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The Encore Entrepreneur



Episode 42: How To Use Meaning-Making In Your Business Strategy

Meaning-making is a uniquely human trait. Are you making things mean something that supports you or undermines you?

[01:05] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: In this episode, we're bringing awareness to patterns that we fall into as human beings and how to look at things and situations through different perspectives or different lenses. We are not touching on serious mental health issues. So if you or someone you know has a mental health issue and you listen to this episode, and I don't want you to think that we're being dismissive of that, we are. Absolutely not. It's not that people can just flip on and off the positivity switch. We're merely trying to give some perspective. Some tips. We've got an exercise for you to help you navigate this wild ride of entrepreneurship. We hope you enjoy. 

Are you your best friend or your worst enemy? And how do you know? A lot of times, we don't realize that the thoughts in our head are creating our mood and how we see the world, and it's affecting our confidence and how we move through the world. 

So today, we're going to talk about how to use meaning-making in your business strategy. Because, as humans, we're wired to create meaning out of everything. That's how we navigate the world. As a species, you need to look at something, you see something happening, and your mind immediately creates a meaning for it. And sometimes that can be something that is life-threatening, right? Something's rushing at you, or a car is out of control, and you have to get out of the way. That's super quick meaning-making. 

Other times, you see things happen, and maybe it's not crucial at all. A neighbor keeps doing something, and you look at them. And so then, what do we do? We start thinking, well, that neighbor must A, B, and C. You start making up a story to apply to that, to make it make sense in your head, because sometimes we see things that don't make sense, and our brain doesn't like that. It doesn't close the loop. But what can happen is we can fall into the dark side of meaning-making. And Deirdre is going to talk about this a little bit.

The Dark Side of Meaning-Making

[03:08] Deirdre Harter: Now, meaning-making is something we're all going to do, just as Carmen said. We can't not do it, so we really have to understand it. 

We're going to look at how it can hurt us and then how it can help us. When we look at the dark side of meaning-making, our mindset dictates the meanings that we make. Part of this is really understanding and managing our mindset. And so this is one of the reasons why we feel it's so important to always be looking at our mindset, always be working on managing our mindset, and staying in the right kind of mindset. 

And as an entrepreneur, I think we have so many more potential pressures, stressors situations that happen that we didn't anticipate. That's just part of the entrepreneurial journey. It makes it exciting, but it can also make it kind of stressful. And so managing our mindset and being in the right mindset is even more critical for us than it is for someone who is just going about their day-to-day life. 

I know when I was working in public accounting, I worked there for over 20 years before I became a full-time entrepreneur, I always did mindset work. I was one of those self-help personal growth junkies, I guess you would say because I was always, I mean, I started at a very early age, and I was always drawn to it, and I always wanted to be my best self. And so I did some mindset work. But what I noticed, the differences between what I had to do with my mindset when I was employed by someone else versus what I have to do now as an entrepreneur, is that I could sort of go on autopilot, right? Like, I did my job for so many years, and I got so good at it that I really didn't have to think too much about it. And I got kind of callous to the complaining clients, the ones who were difficult. It just didn't bother me anymore. I just kind of, like, shut them out and ignored them and did my job. 

But as an entrepreneur, we can't really go on that autopilot because every day seems to be a little bit different than the other, right? And we're building something out of nothing. That's why we say your mindset is going to dictate the meanings that we make, and it really depends on what kind of mindset you're in on what meaning you're going to have. 

One of the examples I can think of that really kind of illustrates this point is that of hypochondriacs. Now, I have some hypochondriacs in my family, and I'm not going to name names to protect the innocent. However, I've got some people who, if there's the least little thing wrong, anything that happens that's out of the ordinary with their body, they immediately go to, oh, my gosh, this is serious. This could be deadly. This could be the end of it all, right? And they're on WebMD, and they're looking up all of the horrible things that this could possibly mean for them. 

Whereas someone who is not a hypochondriac, I am not a hypochondriac. In fact, I'm probably the opposite, whatever the word that would be. And when something similar would happen to me, I would just be like oh, this is so temporary. This means absolutely nothing. This is going to go away in 24 hours. I just know it. And I don't even need to go to the doctor, right? So that is the difference. The same thing's happening to each of us, yet we are both making a different meaning out of it. Part of this is what we have determined that we're going to make meaning of. 

Now, believing that what you make something mean is not a sign of your intuition. Carmen and I both believe a lot in intuition. We believe that this is a big part of the experience we have as women over 40, as entrepreneurs, and as experts in our field. We need to lean into our intuition, and we're matching that up with the business of business. And that really gives us a superpower. 

However, I think sometimes, the meaning-making that we're doing, we sometimes mix that up with what our intuition is telling us. And a lot of things can affect what that meaning is being made depending on the situation, depending on our emotions, and different things which we're going to talk about. But we just wanted to let you know that you have to know the difference between what we're believing about something and that it may not always be a sign of our intuition.

Negative Events and Situational Meaning

[07:58] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. So we tell ourselves stories all the time, but it doesn't mean that it's coming from our intuition. We have to be able to objectively look at what's going on and make the correct assumption or determination as to what this is. And so a lot of it becomes self-awareness. 

Let's look at negative events and situational meaning. We all experience negative events and emotions. So how do some people shake it off easier than others? Do you ever notice that some people it's kind of like what Deirdre just talked about when she's talking about hypochondriacs. Same principle here is something bad can happen, and some people look at it as all they can see is the silver lining, right? They look for the good in everything, even the worst situation. 

Oprah Winfrey is one. The way that she grew up and everything that happened to her and how she's turned her life into something amazing, I've always just been fascinated with that, that kind of thing. And then other people can have something not very bad happen, but they could think it's the worst thing ever. 

And so the reason that some people can shake it off easier than others is because of the meaning that they're making out of it. They are either taking this as—like there's one gal who I follow on Facebook—I don't follow her, but she's a friend from something offline, and we're friends on Facebook. But everything that happens to her is like the end of the world. And so I have to put her on pause so I don't see what comes up on my feet. I don't want to unfriend her because we actually know each other in real life, but every single little thing is like the sky is falling, the earth is shattering, it's the worst possible thing. 

And then other people are having terrible things happening, like cancer diagnoses, they're working through chemo, they're doing whatever. And they are like the most upbeat people. That is a clear sign of the meaning that is being made out of something going on. And we want to make sure that you're aware of what you're doing because that's why I asked in the beginning, are you your best friend or your worst enemy? 

There's no point in making life way worse than it is or making business way worse than it is. You have the ability to change your perspective and look at things in a different way and look for the good in everything. Look for the fact that something negative that happened is making you stronger, and it now sets you up for success going forward in your life. It's all in the meaning that we make out of everything. 

And we want to also be aware of applying a permanent meaning to a temporary situation. So this person that I mentioned on Facebook that I have to block because I don't want to see all this negative stuff, her go-to thing is that she's unlucky and things in life don't go her way. That's her, like it's this cloud that overshadows everything in her life because she keeps perpetuating it, she keeps believing the story, she keeps feeding into the story. And so when you are looking at things that happen, and then you can decide whether it is confirming your bias or not, and if your bias is positive or negative, well, you're going to confirm to the positive or negative. So everything with this is mindset, and everything with this is a choice.

Using Different Perspectives to Develop a New Meaning-making Process

[11:30] Deirdre Harter: What Carmen was saying, it's so true, and I've seen this happen over and over again. That is something that is just situational, right? Like it's here today, gone tomorrow, yet we're still talking about it a year from now, right? So that's how you know that you're applying a permanent meaning to a temporary situation is because you're like, well, remember back a year ago when this happened? So that has become a permanent meaning for you, but it was based on something that is probably never ever going to happen again. And what we need to do is we need to use different perspectives to develop a new meaning-making process. 

So like, everything in our business and pretty much everything in how our lives run, we have processes for everything, right? Whether we intentionally make them or not. We have a process. So we need to strategically have this meaning-making process. And part of the process, anytime you're going to create a process is you have to know what's going on already. So we need to be able to see objectively what is the process we're currently using because, again, we use them even if it's by default. How do we want to improve the process? 

So here's an exercise that you can do whenever anything happens that you see that you're having to think about it, and you're trying to determine what does this mean for me? Or this is somehow going to change things for me, and I have to make a decision about it, is to ask yourself how many different meanings can you make out of every situation? And you will be practicing identifying several, both positive and negative. And by doing this exercise, it really makes it objective. It pulls it out of the realm of emotion and allows us to have some objectivity about it. 

I know that I've always been whenever I'm trying to make a decision on something that's taken me a while to decide is I like to always make a pros and cons list, right? I put a line down a piece of paper, with pros on one side and cons on the other. This is the same sort of concept. So this time, we can put positive in one column and negative in another, and we can write the situation across the top of the paper. And then, as you think through it, you can think, what does this mean? What meaning am I making out of this? And then you can write those down. And if you do this a few times, you're going to really begin to see the difference. 

And we can use different perspectives. So it's like putting different lenses on a camera. If you've ever been a photographer, you know, and you've seen a photographer in action, they're constantly like switching out lenses. They're adjusting the light; they're moving in, they're moving out, they're getting different perspectives for the same shot. So we can do the same thing. 

Now, when you're going to go into this meaning-making process, you want to make sure you're in a good mindset. And we should do this before we do any kind of decision-making, honestly. Because if we're not in a good place, if we have a negative lens on the camera, what's going to happen? The meaning we make out of it, the decision that we make, the mindset we're in, it's all going to be negative, right? 

And again, that's one of those—It's most likely caused by a temporary situation, right? Like if you just burned your breakfast and you couldn't find your keys, and everything dumped out of your purse on the way out the door. Well, right at that moment, you're in a temporary situation that's not super positive, right? It is not the time to be making really big decisions or thinking that's it! My whole day is ruined! Have you ever thought that? Like everything for the rest of the day is just going to it's just going to be terrible because look at what has happened in the last five minutes. That's where we're putting a permanent meaning to a temporary situation, and we are using the wrong lens and using the wrong perspective.

Sense of Purpose as a Filter For Your Meaning-Making

[15:33] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah. That is so good. I love that. The whole thing about spilling your coffee, your purse falls, or someone slams on a brakes in front of you and your purse falls, and everything falls out on the floor and rolls under the seat. I hate that. But it doesn't mean that now your day is doomed. I love that reminder. 

So as entrepreneurs, we can use our sense of purpose as the main filter for our meaning-making. As Deirdre mentioned, perspectives are lenses. So let's look at our sense of purpose. Why are you doing what you're doing? 

You have a big why. 

Something made you take this amazing leap of faith and embark on this entrepreneurial journey. It is not a journey for the faint of heart. So you must have a big why. You must have a big purpose that you want to fulfill. And so let's use that. Let's use the why. Let's use a sense of purpose as our guide or our starting point for making meaning. 

And so what I mean by this is, let's say you have a launch, and you don't hit your sales goal. You have to still tap into your why and your sense of purpose and then look at, okay, I am so passionate about this. I can help these people. And let's break down what this whole launch was from A to Z. Deirdre, and I always do a debrief after every workshop that we run. And we've been running workshops for three years, so we've run a ton of them. But it doesn't matter. We always have to reassess and look at things objectively. Like, this went well. We could do a little differently. Here's where people got confused. Here's where I noticed I didn't like the way I said this or whatever. 

The thing is, you need to look at it and keep your sense of purpose in mind and go through it objectively and remove the emotion. I think that's another piece of it is let's not make meaning out of something when we're highly emotional. And that goes back to what Deirdre said, that make sure you're in a good mindset because emotion clouds our judgment. And when we're talking about entrepreneurship, and we're talking about things that happen, we need to look at things objectively. And the only way to do that is to remove emotion. 

The other thing is when we start with our sense of purpose as our starting point, that's our baseline. We say, okay, you tap into your why. Why am I doing this? What is my sense of purpose that should help bolster you and help you feel good about things because we're all doing something that we love for a reason. So let's get into that. 

And it's like, okay, well now let's roll up our sleeves and take a look at this thing and figure out what's going on and see how we can make it match our sense of purpose and make it fit into our goals. The other thing is that if it's not obvious yet, is you get to choose what things mean. And that's probably the biggest thing we want to end with here is it's a choice. Happiness is a choice. Meaning-making is a choice. Whatever you decide you're going to do, you are deciding. You are choosing. So why wouldn't you choose to look at things more positively than negatively? 

I think sometimes people think if they look at everything as positively, they're going to be surprised in a negative manner by something bad coming. But really, what happens is if you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop, you're always waiting for the bad thing to happen. You are just psyching yourself out, and you're creating this energy. The other thing we believe in so strongly, next to intuition, is energy. And when you're constantly waiting for the next bad thing to happen, well, what is your energy like? And so if you have this energy that's all tumultuous and not positive, and then you're trying to run a launch or run a business, well, no wonder things aren't working, right? 

I'm not saying that something bad—real bad things do happen, and we need to deal with them. But it doesn't mean that we constantly have to work and think that the next bad thing is going to happen. So it's really a matter of choosing what things mean and choosing to see the positive because that just helps soothe your nervous system. It's much better to be looking for the good things. 

The other thing is we've probably all heard that what you seek is what you will find. So if you're seeking out the things that are going to go wrong, that's what you're going to find because that's where your focus is. Energy flows where your focus goes. So seek out the good things, look at the good things. 

That's why a practice of gratitude is so good and helps us because when we're grateful, we can't be negative at the same time. When we're grateful, we're looking at what is good in our life, and we will see more of that. And you can be grateful for the smallest things. I'm able to breathe on my own. I can move my right finger. There's so much to be grateful for. So choose what things mean and choose the positive is our big suggestion here.

[20:45] Deirdre Harter: As we said in the beginning, mindset is one of the most important areas for entrepreneurs to ensure that we're growing and maintaining the kind of mindset that we need to succeed in our businesses. 

So we'd like to invite you to join our Facebook group, the Empire of Unstoppable Women, where we have lots of mindset training. We have different guides set up for all different areas of the business, the core areas of your business, and we host live learning every single week where we're coming into the group. And we're giving you the real strategy, the real information, and the real things that you can do to grow your business. So we're there every week. We collect all of the trainings inside guides, so they're nice and organized. 

So if you're looking for mindset training or other areas in sales and marketing that you would like to improve in your business, we invite you to join us. And you can do that by going to encorempire.com/community.

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