Running a small business is a constant challenge. From your inventory to your employees, there’s always something demanding your attention — and that can be both emotionally and intellectually draining. To make the right decisions and run your business smoothly, you need to be able to harden yourself mentally. But that’s not always an easy task. Here are a few tips for creating a sense of mental toughness and for soldiering on even when the situation seems impossible.
1. Talk to Yourself
Sometimes simply talking a situation through is enough to gain some clarity on it. When you start to feel yourself a little bit overwhelmed, interview yourself: What specifically is bothering you? What is the worst that can happen? And what can you do to reduce the risks? This is a type of self-management that’s often used during anxiety attacks, but can also be helpful in day-to-day life.
As a business owner, there are dozens of fires that you need to put out each and every week. This can become like a white noise surrounding you, leading eventually to a general sense of unease. Talking to yourself is a fast and easy way to re-focus yourself on your priorities and determine what, if anything, is truly bothering you.
2. Keep It Positive
It may seem cliched, but mentally re-framing situations in a positive way can radically adjust their impact. Part of personal development comes from seeing things not as failures but instead as growth. Consider one of the worst case scenarios: a failed expansion into a hostile market. This can be seen as a failure and a waste of money — or it can be seen as an investment in the future of your business. You now know more about the market and more about expansion; you are now far more prepared to move into a market when you are ready to do so.
Business owners experience failure all the time. The most highly successful entrepreneurs saw dozens of business failures before they were able to achieve success. The trick is that these weren’t actually failures; each of these businesses were a learning experience that ultimately lead to their growth.
3. Break It Down Into Manageable Steps
When dealing with a large project or problem, a simple trick is to break it into manageable steps. A seemingly insurmountable task can then become a set of very achievable steps, which you can then take one by one. Small business owners often have to manage a lot of their operations on their own, and dealing with a large project or investment can be overwhelming. Integrating small steps into your day-to-day operations, on the other hand, can be much simpler.
We feel panicked and overwhelmed when we aren’t certain where to start; when we don’t feel that we have control over a situation. Breaking projects into steps and planning for the future increases your control over the situation, which then improves your mental acuity.
4. Visualize the Situation
What’s the worst that could happen? No, really: what is the worst that can happen? Often we feel most vulnerable when we are walking into a situation in which we cannot anticipate the outcomes; when we are uncertain what the end result will be. And while that’s understandable, self-improvement demands that we address this head on. Visualization can help.
As a business owner, visualizing the best case scenarios, worst case scenarios, and most probable scenarios can actually help you manage any fears or misgivings that you might have. By visualizing both negative and positive outcomes, you not only have a goal to work for, but you also realize that the worst case scenario isn’t the end of the world — you’ll still be in charge and you’ll still be able to recover.
5. Don’t Always Go It Alone
Finally, many situations feel like they are more difficult because they are isolating. Simply talking to other business owners — or even just friends — about your current issues can make them feel far more surmountable. As a small business owner, it’s easy to see challenges as personal shortcomings. Getting some perspective from third parties can help you understand the situation better.
Networks of business professionals, seminars, and mentoring can all be extremely valuable for developing mental toughness. Outside advice from those who are more experienced — and those who have already “been there, done that” — can be used to assure you that the challenges you are facing are not unique and that you will be able to get through them.
Being a small business owner is all about self-management. If you aren’t able to develop yourself and improve upon yourself, you’ll find it difficult to develop and improve upon your business. As always, you need to take care of yourself first… That means setting aside the time to think things through and open yourself up to advice.