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Once an entrepreneur knows his or her strengths, it’s time to put them to use. That’s what Melanie Morlan, owner of FirstBreathe.com, a wellness and athletic training company in Spokane, Wash., needed to do. She spent a decade working with the U.S. Olympic Committee and professional cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, before taking time out to raise her son.
She wanted to reenter the workforce by building a larger consulting practice than she’d once had, offering nutrition counseling, coaching in weight loss and stress reduction, and building a Web site and blog. But she couldn’t get started. “I’d get scared and set up roadblocks,” she says, telling herself she’d never succeed and ignoring her to-do list. She eventually called on Senia Maymin, a coach and, like Pollay, a graduate of Seligman’s program. Maymin [Editor-in-Chief at PositivePsychologyNews.com] also holds an MBA from Stanford University, and she knows family business and entrepreneurship firsthand, having worked alongside her father and brother at their hedge fund and co-founding three tech startups. Maymin helped Morlan exploit her strengths, of which creativity is first. So if Morlan lost a valuable client or made a bad decision, instead of spending the afternoon moping, she would turn to designing and building her Web site. “Creativity stimulates me,” she says.
Coach Maymin delves into this with her clients, many of whom seek her out when they are between ventures. She says that to be able to get routinely into the mental state that MihÃ¡ly CsÃkszentmihÃ¡lyi (pronounced “cheeks sent me high”), another founder of positive psychology, calls “flow”â€”complete absorption in a taskâ€”entrepreneurs must craft a workload that’s challenging but not too tough. Its demands should fully use an entrepreneur’s abilities, the same way endurance athletes train just at their physical limit. “In the athletic domain, everyone can see it,” she says. Psychologically, too, “self-regulation is a muscle you can train over time.” She assigns her clients a small, daily exercise challenge each week, based on research that says if you accustom your body to pushing just past its comfort zone toward ever-retreating goals, “you can do the exact same thing in your company”â€”push past your comfort zone and achieve goals once thought to be out of reach.
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