We are all familiar with the concept of self-limiting beliefs. I am sure there have been times where you have questioned yourself and worried about whether you can indeed accomplish something you have set out to do? It ultimately comes down to belief. Belief in yourself and the beliefs which form your modus operandi.
Belief is therefore a fitting theme for the 12th Annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship held in Oxford. As a social entrepreneur you often have to believe the unbelievable in order to push boundaries and create the change you wish to see.
It is no surprise that my belief set probably like most others has been influenced by my amazingly inspirational parents and older sister as well as spiritual philosophy drawn from my Hindu upbringing.
Here are five of my guiding beliefs as an entrepreneur:
1) Age is no barrier to success; we are only limited by our own imagination
I started my first venture which at the time was called the English Secondary Students' Association (ESSA) now known as Student Voice aged 17. I was one of the youngest award winners of UnLtd - the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs who backed me initially with a "Level 1" grant of £5000. The aim of ESSA was to empower school students by giving them a voice in their education.
I did not let my age hold me back. My self-belief came in part due to the belief shown in me by the UnLtd Award. I soon realised that I had the ability (and right) to interact with politicians, the media and education professionals and found myself sharing platforms at political Party conferences alongside leaders of major education unions talking about the concept of student voice. That is when I realised that anything is possible and the only thing holding us back is our imagination and ambition.
Jeff Skoll (Co-Founder of eBay and Founder of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship) in the Opening Plenary of the Skoll World Forum re-emphasised this point by commenting that "age is not a sign of wisdom."
In many cases we defer to a person's age as a proxy in terms of what we feel they should be doing; thinking or achieving. We have seen time and time again how young people are creating global movements and are often wise far beyond their years. Take Malala Yousafzai and her work in promoting education for girls globally. She is a role model for all young activists and social entrepreneurs and a prime example of how age is nothing but a number.
2) Everything happens for a reason; stay positive
As an entrepreneur there are countless ups and downs on your journey. I draw immense strength from my faith and belief that everything that happens to me is for my best and for a reason. There have been times where things seemingly haven't gone "my way" however looking back they have always been for the best.
Linked to this belief is my approach to seeing the positive in every situation. There are always two ways you can view a situation. It is a conscious choice to focus on the negative over the positive but sadly all too common to do so.
If we end up achieving three out of four things on our to-do list we often focus on the one thing we didn't, rather than the three we did. The same applies to 'adverse' situations we are faced with.
Every experience we have is a chance to learn; to grow and develop. A positive mind breeds positive results.
3) Be "present" and aware of signs
When you are doing good and trying your hardest the world conspires to help you. The problem is that we spend our lives in auto-pilot oblivious to the signs and help offered.
This belief is very much linked to the last of things happening for a reason. Take time to reflect on things and think about why they may be happening. When things are very chaotic try and step back and observe what is really going on rather than throwing yourself head first into every situation.
There is a growing movement around "Mindfulness" and meditation as techniques to practice being "present." Whilst it's a difficult belief to convey it's one of the most powerful things to experience and something which helps me in the way I conduct myself on a daily basis.
4) Life is too short to be miserable
Money is not a driving factor for me; happiness is. Life is short and precious and therefore I want to make the most of every day and ensure I am happy and fulfilled in what I am doing.
If you are not happy in what you are doing right now ask yourself why? What is stopping you from changing?
5) "Be the change you wish to see"; do good and be good
In the words of Gandhi this is one of my favourite quotes and one which will resonate with most social entrepreneurs. If there is something you are frustrated about rather than moan about it, do something to change it!
One of the most prolific Hindu teachers Swami Vivekananda said "To be good and do good that is the whole of religion" which really summarises my outlook on life. We are fortunate to be humans on this earth and it is our duty to give back and do something to make the world a better place.
This same concept can be extended to the world of corporations with more companies subscribing to the notion of "shared value" as purported by Michael Porter and "enlightened self-interest" where doing good is not just a "nice to have" but helps shift the needle in terms of bottom-line benefits and improving the employer brand (particularly amongst Millennials.)
These are the fundamentals of my beliefs. Take a moment to stop, reflect and ask yourself why do you do what you do? What do you believe in which is helping you or stopping you from achieving what you would like?
It is time to consciously flip any self-limiting beliefs on their head into limitless beliefs; in doing so we empower ourselves to act and to acknowledge the fact that we are all immensely powerful beings beyond belief and can achieve greatness if we just put our mind to it.