4 Tricks to Remaining Upbeat When Times Are Tough

Entrepreneurship can put us on an emotional rollercoaster, zooming from self-congratulation to self-doubt in minutes. Here is how to achieve a positive inner attitude.

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By Dorie Clark


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Running your own business is fulfilling and energizing. But at times, entrepreneurship can put us on an emotional roller coaster, zooming from self-congratulation to self-doubt (and even frantic worry) in minutes. After a talk I gave recently, I received an email from an attendee who'd been up late grappling with a question: "How can I acquire and maintain a positive inner attitude?"

Here are four strategies you can follow to bring more calm and positivity into your life.

Related: 3 Leadership Traits That Transcend Skills and Experience

1. Invest in your health.

It's extremely difficult to stay positive when stress hormones are coursing through your body. Busy entrepreneurs probably won't have time to follow every "best practice" for physical health. But experiment to find out which ones matter most to your well-being, and focus on those. My colleague Christie Smith, who runs Deloitte's Leadership Center for Inclusion, travels frequently, but makes a point of exercising every single morning. Personally, I'm lackadaisical about my workout schedule. But as a vegetarian, I'm obsessive about healthy eating, even while traveling. I go out of my way to ensure I'm fueling myself properly, including driving miles out of my way to locate nutritious fare.

2. Understand the worst-case scenario.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to inner calm is when we "catastrophize" and imagine the worst-case scenario. Your client isn't calling back? Perhaps she's cancelling the contract. Your sales numbers have slipped? Maybe your competitors have permanently stolen your market share. Having trouble filling a position? Perhaps you'll have to move your headquarters or double wages to attract talent in today's competitive landscape. Well, maybe. But it's also possible the present situation is just that – the way things are today. To calm down, it's important to face your concerns head-on. If your client really did cancel the contract, what would you do? What steps would you take? Often, grappling with the reality rather than imagining dire scenarios can help you feel more in control; you realize you have more options than you might have surmised. (And it helps to put things in perspective; she might be cancelling the contract, but it's also possible she isn't calling because she's out sick, or on vacation, or at an off-site meeting.)

Related: To Be a Brilliant Leader, Mindset Is Everything (Infographic)

3. Call a lifeline.

It's important to identify like-minded friends with whom you can share your ups and downs. I recently met up in New York City with Blair Hughes, an Australian reader of Reinventing You, who has followed some of its precepts to create a new career in sports marketing for himself. He told me about his friend Michael David, whom he talks with regularly about their mutual reinventions. Blair and Michael encourage and challenge each other – the kind of relationship we all need in our lives.

4. Reward yourself.

Sometimes, I'll feel completely overwhelmed by the tasks on my to-do list. If you've been working nonstop for too long, even minor tasks like writing blog posts, answering an inbox full of emails, and preparing for next week's meetings can seem interminable and draining. That's why it's important to punctuate those blasts of work with small rewards you can look forward to. That doesn't mean you should indulge in expensive vacations or shopping sprees (though those can be nice every once in a while). Instead, focus on small pleasures, like scheduling dinner with a friend at the end of a taxing workday, arranging for a massage at the end of the week or at the conclusion of a long business trip, or even relaxing with a mindless television program if your brain has simply been firing for too long. We all need something to look forward to.

As entrepreneurs, we set the emotional tenor for our business. Employees and customers look to us for guidance about how to handle setbacks and whether we're making progress. Cultivating a positive inner attitude is key to sending that message. By focusing on our health, understanding and planning for worst-case scenarios, cultivating trusted friends, and rewarding ourselves periodically, we're making an investment in the future of our business.

Related: 7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Master Self-Awareness

Dorie Clark

Speaker, Marketing Strategist, Professor

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You. 

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