Surviving the Down Economy

Surviving a down economy has remarkable parallels to wilderness survival. How many of these describe you or your spouse or coworkers lately?

  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Angry outbursts.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Low energy level.
  • Constant worrying.
  • Propensity for mistakes.
  • Thoughts about death or suicide.
  • Trouble getting along with others.
  • Withdrawing from others.
  • Hiding from responsibilities.
  • Carelessness.

This list comes from the US Army Survival Manual — it’s the most common behaviors and symptoms that humans show when they are under too much stress.

Add to the natural stress of the current economy, these common stress enhancers:

  • Isolation (especially for business owners and CEOs)
  • Uncertainty
  • Feeling of Lack of Control
  • Fatigue

Pretty quickly we reach a level of stress that will harm anybody’s ability to be effective.

Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s your spouse, boss, coworker, or subordinate. What can you do about it?

You can do more than you might think. Attack each element with a specific tool for mitigating it.

First, identify which of the above behaviors and enhancers are present for you. Ask a trusted colleague to rate your behaviors on the first list, and help you assess which elements on the second list are present for you.

If you have three or more behaviors and one or more enhancers, you need to create a mitigation plan and start executing it. If someone close to you does, use your influence on them to get them to act.

Start with the enhancers, and counteract them:

Research shows that one of the greatest joys in life is eating with friends. So, stop eating alone. Have lunch two or more times per week with people you like. Add at least one dinner per week with friends — and go for two or three if you can. Simply tell your friends that you are feeling isolated and need good company. They’ll be delighted to help. And you need to eat anyway.

New research on procrastination reveals that we’re much more likely to procrastinate a vague task than a specific one. So, develop a strategic plan, or dust off your old one and update it. Seek help from your local business consultant, chamber of commerce, SCORE chapter, or other resource. A good plan contains specific actions for you to take across the breadth of your business, and will reduce your level of uncertainty. If you’re ready to take it to the next level, create a Balanced Scorecard to track your execution of your plan.

Feeling of Lack of Control
This is actually one of the hardest to work up the nerve to tackle, yet the easiest to fix. Experience has shown that you’ll notice what you focus on, whether good or ill. So, make a list of all the things that worry you, and put each into one of three categories:

  1. Under your control
  2. Within your influence
  3. Out of your control or influence

Now, post the list of things that are Under Your Control next to your computer monitor, on your bathroom mirror, and on the dashboard of your car. Focus 90% of your energy on these, and the remaining 10% on the items you can Influence, and simply ignore the rest. You’ll begin to feel better within minutes.

Get serious about exercise, diet, and rest. You cannot run your equipment reliably without maintenance, and the same is true of the human body. These things are, by the way, Under Your Control, so working on them will help you twice — they’ll boost your energy and they’ll enhance your feeling of having greater control over your life.

Just as a stranded aviator, a shipwrecked mariner or a lost hiker can — with training, education and discipline — survive in a tough wilderness environment, so too can you survive a tough business environment. It takes work, and it can be done. Go do it.

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