One of my main goals as a dating coach is to inspire and motivate women to take charge of their dating and love lives. The biggest misnomer about finding love is that it just happens. That's definitely not the way I see it. Creating love in your life doesn't just happen, just as, say, creating a successful company doesn't just happen. Creating any kind of venture takes time, effort and commitment. You need to invest in whatever venture you are building, be it in business or love.
When most people think of entrepreneurial ventures and the entrepreneurs who built them, they think of the titans: Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Steve Jobs (Apple) or Oprah (the Oprah empire) or Richard Branson (Virgin). And most of us define the word entrepreneur as "someone who starts and builds a business." But what if we could start seeing beyond the default definition and beyond the billionaires of the world?
What if we could start seeing ourselves as entrepreneurs in our own lives?
What if we could take the principles behind the building and shaping of a business venture and apply those same principles to the building and shaping of what I like to call your dating and love venture? Indeed, the latest research in the field shows that entrepreneurship is about much more than starting a business: It's a life skill, a particular way of thinking and acting in unknowable, uncertain environments (umm... dating, anyone?).
The way I see it, we can be entrepreneurial in any aspect of our lives. And deep within each one of us is an inner entrepreneur waiting to be unleashed into the world. That courageous, wide-eyed, inner 'trep -- short for entrepreneur -- might have gotten tamped down as you grew older, but she's still there (I promise!), waiting to see the light of day. Let her breathe and flourish!
With that, here are four ways you can be an entrepreneur in your love life (taken from my book Skin In the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love) . Note: The below suggestions can be applied to any aspect of your life.
1. See possibilities in your setbacks and disappointments
A few months ago, I was working with a woman who received a disappointing email from a guy she liked and with whom she had been out a couple times. He emailed to say that while he liked her and thought she was an all-around awesome woman, he just wasn't feeling the romantic spark. My client emailed me in despair. I told her: "Either you can let this setback affect your self-esteem and crawl back behind your walls, or you can look for the possibilities in your disappointment. Why not email him back, be gracious about his rejection (which I guarantee is the LAST thing he ever expects you to do) and ask if he has any friends who he thinks might be a better match, while also mentioning you have some single girl friends who might be a better match for him" What was his response when she mustered the courage to send a reply? Total shock. He responded that he was really thrown for a loop by her good-natured email and that he, in fact, did have a single friend (a doctor!) to whom he could introduce her.
Life doesn't always go according to plan, so be ready to make lemonade out of lemons.
2. Free yourself from the psychology of having to be perfect so you can just get started
"When I lose these 15 pounds," or "When the new year begins," or "As soon as I get back from this trip"; These are common refrains I've heard from women in the dating world, women who prefer excuses to action.
Don't let your excuses get in the way. You'll never be the perfect person and the timing will never be perfect to start your venture, so just dive right in and take a small, smart step in your dating life. Pause. What did you learn? Then take another step. Repeat. Often times, dating is a sh*tload of trial and error.
3. Plug your knowledge gaps
Many "traditional" entrepreneurs have people advising them, even (especially!) the smartest, most successful ones. That's because smart, successful entrepreneurs admit their weaknesses; they're not too proud to say, "I can't do this on my own." They realize their vision would be more difficult to achieve without the expertise of objective consultants who've been there before them and who possess certain strengths to fill their gaps.
As a single woman navigating this often confusing world of dating, it will be important for you to admit what you don't know and ask for help. Reaching out to others doesn't mean you've "lost," as I've heard some women say when describing their antipathy toward therapists, dating coaches or dating self-help books. You aren't failing by asking others to help you learn, grow and move forward in your life. Why should someone seeking, arguably, the most important thing in the world -- love -- be alone on this journey?
4. De-familiarize yourself from the traditional concept of failure
What if you could start to view failure in your dating and love life differently?
Women who frame their experiences in the dating world purely as failures and mistakes, who refuse to learn from and see value in their experiences and their experimentation, are resigning themselves to a powerless fate. When you reframe your failures as a series of iterations, you choose to see yourself as a change-maker rather than a victim, your mistakes as opportunities and assets rather than burdens. (Here's one way to do this.)
Failure in your dating and love life is the new success! You will make mistakes, encounter disappointments just when you think things are going well, and go down wrong paths. Trust me: I've been there. Below is the same graphic from above but underneath a microscope. It's what your dating and love venture, realistically-speaking, will probably look like.
Rethinking the concept of failure empowers you to have a growth mindset -- "I can grow from my experiences; I can move in a different direction based on my experiences" -- versus a destiny mindset -- "My path to love is fixed, so no need for learning and growth; I'm just waiting for that perfect person to come into my life." It makes it easier for you to risk failure moving forward, because you instinctually know that whatever happens, it's an iteration in your venture, not a failure, an opportunity to gain some sort of knowledge from the experience.
Ladies, it's time to be the CEO, founder, and entrepreneur of your love life. Nobody else can take on these roles but you. Get started today!
Parts of this article have been adapted from Neely's book Skin In the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love, which is now available for purchase.