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6 Common Toxic Thoughts, And How To Turn Them Off (From A Founder And CEO)

Heidi Zak

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turn off toxic thoughts

Whenever I’m speaking on a panel, there’s one question people tend to ask: “How do you let go of work?”

It’s a good question, but I’ve come to realize that in a sense I don’t. I never really turn my mind off when it comes to the company. I’m always thinking about ThirdLove and what we’re building.

Most entrepreneurs I’ve encountered have a similar mentality. They’re all hyper-concentrated on their businesses and thinking about it to some degree.

Of course, that’s a pro and a con. When you’re constantly focused on your business, there will be days when your thinking is incredibly positive, creative, and uplifting. There will also be days when your mental space is filled with negativity and toxic thoughts.

You can’t avoid the duplicity, but you can learn to recognize those negative moments and deal with them in a healthy way.

Here are the six toxic thoughts I’ve learned to tone down over the years:

1: Panicking over unknowns.

The unknown is always scary.

There are moments when you’re waiting to see the outcome of a decision or the results of a strategy you’ve implemented, and there’s nothing you can do but wait. If you’re like most people, your mind will begin to wander into a place of irrational and unnerving thinking.

But you can’t let that uncertainty consume you. If you do, you’re wasting time noodling over what may or may not happen in a month, instead of putting energy into the impact you can make today.

You have to focus on what you can address at the moment—nothing more.

2: Stressing over missing your goals.

Our team sets certain goals every year, but we may or may not hit every one. Yes, I want to be aware when we miss a goal, but I don’t want the entire team to start panicking about the business.

You have to stay focused on the long-term effects of what’s happening in your business. So there’s a balance to feeling pressure, addressing issues, making changes—and still focusing on what’s ahead.

3: Needing complete clarity.

As an entrepreneur, you have to accept you’re never going to have complete clarity about everything.

You can collect data and gather information all you want. But at some point, you have to make a decision. You can’t get stuck in a situation where you’re not making any forward progress because you’re always waiting for that last bit of data.

This doesn’t mean making rash decisions. Instead, you should simply ask yourself, “At what point do I feel like I have enough information that I can make a decision and move on?” Once you’ve found that point, make your choice and move forward.

4: Second-guessing yourself.

There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night and all I can think about is a decision I made last week.

“Did I make the right call? Did we hire the right person? Was that the best response to their question?”

It’s human nature to second-guess yourself, but it’s also incredibly ineffective because it takes up mental space about the validity of your decision making. Spend time on the here and now, not in the past.

5: Getting down on yourself.

Inevitably, you are going to make the wrong decision.

Your immediate reaction will likely be to question yourself and rehash the entire situation and the choice you made. Reflecting on and learning from a poor decision is fine. But it’s also very easy to slip from contemplation into an unhealthy fixation on the issue.

At some point, you have to let go of mistakes. Realize it’s almost certainly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And when you reflect back on your company’s journey a year from now, everything will be fine.

6: Worrying about other people’s opinions.

Now, of course, you have to care about your employees and what they’re thinking and feeling.

But as the founder, you’re the one with the eagle’s-eye view of the company. You see all the different operations and how they interact and affect each other.

To be an effective leader, you can’t get bogged down in constantly worrying about how your actions might be perceived. Not every business decision you make will be popular. All you can do is communicate as much as you can, when you can.

At the end of the day, entrepreneurs can only control so much of what people think. Really, the only things you manage with any certainty are your own actions and thoughts. But once you learn to tune out toxic thoughts, you’ll be much better equipped to run your company well.

This article originally appeared on Inc.

Heidi Zak is the co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove. Prior to ThirdLove, Zak cut her teeth in retail at Aeropostale where she quickly rose to Director of the retail giant, launching and running the International Division, before becoming a marketing executive at Google. Zak holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Duke University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her free time she loves spending time with her two kids. Heidi has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People, Goldman Sachs 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Business Insider's 30 Female-Founded Startups to Watch, and SF Business Times 40 Under 40. Follow her on Instagram: @Heidi.

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