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January 30, 2012

A guide to shaking off the doom and gloom

We found this useful article in the FT and wanted to share it. Almost everyone we know in business is sick of this downturn. The task is to restore confidence, despite various challenges. We need a sense of optimism to revive growth, and to reverse the recent decline in living standards. This can be done with sufficient willpower. Luke Johnson has assembled a brief list of suggestions that might boost morale among those entrepreneurs who are finding it tough.

Study history: it helps to put present difficulties into context. Life for almost everyone on earth is better than it ever has been. Societies have always suffered from periodic upheavals, yet in the long run the trend is one of relentless material improvement, mainly thanks to technological advances. Depressions always end, and our collective ingenuity has solved all the challenges of the ages. Our current, temporary adversities will be no different.

  • Avoid the news: read and watch the minimum. Editors believe bad news sells better than good, and in an era of intense media competition, many stories exaggerate and dramatise so as to catch the public’s attention. Brush off the screaming headlines, and your mood will lift.
  • Spend time with young people: humans are born with a sense of wonder. But age and experience make too many older people cynical, while rising considerations of mortality can make even hardy souls melancholy. The answer is to surround yourself with friends and colleagues from across the generations to cancel out the gloom.
  • Remain rational: the worst almost never happens – the vast majority of dire forecasts by commentators and supposed experts are simply nonsense. Humankind developed a capacity to imagine terrible outcomes as an insurance policy so that we could avoid them. But being constantly in dread of fresh catastrophes is impractical and taints our judgment.
  • Avoid pessimists: most of us have a bias towards either a negative or positive outlook. You should keep the company of these latter, sunny characters. Seek out those with an upbeat disposition – you’ll find it is infectious.
  • Read the stoics: classical writers like Marcus Aurelius have provided readers with uplifting advice about preserving equanimity amid awful circumstances for hundreds of years. We recommend his Meditations.
  • Admit mistakes and then move on: all of us make bad decisions, suffer setbacks and endure failures. It is important to recognise these but once you have accepted the error – and apologised where necessary – start afresh and don’t stay mired in regret.
  • Keep busy: dynamic individuals don’t have time to become depressed. They are too busy striving to make progress. The world is full of more opportunities than ever before – what is needed is entrepreneurial zest and self-discipline.
  • Get fit: doctors have understood for centuries that physical exercise is an excellent antidote to stress and gloom. Endorphins released when you exercise help banish the blues.
  • Focus on small wins: every day each of us experiences little victories that can act as encouragement. Note these modest achievements and it will generate a sense of momentum that can propel you.
  • Ignore events over which you have no control: worrying about what will happen to the euro or Wall Street is a waste of intellectual effort. Put exertion instead into your own business and life. Expend energies on aspects of your career that you can genuinely influence.
  • Concentrate on your micro economy: forget the macroeconomic climate. What matters is how you take share in your local market, or whether you can enhance your products to better serve customers.
  • Laugh: psychologists know that humour is healthy. So seek out comedy when you can, listen to jokes – and don’t take yourself too seriously. As they say, a day without laughter is a day wasted.

Of course, there is no magic formula – resilience is hard won, and the path is never smooth. Moreover, delusional optimism can surely be dangerous. But having worked with some amazing organisations and seen the turn around in some companies in the past, here at Inspira we hope these top tips will provide some inspiration to you right now, if you have read this!

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