day, so that can be quite helpful.

The feelings of isolation…I can’t recommend highly enough that people go out and be with other entrepreneurs.  No matter what you’re doing—whether you’re an Entrepreneur or something else, having a social network of people you can rely on to be with you, to understand what you’re going through, to give you advice, to just listen to you when you need to rant or have a little nervous breakdown, is so helpful and it can make a difference when you feel like you’re on this tightrope of being an Entrepreneur, can make a difference between a little wobble and completely falling off and crashing to the ground below.


Moving on from the hurdles associated with being your own boss…what positive mental health benefits come from this path?

I think the main, positive psychological benefit on entrepreneurship is control.  That’s [probably not] a surprise to anybody who is doing this entrepreneurial journey, but there are some interesting studies that show the amount of stress we experience is directly related to how much control we perceive over situation.  As entrepreneurs, we take on many times a lot more work, a lot more stress, a lot more headache than many people in a regular job do, and somehow most of us thrive on that.  I think it comes down mainly to the fact that we have control.  For example, today is a gorgeous sunny day here in Portland and if I want to, I can go to the beach.  I can go ride a mountain bike, I can take my dog out for a walk—there’s nobody to tell me I can’t.  The work will still be there when I come back and if I choose to, I can work until midnight tonight rather than until 6pm.  That’s a huge benefit for me and I know it’s huge benefit for a lot of the Entrepreneurs that I talk to.  It’s not just a mental preference we have, it’s an actual psychological benefit.  We control the stress by saying I could choose not to do this, I’m doing this because I want to.  Obviously it’s not that simple all the time and sometimes we do feel very stressed about.  But it’s a more positive kind of stress.  The research shows that it’s the kind of stress that is less likely to lead you to a bad health outcome, or quitting what you’re doing, or depression, so on and so forth.


Along your own entrepreneurial journey, what’s the next big mountain you’re ready to climb?

I think the next big thing for me that’s going to be most challenging is that I’m releasing a lot of new courses all at once on my professional-ed side.  Once they’re out there, I’m kind of out there in a bigger way than I’ve been before.  That’s a little scary.  I’ve had a presence on the web, I’ve been doing some work on my anxiety relating to business, and I’m comfortable with that.  I’m breaking into some newer territory that’s not as comfortable, and the courses that I’m offering are still going to be about fear and how to address fear, but it’s just scaled up a bit.  This is a whole new world of things out there that I’ll be responsible for that my face will be on and that kind of further cement my identity in this space.

We haven’t really talked about that too much, but those issues of self-doubt can definitely come roaring back into action…if you’ve managed to deal with them at the level you’re at with your business and then you move up a tier and you scale up a little…a whole new set [laughs] and some of the same old ones of self-doubt come back.  It’s just a new challenge, a new opportunity to regain the confidence, to reestablish the fact that yes, I’m here for a reason, this is my mission, nothing is going to stop me from doing this…least of all, doubts that I can do it—I already am doing it.  I think that’s what we have to keep telling ourselves, I can do it, because I already am doing it, this is the next step…

For more information about Dr. Lynch and her work, visit

Making the Trade, S1E7 – Dr. Bonnie Lynch, Psychologist on VOLSTA