Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deficit Thinking

You don’t need to be a financial guru to know that you need to earn more than you spend to get ahead. What is not so obvious is that the same applies to our thoughts. If we put our attention and energy on what we are lacking, we will always come up short. With so many of us suffering from the effects of the troubled economy, it is easy to resort to a scarcity mentality of “there isn’t enough”. Unfortunately this results in a downward spiral that is not only depressing, it also robs of us the energy we could be using to tap into more positive and creative thoughts to change our circumstances.

For instance, I have a public relations firm. When the economy was merrily buzzing along, I had more than enough clients to take care of needs and I enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. However, when the housing boom melted, the domino theory trickled down to my business. I lost some valued clients – some from bankruptcy – others to a severe shortage of funds. Not only was my client base reduced, some of the existing companies I was working with were not paying the money they owed me. As a small business person, this was pretty rough.

Each time I lost a customer I had a running tally of the deficit. My inner dialogue was something like, “I need $1,000 to make up for ABC client, $500 to make up for DEF client and another $1,500 to replenish the income from GHI client. Needless to say, I was not successful in my pursuits. I kept trying to bring everything back to where it was before. My focus was on what I was lacking, and I was motivated by fear.

Fear may be useful to keep people from doing something stupid – like jumping off a building – but it is not a good stimulus for creativity. And as a public relations practitioner and freelance writer, creativity is the juice that keeps me going.

I took the normal precautions one should take with a loss of income. I cut my expenses. It is good to be optimistic, but one has to be realistic too. You shouldn’t spend what you don’t have. So I ate less pizza, curtailed unnecessary costs, drove less and increased the deductible on my health insurance. These were all necessary (and in the pizza-eating case) healthier choices.

Unfortunately, I started resenting my circumstances and my focus turned into a wee bit of negativity. However, I know better and I didn’t dwell in my emotional basement for long. Years of experience has taught me that negativity NEVER changes a situation for the better.

So what did I do to turn things around? I played tennis.

I had been sitting on my duff and I hadn’t been taking any action. That is not to say that I wasn’t using the internet to find more work. I sent out letters and proposals. But that is so stagnant. I was using my brain, but not my body. So I went out and played some doubles tennis in the evening. I am no Venus Williams, but I had fun. Because of my physical exertion, I slept better. When I was physically dormant and consumed with worry, my nocturnal thoughts evolved into frustrating nightmares. But the night after I played tennis I had empowering dreams. That gave way to a few new ideas for increasing my business. Then I found out about a new form of publishing for my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. Then I contacted a former client and came up with a great pitch I could make to the local morning show producers. For the first time in a couple months, producers were contacting me again.

Once my creativity started flowing, so did the work. I felt empowered and that new mindset was making me a magnet for success. Instead of focusing on the work I lost, I concentrated on my original intention – helping small businesses succeed through creative, cost-effective public relations strategies.

New clients, albeit with smaller retainers, were coming my way. I started to rebuild my business again, almost from the ground up. It was a lot like my tennis game. I wasn’t acing anyone with the brute force of a 100-mph serve, but I was slowly gathering points by staying in the game.

We all suffer setbacks in life. I am no exception. And even as the author of a self help book on the value of positive thinking, I have my moments of tarnished thoughts. But I can honestly say nothing is ever restored to brightness from grousing or crying into a pity pot. It is only when we challenge our obstacles, shake off defeat and use creativity rather than negativity to combat our problems that we can truly shine.

As Featured On EzineArticles

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