The Business Challenge Mindset
Having been through economic trials before and dealt with them well and not so well, I have accumulated a lot of experience on what to do in the situation we are in right now. I am not an economist so I can’t predict the future any more than economists can, who also don’t have a great track record over the last couple of decades. Neither am I a counsellor and certainly not a phcholologist. This article is written from the perspective of one business owner to help another.
Take the parts that are helpful, disagree with the bits you don’t like. These are just my observations and an attempt to help you if this all feels rather scary or uncertain.
This article relates to any form of downturn really, but it is specifically relevant today to the #Coronavirus (#Covid19). It is in relation to maintaining a positive (and productive) mindset during very uncertain times and often heavy financial pressure.
I have written a second article that should accompany this one and deals with marketing/spend specifically. Mindset plays a huge part in these times, however a more practical approach once you have the right mindset can be found in the article ‘Cash and Confidence’. The confidence mentioned doesn’t relate to how ‘confident’ you are as a person!
OK, first of all, mindset can be an emotive subject and how we react depends on where any one of us is in our own thinking, when we hear ideas being put forward. The following are really just ‘coping mechanisms’ that I use as someone who was naturally a big ‘worrier’. Do they work for me? Well, you would have to ask people around me whether they think I am a worrier or a ‘stress head’! I think getting your head in the right space is a mix of the following;
- Make peace with the worst case
- Set a more positive comparison
- Think long term about the short term
- Monitor your thinking time
I am sure there are other techniques. My hope is that these help you. If you have other suggestions, please comment and add to this.
MAKE PEACE WITH THE WORST CASE
When I talk to people about this, the first thing they comment on is how negative it can seem. So let me get this one in straight away. Imagine if it all went wrong. What does that look like? Picture it in as much detail as you wish. Indulge your Chimp (see The Chimp Paradox). If it helps, write your thoughts down. The purpose here isn’t to start challenging your fears at this stage.
Next, ask yourself ‘what is so bad about that?’. And then you keep asking that same question to the answers that you present yourself with. Keep going until you realise that even the worst case scenario isn’t impossible. It may be a million miles away from comfortable, but rarely is it actually impossible.
Trust me, when I do this, I go all the way to living on the streets, freezing and eating from food bins. Everyone I know has rejected me and complete strangers walk past thinking I’m a failure. I told you it can seem negative! The good news is, I don’t stay there for long. I get to that place and realise that even people in that condition currently find humour in some situations, they find compassion from others even if not all the time and I make peace with the worst case.
Would I ever want to live in my worst case scenario? No. However, now that I know it is not impossible, even if it is uncomfortable. I can work from that. I can stop thinking that if the economy crashes, then life won’t be worth living. Which is a pretty extreme leap of thinking, but it is all too common.
I also have a list of probably very inaccurate beliefs that I can look at individually. I mean, if my business fails, will my friends and family actually reject me? That is pretty extreme. And if they would, then I don’t need them in my life anyway.
SET A MORE POSITIVE COMPARISON
Now that we have a worst case scenario, lets remember that there are people living your worst case right now. There are also people living your dream life right now. And guess what, just like me, you are somewhere in between.
Ambition in my view is a great thing. It drives individuals and therefore organisations and nations forward. We may dream about a bigger house, more holidays, reaching more people to provide aid and many other ‘dreams’ that drive our personal or corporate mission. This drive is really important until it becomes negative for you. At this point, we need to consider what we are comparing ourselves to.
I am a perfectionist. This condition floods into every area of my thinking and left unchecked, I would only be able to compare my imperfect life with the perfect life that I dream of. One where I can heal every disease, take away everyone’s problems and generally be an undercover super hero. You may not have realised that about me, but I did say this article was going to be brutally honest!
So, when I realise that my ideal world is making me think negatively about my real world, I have to do a check on my comparison. I then look at my worst case and realise that I am not there. I look at worse places I have been that are between my current reality and my worst case and there are a lot of scenarios that I can use to compare with and remind myself that I am in a good place. Even if it isn’t the great place I want to be in. Remember, your ‘good’ place, is someone else’s ‘great place’
THINK LONG TERM ABOUT THE SHORT TERM
It is really hard sometimes to think the current situation will ever be different. When we are inside the bubble, we lose track of just how recently we entered it and we cant seem to see how we will ever get out of it. Well, we will. And sooner than you may think.
Imagine that the coronavirus lockdown was going to last 12 weeks. That is 25% of 1 year. 2.5% of the time it takes to establish a business in my view.
Given that life expectancy is over 80 in the UK, this lockdown could be as much as .29% of an 80 year old’s life. We sleep for 10x more than that! What can you be doing in this 0.29% that will improve your 99.71%? I see so many people that waste way more than 0.29% of their lives and don’t even think about it. And yet, our minds allow us to see this lockdown as a challenge. Why? Because when it is grouped together, we see the impact.
What if you could take use this 0.29% to get back the 5% of the rest of your life that you may have been unconsciously wasting? That way, you don’t lose it at all and in fact you get a positive effect from it. Maybe it was a wake up call you needed.
My friends laugh because I stack my time and everything is timed to the minute. I can’t chat at the gym because that would put me late leaving the gym by 5 minutes, if that happens I might only catch up 2 minutes before the next thing I have booked in which means….. you get the picture. I believe life is very precious. I don’t waste it when there is no virus and I certainly won’t be wasting it on lockdown either.
So, firstly, don’t feel frustrated by a lockdown. Stuff happens. Then, look for how you can use it to make the rest of your life and business more productive. How many businesses will now save hours of travelling and do more online meetings after we all get back to our normal workplace? That’s just one example.
Can you imagine how long it felt for the soldiers fighting Japan after VE Day? History tells us correctly that the Second World War ended in 1945 which is true. But some 14 weeks passed between VE and VJ Day. They were going through far more challenging conditions and they didn’t just start on VE Day either. So, you can add this to your ‘worst case’ or just a reflection of how what seems at the time to be a long time, soon becomes remembered as a short time.
MONITOR YOUR THINKING TIME
Look after yourself. If you allow yourself to focus on the negatives, guess how you will feel? If the news you are watching permanently reminds you that the world is different right now, turn it off. If you have friends on Facebook that are running around panicking, mute them for a few weeks so you don’t see their posts.
You are not stupid, you know there is a pandemic. You know to stay at home, stay safe, wash your hands etc. You are not helping the pandemic go away by wallowing in negative news. Press stop on it now. If you want to keep up with it, switch the news on, find out the key facts you need, then switch it off.
Then, for every minute you have ‘had’ to spend thinking about the negative implications of the situation, force yourself to spend at least 5x that amount of time actively acknowledging the silver linings that may not be in your life now, but will come from it.
It is said that you become the average of those you spend time with. This all starts from your thinking. That is what changes first. So, surround yourself with positivity and eventually it will rub off on you and you. Unless you consistently undo the work by surrounding yourself with more negativity than positivity, our actively resisting the positive, then it is just a matter of time. And effort, but effort that is well worth it.
In summary, a pandemic, a recession, a new competitor into your market, a change in market conditions can all seem unsettling. Our need to survive is a very basic instinct in us and when it feels like this is being challenged, our default reaction is often to panic or at least worry. That is quite normal. It is now for you to decide your next step.
There will be many people that come out of this situation better off in many ways than when it began. There will be others that come out a lot worse. I would argue that whilst there are some ‘physical’ distinctions between the two groups (industry sector, geography etc), the biggest differentiator will be mindset. And mindset, I believe is something that you can choose.
Getting the right mindset is easier for some than others. But choosing to be disciplined about your mindset is within the reach of all of us. It is a choice. Surround yourself with positive people now more than at any other time, but do this at other times too. Don’t pretend the situation isn’t happening, because that is stupidity rather than positivity. Choose to acknowledge it and then look for the opportunity it presents more than the challenge it presents.
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