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How to Thrive During Tough Times

February 27, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225945

As an entrepreneur, being your own boss can be a joy and a burden. You are responsible for tough decisions about how to stay relevant in the marketplace, when to take on more debt, or how to handle an economic downturn. It is never smooth sailing, so learning to thrive and grow in difficult situations is essential to your success.

"We don't talk about struggle enough," says Steven Snyder, author of Leadership and the Art of Struggle (Berrett-Koehler, 2013). "We deny it and treat it as a taboo topic. That forces people to become embarrassed about it."

When leaders push emotional or professional challenges under the rug, those unaddressed feelings plant a seed of self doubt. That leads to low confidence, self-comparison, and diminished faith in your ability to handle future trials -- a toxic combination.

On the other hand, if those challenges are addressed, leaders begin to flourish. "Struggle and leadership are intertwined," Snyder says. "Challenges create the opportunity for leadership growth."

Related: 5 Influential CEOs Weigh in What Makes a Good Leader

To conquer difficult situations and grow your business, prepare yourself to handle the challenge mentally and emotionally. Here are three tips to help you do that:

1. Build self-awareness.
Every leader faces constant struggles, but problems arise when fear and self-doubt take over. To prevent that from happening, be mindful of your emotional state. "If you can really pay attention to your fears and deal with them, then you can be so much more effective," Snyder says.

To become aware of your fears, look for signs of resistance or displaced anger. You might be procrastinating on a decision, arguing without listening to the other side, or lashing out at your family. Ask yourself, what is really going on here? What do I fear will happen? What am I telling myself about this situation, and is it productive? By building that awareness, you regain control of the situation.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Positive

2. Trust your ability to learn.
Those who conquer challenges most effectively hold a firm belief that they can learn and grow, adapting to handle any situation. They shun the idea of innate talent in favor of hard work and hunger to learn. That attitude helps them handle tough challenges in stride.

When you face a difficult situation, remind yourself that you can change and improve. "Ask yourself, what can I do proactively in this situation to really make the best out of it?" Snyder says. If you are humble about your knowledge gaps and optimistic about your potential to grow, then struggles will be opportunities to become a better leader.

3. Be ready to reinvent yourself.
Struggles are moments that demand change, so any good leader must be adaptable in order to persevere. "You have to recognize that what led to success before may not lead you to success in the future," Snyder says.

In order to thrive, you may have to make significant changes to your leadership style or your business. To embrace that flexibility, remember your mission and the passion you have for your work. By focusing on the end goal, you can start to detach yourself from any one way of getting there, allowing more freedom to explore different means to the same end. "That adaptive energy unleashes our greatest potential," Snyder says, empowering you to overcome any challenge and thrive in the face of struggle.

Related: How to Stop Over Thinking and Get Things Done