As part of StartupScene's op-ed series 'The Real Deal', Dina El Mofty shares her views on how entrepreneurs can build a growth mindset to help overcome the myriad challenges of starting a business
StartupScene’s op-ed series ‘The Real Deal’ asks some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs to share their stories, passions, struggles and personal thoughts on the workings of the ecosystem and their entrepreneurial journeys. This is a glimpse behind the headlines, the raises and the often misleadingly tantalising veneer of the fast-track.
This week our guest writer is Dina El Mofty, founder of Injaz Egypt and more recently Build Your Business Bootcamp. In her in-depth oped, she shares her views on how entrepreneurs can build a growth mindset to help overcome the myriad challenges of bringing their business to life.
This is Dina El Mofty’s REAL DEAL…
As entrepreneurs, we constantly find ourselves riding on a mental and emotional rollercoaster.
A huge part of being a founder and business owner is the way in which we approach and deal with the continuous challenges that come our way. We all go through moments where we feel stressed, drained, and even burned out! By default, this can take a toll on our health both physically and mentally.
Our minds are a powerful tool that can make us or break us, which makes it imperative for us to regulate our thoughts and emotions. We essentially need to master our mind set and find balance in this fast-paced hustle culture.
Our brain is like a supercomputer, and the thoughts we think are the software program. If the same thoughts are running in the software program for a long period of time, they become the hardware - they become hardwired as beliefs into our subconscious mind. Our thoughts trigger our feelings, our feelings influence our beliefs, our beliefs drive our actions. Naturally, our actions become our daily habits, our daily habits become our lifestyle and ultimately, our lifestyle becomes our identity.
So, imagine if we are consumed by thoughts of worry, anxiety, and stress repeatedly! These thoughts will literally create incoherence in the brain - an imbalance between the right and left brain, signalling a state of stress to the heart changing its rhythm and causing us to go into lower emotional states. Being in this state for a prolonged period, the body gets affected and drained of its energy, and in turn we experience various types of burn out.
As entrepreneurs we are all too familiar with those states of mind and we all know how hard it is to get out of that negative spiral, especially when we are in a state of crisis and continuously getting hit with bad news and endless problems, swimming against the current.
When this happens, we have two choices: we either sink into a series of worst-case scenarios, endless complaints and surrender to fear, anxiety, and stress, where rational decisions are paralyzed or we shift into taking a deep breath and go into solution mode, visualising the best outcome and choosing to remain in an elevated calm state, come what may.
Some would say this is wishful thinking straight out of La La Land, but this choice or state of mind has worked for countless successful leaders and founders. In the face of challenge and adversity operating from a calm positive mind allows for more clarity, better decision making and a better course of action.
According to research by McKinsey, “In crisis situations, leaders must make a deliberate choice to practise a calm state of mind. Then they can step back from a fraught or high-stakes situation and choose how to respond, rather than reacting instinctively… They can look at adversity through a new lens… Reframing a threat as an opportunity.”
So, how exactly can we master our mindset and our inner world? How can we gain emotional mastery in a way that helps us focus on better thoughts, regulates our emotions, and brings us into elevated, healthy emotional states as we deal with and face the external challenges of our world? How can we work on strengthening ourselves on the inside to become more invincible on the outside?
Well, we need to regularly do the work! Here are a few suggestions:
First, we need to realise that just because we have a thought doesn’t mean it is true. We can’t believe everything we think. Once we realise that we have the power to empower or disempower a thought we will be able to observe it as a separate entity. When we observe these thoughts and become aware of the triggers and aware of their effects on our mind and body, they cease to become the software program running in the brain and we can change them.
Although the practice of meditation is thousands of years old, the research on its benefits to our health is relatively new. Research by Harvard medical review and JAMA Internal Medicine have found meditation helpful in so many ways from relieving anxiety, pain, and depression to improving focus concentration, attention span and creativity. Sit in a quiet space, close your eyes, and follow the sound of your breath. Once you become aware that there are thoughts, acknowledge them and gently go back to your breath, relax and let go.
Practising gratitude is one of the most powerful tools especially when it comes to rewiring our thoughts. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Expressing gratitude increases the neurotransmitter dopamine – our brain's own ‘feel good’ chemical. Dopamine increases our energy and turns on our brain's learning centres and allows us to feel more motivated and energised.
Tip: Make it a Habit
Make practising gratitude a habit whether you write it down or tap into that feeling daily. It really is so simple, and requires minimal effort yet yields enormous benefits! ( (‘The Five-Minute Journal’ is a great tool to establish the impulse to write three things you are grateful for at the beginning and end of the day).
The body and the brain are intimately linked. Movement and exercise affect the way we think and feel, it improves our mood and helps decrease feelings of stress, overthinking, depression and anxiety. According to Harvard medical studies, as the body releases hormones like dopamine and serotonin, it bumps up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters which are known to help produce positive feelings.
Tip: Prioritise Working Out
Schedule time into your day to move your body, anything from going for a walk, to a workout, to practising a sport, dancing, anything that will get you moving - enjoy the process!
Having a growth mindset makes us better performers, actively seeking out new experiences and learning new skills is an incredible way to optimise our lives. When we experience and learn something new, we form new neurological networks in the brain and the more we experience and learn new things the more enriched the neural circuits become. New experiences and new knowledge enrich the brain. We continuously keep our life the same when we keep our attention and our energy the same, thus learning and experiencing new things is a great way to create change and shift our energy.
Tip: Seek New Experiences
Read, listen or watch something that will inspire and motivate you daily. Regularly seek to learn something that interests you, expose yourself to new information, new surroundings, new people, new experiences, and spend time in nature. Get out of your comfort zone.
All these practices, habits, and behaviours that we integrate into our daily lives help us rewire our brain and awaken us out of our subconscious autopilot programming. This ultimately helps us to evolve as individuals and in the process become better founders and leaders as we grow and scale our businesses. We need to create the space to prioritise our well-being because when we choose ourselves and our peace of mind, we are essentially investing in our future and the return on investment is infinitely worth every minute of the time we put in, it’s actually the best investment we’ll ever make.
Sign up for the daily Startup Digest.