Both as humans and as business owners, we tell ourselves stories.

I might tell myself that no one will pay what I need to charge for my work.

You might tell yourself that you can’t hire anyone who will do the work the way you want it to be done.

Someone else might tell themselves that they don’t have enough experience to be taken seriously, that hard work equals results, or that they can do it all themselves.

These stories aren’t necessarily good or bad–but they do frame the way we see our opportunities and challenges. These stories influence our plans and calculations. They impact our relationships with others and the relationship we have with ourselves.

The more I’ve learned about business, the more I’ve learned that these stories play a huge role in how likely our businesses are to succeed or stagnate.

The stories we tell ourselves as entrepreneurs make up our mindsets.

Another way to look at it is that these stories create a pattern of expectations and beliefs. Every action you take and every decision you make is filtered through these expectations and beliefs.

Your expectations and beliefs can keep your business stuck—even when it feels like you’re doing everything right. Your mindset can reinforce assumptions and prevent you from seeing opportunities to innovate. Your mindset can even create problems where there were none before.

You might build a new product, streamline your business model, employ a new marketing strategy, or even pivot your business entirely–but if your fundamental beliefs and expectations about your business are off, you’ll remain stuck.

Last week, I realized an old mindset that I need to work to rewrite and redefine.

It’s a story about not being popular–an old, ingrained expectation that who I am, what I create, and what I value isn’t something people actually want.

And when I say this is an old story, I don’t mean “as old as my business” old. I mean it’s almost as old as I am.

I can see how this mindset has repeatedly caused me to sabotage my own work. I start a project assuming it will flop or be misunderstood. I finish a project with half the attention I started it with because I can already see it bombing.

Maybe it surprises you to hear this. It surprised me to realize it! But it’s true.

This is the #1 thing I need to address in the new year–for both my personal satisfaction and the health of my company.

I know my true goal isn’t to be popular or to create something for everyone. However, I am on a mission to create work that serves people in a big way and I can’t do that while continuing to operate under these expectations and beliefs.

As you can imagine, discovering a story like this can start to change everything. Suddenly, you see yourself, your business, and your opportunities in new ways.

It’s been a constant theme here on the podcast as many conversations about marketing, management, or brand have turned into conversations about an unexpected identity crisis or mindset shift.

So we wanted to dedicate a whole episode to exploring the ways that shifting your mindset can shift your business.

Now, before we get too far in, I want to make one thing clear: shifting your mindset is not a magic bullet. While your mindset can absolutely get in your way and impact your actions, it does not instantly solve systematic racism and sexism. It doesn’t break down very real barriers that exist because of your gender, your sexual orientation, the socioeconomic status you come from, or the place you were born.

These things are not in your head. They require extra work and energy–whether you’re a white man doing the work to create a more inclusive work culture or a genderqueer person of color battling these obstacles on a daily basis.

But again, to do that work effectively, you have to be aware of the assumptions, beliefs, and mindset you have around those issues and how they impact both your business and the people who are impacted by it.

So, we asked 5 small business owners to share the mindset shifts that have changed things for them and their businesses. You’ll hear about old stories of who to serve, how much to hustle, how to create the most value, and how much we should get paid.

Each story is unique–but I have a feeling you might just find yourself nodding along with deep understanding as each business owner shares their journey.

Prefer to read? No problem. Find the entire episode in article form by clicking here.

This episode features Annie Schuessler, Thien-Kim Lam, Meighan O’Toole, Jamila Payne, and Helen Tremethick