How important is mindset to an entrepreneur? Let me give you two options:

Option A: You’re in control of your future. Your energies are focused. You’ve got your act together. You feel useful and positively connected to others. Resources and opportunities are flowing toward you.

Option B: You feel powerless, weak, stymied, let down by others, disappointed or frustrated that the world isn’t giving you what you want. You doubt your abilities and self-worth.

Assuming the same circumstances, what if I were to tell you that the only difference between experience A and experience B is a particular mindset — an attitude and approach that can be a conscious choice?

I think pretty much everyone, myself included, spends at least a little time in B. So, let’s talk about the attitude and choice that allows you to spend your time in A.

The Entrepreneurial Attitude vs. the Entitlement Attitude

If you’re an entrepreneur, then, at some point, you’ve decided to create value for others before you expect any rewards to come your way. This is what entrepreneurs fundamentally do. There are no guarantees, but they trust that their value creation will generate positive results and rewards. I call this the Entrepreneurial Attitude: Create value before expecting any reward.

The complete opposite of the entrepreneurial attitude is the Entitlement Attitude. Entitlement means that you expect others to provide you with opportunities and everything else you need, regardless of the value you create. When I meet someone who’s feeling entitled, that attitude makes me not want to do anything for them. Entitled people are takers, and they eventually become isolated because of this.

On the other hand, entrepreneurs are givers, and this leads to them being more connected. They look at others and think, what can I do that might be of value to them? They understand that creating value for others leads to opportunity.

When you have an entrepreneurial mindset, it makes others want to join you and help you in return. This is a big part of how entrepreneurism attracts opportunities, resources, and support.  We like people who are useful contributors, who take initiative and create things without being guaranteed anything as a result of their activity.

Not just for entrepreneurs.

Let me say upfront that the entrepreneurial attitude is not just for entrepreneurs. While everyone isn’t going to be an actual entrepreneur, everybody can be entrepreneurial in their approach to life. You just have to understand that value creation comes before opportunity, rather than expecting that opportunity will be given to you.

The flipside of this (and this is a critical point) is that entrepreneurs also slip into entitlement, often without realizing it. You can have an entrepreneurial attitude and still have moments and circumstances where entitlement creeps in. It can happen at any time, and it usually signals a new growth opportunity if you can learn to recognize when it’s happening.

Reclaiming growth, power, and freedom

What people often don’t realize is how much power and control you give up when you have an entitlement attitude. It’s a natural human desire to have control, but as soon as you expect others to do things for you, you make yourself weak and helpless. I’m always surprised when I see parents with entrepreneurial attitudes themselves shield their children from the growth experiences that made them so successful, usually in the name of protecting them.

What we can lose sight of is that our growth and capabilities can’t be given to us. We have to earn them. And we all earn them the same way — by creating value before we expect any reward. As long as you’re doing this, your chances of being happy and successful are much greater. In fact, you’ll generate a lot of your own happiness as a direct result of this attitude.

I’ve been through some really tough challenges, but as long as I was able to have an entrepreneurial attitude through those times — even when I wasn’t getting the results I was looking for — I was still getting the forward motion I wanted. With the entitlement attitude, not only do you not get the rewards, you’re also cut off from taking initiative and responsibility. You lose out on the rewards and the growth.

I’ve had some of my biggest breakthroughs during some of my biggest challenges because of what they spurred me on to create. Here’s the thing: We value what we create for ourselves more than we value the things created for us. Our sense of self-worth and success, and ultimately happiness, is tied to believing that the positive rewards we got were earned. Whereas a natural response to being on the receiving end is beginning to think, “Well, this is the way it’s always going to be.” It’s very easy to then unconsciously develop an entitlement mentality.

From B to Freedom.

Anytime you slip into an entitlement approach, you’ll eventually notice that people begin letting you down. You feel disappointed. And these feelings, to which no one is 100 percent immune, are a useful signal to ask yourself, “How and why am I feeling entitled here?”

What you’ll likely find is that it’s always some kind of a fiction that you’re believing in. There was no guarantee and yet somehow you thought there was one. I’ve never had a feeling or thought about entitlement that stood up to scrutiny. There was always something I thought was true in the situation that, on closer inspection, was not. The mistaken belief sets you up to get beaten up, and you’re the one actually doing the hurting, even though it seems that it’s everyone else’s fault.

This is a painful, miserable approach to the future. Turn it around by thinking, “I’m going to make a decision to create some value here as a first stage, and that always starts with finding the truth about the situation.” Once you make that decision, you immediately feel better. Suddenly, your energy is focused. You can begin to measure what you’re doing and chart progress. You’re in control. You’re creating your future, and this is what makes people happy. Whatever results from this you earned, and this is what creates confidence and a new sense of capability and possibility—and ultimately happiness and freedom.

About the Author

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan is the founder and president of The Strategic Coach Inc. and creator of the Strategic Coach® program, which works with entrepreneurs to reach new heights of success and happiness. He has authored over 30 publications over his 42 years as a highly-regarded speaker, consultant, strategic planner, and coach to entrepreneurial individuals and groups.