(as published in the Midland Reporter-Telegram-Sept 2006)
Among the many challenges we face as entrepreneurs, I have noticed that managing emotions is critical, but often dismissed as fluffy or ridiculous. It is so easy to get excited about a deal closing, getting your next client – or first client, meeting a really lofty goal you had set for yourself, or getting a really big check in the mail. These are all milestones that deserve celebration, but there is an easier way to celebrate them than to get excited.
Likewise, when the deal falls apart – you don’t get the client, meet the goal or get the check you were expecting – that can be rather debilitating. But only if you let it. Interestingly enough, getting too excited is just as debilitating. It’s simple physics at work here. What goes up must come down. And it will come down at the same rate it went up.
Sometimes I think we fuel our own insanity as entrepreneurs. And we do this in lots of ways – like doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But one of the most potent ways we do this is not managing our emotions. A good rule of thumb is don’t get too high and don’t get too low. “But.” you say. But those exciting times are not worth the withdrawal that comes in tandem. You will waste more time recovering from your own excitement than you would to just have been calm. Excitement is a lure. It is pure adrenaline. And the same is true of anger or other highly potent negative emotions. They are short-lived and only at the level of the mind. But fulfillment, on the other hand, is satisfying. It is satisfying at a gut level and it is long-lasting.
Fulfillment is what we are looking for out of our businesses, not excitement. But it is easy to mistakenly confuse the two. One of the greatest character traits of an entrepreneur is to be the calm in the storm – through the great times but also through the tough times.
There is a natural law of change that occurs all around us that we are powerless to do anything about. But what we do have the power to do is choose our response to this change. Don’t be a slave to this law of change, just because you don’t know how to manage your emotions. For that matter, don’t be a slave to your emotions, always looking for the high – the great times – and avoiding the lows – the bad times.
As a matter of fact, according to Webster’s, the word excited means being stirred emotionally, agitated, stimulated to activity and brisk. Is that really how you want to be in your business? Or would you rather be fulfilled – bringing into actuality, carrying out, measuring up to, satisfying, bringing to an end and completing? Which do you think sounds better? I don’t know about you, but being excited all the time wears me out. I would much rather be fulfilled.
But herein lies the challenge. We all want immediate gratification and we are programmed to get it. It is easy to go for the excitement instead of the fulfillment. When we are always indulging in the excitement, we are probably not planting seeds to be fulfilled in the future. And so, very quickly you begin to see how we get into that insanity trap of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In this case, by thriving on one exciting success to the next.
But there is good news. Here are some practical things you can do to start getting your emotions in check:
First, don’t react to situations; respond to them instead. A reaction is a programmed response that can be no better than your belief systems. That may be a harsh statement, but I cannot tell you the number of times that I have reacted to a situation, and then later when I can see the situation more clearly, realized I would have chosen a different response if I had taken the time to think about my actions. I would always rather respond than react because when I respond, I don’t have to go back later and try to make things right or apologize. A response is an action that is thought out and carefully deliberated. A response takes ownership for my part and is an action with which I can live.
And really there is no need to react because everything is temporary anyway. You might think that great times are going to last forever when you are in them, but I can promise you they will not, despite what you do to try to make them extend their stay. That is a fundamental violation of the natural law of change. And conversely, you might feel like the bad times are going to last forever and, as a result, succumb to your emotions and quit right before you turn a corner. I can promise you they will not last forever. If bad times never passed, we would never have good and if good times never passed, we would never have bad. Whatever is going on right now will pass; I promise.
Second, don’t buy into the excitement that often comes along with setting goals. This is particularly true at the beginning of a year when you are making your projections as to what you think you could do in the coming year. Set the goals and be done with it. Don’t spend any time pondering how wonderful life would be if you could accomplish those goals.
As a matter of fact, I recommend you set the goals and then put them aside for the rest of the year. The process of setting the goals programs your subconscious as to what it needs to do. Any time spent pondering whether you will achieve them is planting a seed of doubt that will surely germinate as the months of the year pass. I am not saying don’t track your activity, I am just saying don’t subject yourself to the insanity of constantly trying to measure up to your goals. Let the course of the year ebb and flow naturally without force-fitting your goals on top of your business. In other words, let your business produce your goals, rather than you trying to squeeze your goals out of your business. Subtle, but powerful.
Third, when you accomplish a goal or have a big success, don’t stand there and admire it. Celebrate it and go on. Your success does not suddenly mean no more effort is required on your part. It just means you had a success. Likewise, when you have a failure, don’t just stand there and stare at it in a stupor. Acknowledge it and go on. At the moment you stand there and admire your work or throw your hands up at the mess you made, you have just become your worst nightmare. Chronically successful people don’t take time to admire their own work or whine about their failures. Whatever happens, they keep moving on. They are the calm in the storm.
And last, practice consistency. We can come up with all kinds of excuses to not be consistent, but consistency is the one thing that will save your hide when the tough times hit. Any moron can run a successful business when the getting is good, but it takes some real fortitude and stamina to run a business through the hard times. But most of all it takes consistent, diligent effort. In business, I have found that whatever seeds you plant today will germinate in roughly 60 days from today. So it’s not so bad – really. Be consistent, but not insane.