How to stay positive when everything is against you
With uncertainty abounding and a recession biting, author and founder of The Accountants Millionaires’ Club Heather Townsend shares her best tips and techniques to stay positive.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too
(Extract from “If” by Rudyard Kipling)
When Rudyard Kipling wrote the first few lines of this famous poem, I doubt he was experiencing a large period of economic turbulence due to a global pandemic, or seeing a rapid reengineering of how society worked, rested and played. But this is exactly the challenge we face.
How do we keep our heads? How do we stay positive for others, like our staff and clients? There is no one size fits all, when it comes to keeping your head, but in this article, I will share with you what really can work to stay positive, even if it feels like the world is crashing down around you.
Start with calming the voice of fear in your mind
Sitting there and stewing, for example, on exactly how much of your client portfolio is going to churn in the next six to 12 months isn’t going to help. Neither is denying you have these fears in the first place.
Having worries and fears is very natural. It's our brain trying to keep us safe from harm. The only way you can take these fears from gnawing away is to verbalise and contextualise them. Then you can let them go and stop them from preying on your mind.
Here are some ways to let them go:
- Talk them over with someone. You’ll be surprised at how much better you will feel doing this. This doesn’t need to be a coach or a therapist. It can be a friend or family member.
- Find out the real facts. For example, do a client portfolio analysis and see exactly who is at risk of leaving or going out of business. It is probably a lot less than you fear.
- Consider adding mindfulness techniques into your daily life such as meditation or journaling.
Once you have calmed the demons in your mind, it’s much easier to put in place a plan to mitigate the impacts of what is happening around you. Getting to the planning stage is normally the point where you can find your positive self.
Have contingency plans ready
As lockdowns began to start all around the world my parents were travelling in remote areas of Borneo. And it became very apparent that we needed to get them home a week earlier than planned or risk them being stuck in Asia for the foreseeable future.
Between them, their travel company and various family members’ credit cards we hatched a plan. But not just any plan, but a plan B, C and D. Yes, they did get home unscathed. But it was much easier to remain positive about getting them out because we had thought through what could go wrong, and had many backups in place.
That’s the thing about contingency plans – they help you anticipate and plan for what may be. And this pre-thinking is what helps you get through the tough stuff and stay positive for what lies ahead.
Train your brain to think positively
For you, is the glass half empty or half full? Not everyone is naturally optimistic. In fact, the natural scepticism needed to be a good accountant means the industry tends towards believing the glass is half empty. The good news is you can rewire your brain to be more optimistic. The bad news is that this takes time and effort!
Connect in with your ‘why’
Having a strong sense of why you do what you do is often the foundation for being positive. If you know why you are doing what you are doing, and how it connects into the bigger picture, it can give you the strength and fortitude to carry you through difficult times.
Accept your feelings for what they are – feelings
In the Headspace app, Andy Puddicombe talks about not getting caught up in your feelings. He teaches a technique called noting where you mentally note your feelings. And in the noting process, you decide on whether this is a positive or negative feeling.
This deceptively simple technique is a great way of moving your emotional and often irrational fears into rational thinking. But it is also a way of accepting your feelings. Accepting your feelings rather than amplifying them or getting caught up in the story of what they are, is a great way to stop them having power over you.
Choose to be positive
Having a positive attitude is a choice – people aren’t either positive or negative. The difference is that people choose to find positivity in difficult situations. If you truly believe that your attitude is a choice then you will find it easier to control how you feel regardless of what’s happening around you.
Look for the positivity
Retraining your brain, ie laying down new neural pathways takes time. Give yourself a task to look for something positive every day. And in the moments where everything seems tough or hard, look for the silver lining. There always will be one to find. The more you make looking for the positive a habit, the easier it will become to be relentlessly positive in the hard times.
Remove the negative influences in your life
Are there some people or some situations which just get you down? For example, I realised a while ago that the sports team I ran was just not working for me. All the club politics and the stress of worrying if the team members were going to turn up had turned what was a fun thing into a burden. I stepped down at the end of the season. It literally felt like a weight was taken off my shoulders.
You may find it useful to unfollow or disconnect with people on social media who don’t make you feel good. In fact, limiting your exposure to the more ‘doom and gloom’ social media sites like Facebook and the 24/7 rolling news will make it easier to be positive.
If the negative influences are, say, a staff member or a family member, then you still have a choice. Be brave, let them know the impact they are having on your state of mind. You may be pleasantly surprised by how they change their behaviours.
Practice regular gratitude
Reinforce the positivity in your life – you can’t be in a state of fear (negative) and gratitude (positive) at the same time so practice gratitude as much as possible. End every day with making a list of what you’re grateful for. This has a great side effect of helping your brain destress and unwind – just what you need to have a good nights’ sleep.
Listen out for any negative self-talk
Negative self-talk serves no purpose other than to make you feel worse. So start recognising when you feel bad and what is making you feel that way. When you recognise these moments, immediately do something that makes you happy, reframe the situation or practice gratitude. This ‘reward’ that you give yourself stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin (happy hormones) which over time, will help you develop healthier patterns.
On Wednesday 29th July, 13:00 (BST), Heather Townsend on her AccountingWEB Live “Refocus, Replan, Rebuild” show will be talking with guests Paul Miller, Owner of Cornish Accounting, and Graeme Tennick, Owner of Graeme Tennick and Co on exactly how they have managed to stay relentlessly positive throughout lockdown. To claim your place, register here.
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Heather Townsend is Founder and Author of The Accountants Millionaires’ Club. She is the author of six books, including The Go-To Expert, and Profitable Pricing For Accountants. The Club has 50+ members and helps its members grow their practice, the low stress way. It will give...