Although it feels like you are making conscious choices in your business, there are many layers that dictate your behaviors, choices, and thinking. Throughout your life, you experienced many different situations that created what are called "psychological imprints" on your unconscious mind. A simple example is learning how to tie your shoes. By repeated behavior, trial and error, this activity is imprinted in your mind, so you now can do it without conscious thought.
Imagine that you have millions of these imprints that are influencing your everyday life. Most of the decisions you make are driven by your past experience. According to social psychology, four areas--personal, family, culture, and social influences--affect you more than you realize. Below we examine what formed your world view and how you see yourself as a leader.
1. Personal Experience
The most obvious imprints on your life come from your personal experience. Examine how your personal experience dictates your opinions on money, being the boss, taking risks, investing in yourself and even the relationships you have with your employees, consultants and business partners. When you recognize a common pattern, take the first step in self-reflection instead of projecting the problem externally onto other people and playing the victim.
I recognized a pattern of having clients and business partners who were never satisfied. I was constantly exhausted trying to please them. This came from an early imprint of avoiding conflict to keep the peace. I realized I had to create stronger boundaries in my personal and business relationships and risk conflict to break that pattern. This shift made a huge impact on my profits and happiness.
2. Family Influence
A secondary influence arises from your family values. How your parents made a living has a strong influence in how you manage your work ethic. For example, if your parents were working class and focused on saving, not risk, you may be running your business in a similar way without realizing it. If your family denounced "rich people," you may unconsciously reject money. Did you family value hard work, time off, getting discounts and deals to get by financially? Some women have been taught that they should value motherhood instead of being a business woman which causes a conflict in their career. There may not have been a role model that incorporated both.
3. Cultural Influence
Closely related to family, but cultural influences can go back generations. If you are raised in a certain religion, ethnicity, or geographical area, there is a culture that is unconsciously imprinted in your mind. Culture is sometimes the most difficult to recognize within you because, like a fish in water, you are swimming in it and do not realize that your culture is different than other people.
Even though you may separate spiritual beliefs from your work life, they may still drive many of your emotions and responses to daily business activities. A common example is the belief that it is hard for a rich person to enter heaven and sabotage your success.
Another huge cultural pattern I see in many of my clients is the obligation to take care of family members who are not as fortunate. This creates a conflict in the business owner who works really hard for their success only to feel obligated to send money to the relative who is not as motivated to succeed or get their life together. She ends up making just enough so she does not have to choose between feeling selfish or resentful.
4. Social Influence
While many people believe their early family life is a big influence, you are actually more influenced by your peers. This makes sense because most of your life is spent with people your age. You may have heard that you will make the same income as the closest five people in your life. The imprint of social influence is why.
To break the pattern and grow your business, it is imperative to start spending time with people who are just as motivated as you are to succeed. The reason why masterminds work is that they get you in a new social circle, and there is great power in group think.
Personal, family, social, and cultural imprints are powerful. The good news is that you are not locked into these patterns if you make them conscious. The first step is to recognize them and then examine how you can shift the pattern by taking a different approach than you are conditioned to take. Notice the emotion or fear that comes up when you try to change and keep moving through it. When you move beyond the fear of the status quo, a new world of possibilities opens up for you in your business and life.