If you own a small business, you’re susceptible to any number of outside forces that can potentially influence your business in a big way. Influences like the stock market, natural disasters, the political climate, the cultural climate, and on and on. There’s no denying that sometimes good or bad luck can totally change the course of your business.
With so many unknowns affecting the way you do business, it’s easy to get caught up in an endless cycle of hand-wringing and worrying about all the things that could affect your small business. This might even manifest itself as a mindset where you feel that almost everything is outside of your control.
That's just not the case, however—there are many things you do have control over, things you might forget about or take for granted. In fact, the success or failure of your business is much more in your own hands than you probably give yourself credit for.
The Pursuit of Happiness
When you focus on negative outcomes, you might likely feel helpless, and helplessness is a strong emotion, one that's hard to overcome.
Instead of looking at a situation you have no control over and thinking, "It’s outside of my control, so I’m going to wallow in self-pity," you should be thinking, "It’s outside of my control, but instead of focusing on how bad it could be, I’m going to work on things I can control."
The fact is, in every situation, you can choose to either be proactive or reactive. Proactive means that you intentionally choose your behavior and take responsibility for it. On the other hand, reactive people are easily affected by their environment and, as a result, let it dictate their emotions. When you’re proactive about your outlook, your outlook is more stable across time, wavering little with the daily ups and downs that come your way, both professionally and personally.
Something really interesting happens when we intentionally change our emotion. A study done in 2005 searched for a correlation among happiness and success. The researchers weren’t trying to determine whether happiness was a result of success—that's already been proven many times over. Instead, the researchers of this particular study set out to find if happiness actually leads to success.
The study found that not only were happy people more successful, but that happiness creates behaviors that create success. So being happy is a self-fulfilling prophecy! The study also found that happiness carries over to every aspect of life: marriage, family, health, life expectancy and more.
Think about that: Successful people aren’t happy because they’re successful. Their happiness helped them become successful, in turn making them even happier. This is a great example of how being proactive with our emotions can change outcomes in your relationships, your health, even your business.
The researchers also found that the successful people they talked to had “chronic happiness,” something that isn’t inherent in people. It's a trait that has to be learned and practiced, intentionally (and proactively) honing the craft.
Learning to Be Proactively Happy
There are lots of ways to ensure that we’re being proactive with our thoughts. Here are three things I do on nearly a daily basis to ensure I don’t start playing the victim when it comes to my business and what I can control:
1. Meditate. “Meditation” is a loaded term, but what I mean is taking a few minutes and clearing your mind, focusing on the outcomes you’d like to achieve that day. You’re getting your mind in the right place to make it through the day, regardless of what the day brings. There's no need for candles and chanting monks ... just your thoughts and some quiet time.
2. Make a list of things I can change. Sometimes I find it helpful to create a list of the things I have control over, so I can focus on those instead of on the things I can’t. The number of things you can influence is pretty amazing when you sit down and think about it: what you say, what you think, what you listen to, what you read, what you buy. All these are things you have control over, and that’s only a small portion of the list you could make.
3. Turn off the news. If I can help it, I try to stay away from the news. News programs are generally filled with information about negative events completely outside of my control. I choose to focus on the things I can change, and usually those aren’t global issues. Does that mean that news programming isn’t important? Not at all. But ultimately news networks are in the business of retaining eyeballs and making profits, not making sure I’m happy. When I watch news networks for long periods of time, I get anxious and depressed. Thanks to social networks, I still get plenty of global news coverage, but this way, I can choose what I pay attention to.
When we’re proactive, we can change the outcome of virtually every aspect of our lives. We don’t need to be the victim anymore. The success of our businesses—and the rest of our lives—is a lot more in our control than we may think.
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