Five essential psychological skills to master

If you’re thinking about making your own moves, you’ll need to harness some essential psychological skills. Here are five key traits, combining advice from experts in the field with those who have already done it themselves.
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Kathrin Hamm left her stable job as an economist to launch her weighted blanket brand Bearaby, bootstrapping the business by using her retirement savings. In 2020, the business brought in around £21 million.

Seek out others who have been in a similar position. ‘The most doubt came during the phase when I didn’t have anything to show for the business – when you’re talking to your friends about it, but don’t have anything to back it up. All you have is a rough idea. What really helped me was to actively search for business owners who are in the same space, who were maybe two years ahead of me. Someone who had been through the daily frustrations I was struggling with.’ 

Take things one step at a time. ‘Break everything down into smaller steps. Instead of thinking to yourself: I want to build a hundred-million-dollar company, tell yourself: let’s make a great prototype first. Even now, when we have a big company, that mindset doesn’t change.’ 

Be realistic – but remain obsessive. ‘There’s never a phase when there’s no stress or everything is perfect. But I’m always asking myself: what if I looked back in five years and hadn’t done it? Is this something you really believe in strongly enough? It helps if you’re obsessive about your idea over a long period of time. Then you know it will carry you through.’


Chris Bailey is the author of Hyperfocus and runs his own productivity-focused website. Having tried more productivity experiments than he can remember,  he outlines why working with a calm deliberateness (AKA the anti-hustle mentality) is vital. 

Look at the bigger picture and how you fit into it. ‘Always start with the job that people hire your product or service to do and work backwards from there. We so rarely zoom out to see how our work fits into the broader picture. If you constantly need to hustle, you’re not working intelligently enough. You’re not prioritising; you’re not being strategic. You’re being reactive.’ 

Learn to prioritise. ‘Make a list of everything on your plate that you’re responsible for in a given month. Then ask yourself: if I can only do one thing on this list day in, day out, which one of these allows me to deliver the most value to achieve the priorities I’ve set for the business? Structure your day around the top three tasks you come up with. Delegate or eliminate everything else.’

Practise the rule of three. ‘The rule of three also applies to daily tasks. The latest research shows that we can only hold about three priorities in our mind at once. Defining three priorities at the start of the day isn’t original, but it works. Then, when something seemingly more important comes along, threatening to change the direction of our day, we have the awareness to take a step back and weigh the relative importance of our three priorities against it.’

‘We so rarely zoom out to see the broader picture. If you constantly need to hustle, you’re not working intelligently enough. You’re not prioritising; you’re not being strategic. You’re being reactive.’

Handling setbacks is an inevitable part of running a business – particularly one on a sharp growth trajectory. Here Kevin Egan, co-founder of the lifestyle brand Dally Goods, reveals how he maintains a resilient mindset.

What do you do to work on your resilience?

A. ‘I work a lot on maintaining gratitude each day by letting go of the stuff that’s not productive. Setbacks become a smaller distraction when I can maintain the perspective that I’m so lucky to be in this position.’ 

How has experience shaped your mindset?

A. ‘Perspective is critical. We entered into this journey wanting to create something that would be fulfilling. We knew it would mean trying 100 things to have two work out. A lot of that practice and understanding comes from my experience in advertising, where you have to be resilient as ideas and good work get cut all the time.’ 

What would you say to others who hit setbacks?

A. ‘Immediately look for opportunities right in front of you. It’s a little bit like sports – if you take a shot and miss it, you can’t dwell on that missed shot the whole game. Also, view setbacks as learning experiences that allow you to make better decisions in the future.’

Are there any specific techniques or resources you've found useful?

A. ‘We take the “two marshmallow” approach, based on the ability to remain patient for two rewards as opposed to one small immediate one. We also try to be antifragile, based on Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, meaning that each negative experience makes us better and stronger.’


‘If you’re not aware of your unconscious motivators, you end up living this compensatory lifestyle focused on achievement,’ says psychologist Dr Matthew Jones, founder of the Cofounder Clarity coaching method. The answer? Finding ways to put the brakes on and recentre. 

Find a high-quality therapist or coach if you can afford it. ‘Everyone wants a lifestyle hack, like: what does Elon Musk do to be successful? But that’s living from the outside in, rather than the inside out. To achieve your maximum in terms of personal professional wellbeing, it has to start with introspection.’

Keep a dream journal. ‘There’s a concept in psychology called active imagination – a fancy way of saying you’re bringing these elements to mind in a meditative space and interacting with them. All of that helps to open you up to elements outside of yourself and your unconscious.’

Meditation is really important. ‘Everything in you is saying: go at 100 miles an hour in this direction. So meditation puts the brakes on that and can be painful, but you’re confronted with all the things that you avoid.’

Journaling can be reflective or prospective. ‘It can also be done as a stream of consciousness. Whenever you’re going through an emotional experience, just getting it all out is a way to hold space for your own emotions.’


Writer, wellness coach and therapist Minaa B outlines why creating boundaries is so important. 

Find your boundaries. ‘Boundaries help us define our limits and responsibilities – we need them in every aspect of life, no matter what we’re pursuing. By examining the eight dimensions of wellness (physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, financial, environmental and occupational), a person can hone in on a specific area where stress might be impacting them.’ 

Set your limits. ‘Dig deep into these dimensions and see where stress is at the root. When examining this, you can identify what limits you need to set as a way to minimise what’s causing the burnout in the first place. Some examples of healthy limits look like clocking out on time, saying no to Zoom meetings at certain hours and logging off social media an hour before bedtime.’  

This article was first published in Courier issue 41, June/July 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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