Five Thinking Patterns That Will Keep You Playing Small

If you feel you should be doing better than you are in business, you may have a belief pattern that is unconsciously holding you back.  The first step is to bring it to the surface.  Only then can it be addressed, released, and replaced with a belief that will lead you to increased success.

Here are five of the most common thinking patterns or beliefs that will keep your accounting business from growing.


If you flinch when I ask you if you “deserve” to be wealthy and successful, then you may have a “deserve-ability” issue to work on.  If you can relate to the following thoughts, you fall into this belief pattern:

  • I have trouble asking clients for money even if I’ve worked hard and did the work.
  • I know I don’t charge enough but I am frozen when it comes to raising my prices.
  • I often do things for my clients for free.
  • I am really uncomfortable calling clients who pay late.
  • I usually give up when a client disputes their bill.
  • I was taught money is dirty, rich people are “filthy rich,” and you’re better off being poor.

Sometimes you can ask yourself what’s behind this belief; then you can decide whether the “current you” deserves more.  Why don’t you deserve a successful business? Is a good place to start.


If you spend any time of your day thinking about your competition or people who might compete with you, then you might have an unhealthy thinking pattern.  Here’s when you’re in real trouble:

  • You are constantly taking a look at what your competition is doing.
  • You immediately copy your competition’s strategies when they come out with something new, whether it’s a good fit with your client base or mission/vision or company culture or not.
  • You think more about your competition than you do your own business strategy.
  • You gossip about your competition to others in hopes your friends will take sides and commiserate with you.

In an accounting practice, it’s highly unlikely that you need to spend much time worrying about your competition.  Your own uniqueness is your firm culture or if you’re solo, your own personality is enough of a difference to set you apart.  You don’t need to develop any more uniqueness than that, contrary to many of our profession’s consultants.

Fear of Success

A huge percentage of entrepreneurs hold this belief which may be subconscious or fully in their awareness.  Here are some problems we’ve talked ourselves into that are just wrong:

  • If I am a woman, what if I make more than my husband?  This is a “can of worms” for some couples.   Communication is the starting point.
  • Having employees really ties me down, or I don’t play well with others (Wrong, employees are freeing; the problem could be your hiring and supervisory skills!)
  • I will have to work more hours – or harder –  than I already do.  Wrong; you’ll need to work on different things, but the hours are not longer.

If you are afraid of success, you will end up playing much smaller than you really are.  Although this mostly hurts only yourself, you also cheat the world out of your brilliance by not helping more people.

I Have to Do It Myself

This thinking pattern is one of the more ironic ones for the accounting profession.  Someone who will not delegate lacks trust in other people.  When clients hire us, they have to turn over their very private, very sensitive financial information.  This is scary for some people!

Being able to build trust in others but not have it ourselves is being a bit hypocritical.   We need to know  — and feel – what our clients go through when they sign on with us.  It just makes us better people, and maybe better accountants too.

With this thinking pattern, you have sentenced yourself to no more than five figures a year in revenue.   Take the first step away from it by learning how to tolerate vulnerability and trust others.


Worthiness is somewhat similar to deserve-ability.  People who have this belief pattern:

  • Let people waste a lot of their time because they don’t value their own time or know what it’s worth
  • Work on tasks far below their ability
  • Squander their time on things that don’t generate income
  • Might have had some setbacks
  • Might be afraid of other people without really realizing it
  • Can’t say no
  • Are more passive or reactive than proactive

Lifelong learning, gaining experience, determination, and persistence will help this one gain steady progress.  Once a person has experienced a series of successes, they can get the momentum they need to feel worthy of getting the life they want.

Thinking Small or Large

Did you resonate with any of the thinking patterns above?  You’re certainly not alone if you did.  Choose the one that got your head nodding the most, and bring it to your awareness more and more.  Only then can you take steps to start playing bigger.