I’ve met with several key business leaders in the last few weeks. To a person, they say their greatest challenge is staying encouraged. With the economy the way it is—and no end in sight—it is difficult for leaders to remain optimistic.
But this has always been the challenge of leadership. You must lead yourself before you can lead others. It’s that simple. If you can learn to do that, especially in this environment, you will have developed a skill that will serve you for life.
How can you keep your spirits up in a down economy? Here are seven suggestions:
- Turn off the news media. Turn off the TV. Turn off the radio. They are no longer reporting on the problem; they are the problem. The relentless torrent of bad news only makes people—including you—more discouraged and less confident about the future.
- Connect with God. You were not created to function without a connection to God. He is the ultimate encouragement. Trying to navigate life without him is like trying to ride a motorcycle without starting the engine. You can do it, but it only works downhill. Unfortunately, a lot of life is uphill. The way I connect is by reading a passage from the Bible and praying on my commute to work.
- Read inspirational books. It’s not enough to turn off the flow of garbage into your brain, you need to replace it with something positive. You need a vivid reminder that people have gone through tough times before. They have not only survived but thrived. If you don’t know where else to start, read a good history book like 1776 by David McCullough or a good inspirational book like The Traveler’s Gift [affiliate link] by Andy Andrews.
- Hang around positive people. This sounds harsh, but you cannot afford to be around negative people—especially those that refuse to change. The problem is that these people are highly infectious. And their disease is deadly. If you don’t avoid them, you will become like them. Instead, intentionally seek out and befriend positive people. Their attitude is contagious, too.
- Exercise regularly. This is one of the most important things you can do to keep your spirit up. It’s hard to feel good about life when you feel badly about yourself. When I exercise, I always feel a little proud of myself (in a good sense). I think, I took initiative. I was proactive. Life is full of possibilities! The release of endorphin’s also has a measurable, positive impact on your brain and on your thinking.
- Get more rest. It’s almost impossible to stay upbeat if you are tired. You can’t light up a room if your batteries are drained. Therefore, it is important to know exactly how much rest you need and make it a priority. If you are like me, I often confuse discouragement with being weary. But it’s amazing how much brighter things look after a good night’s sleep!
- Go to church. When I get discouraged, I am tempted to isolate myself and retreat from the world. But this is exactly the opposite of what I need to do. All of us need a caring community of people who will love us for who we are, not what we do. We also need to be reminded that there is a purpose to our lives and to our circumstances. Nothing is happening by accident. It is all intended for our good. Church provides both of these opportunities.
Leading yourself is easy when things are going well. It pretty much takes care of itself. But when the external environment is negative, it takes work. But this is the leaders most important work. Without it, you won’t be much use to anyone else.