Twelve steps to success

  • 2001-11-22
  • Paul E. Adams
Step 5: Check your emotions

"Man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt man doing it." - Chinese Proverb.

How we feel about ourselves and the world around us can help us to prosper or it can sabotage our success.

To be successful in business or other activities, don't overlook the effect of your emotions.

Do you have emotional swings? Periods when you are full of optimism, and life seems great, nothing can go wrong. And other times when you think life stinks, when you're depressed, when you're feeling sorry for yourself and disliking everything, and maybe everyone.

Such swings of your emotions can cause you to make the wrong decision and take the wrong action. In other words, at such times, good or bad, your judgment stinks.

As I have written so often, when we go into business we take ourselves - our personalities, our hang-ups, our mood swings - with us. Owning a business is full of risks.

We do not make things better when we allow our moods to screw things up. If you are in business, you know how tough it is to grow and be profitable. But you also know that it is easy to blunder and lose your money.

When we are high on ourselves, we may get reckless. We may take chances with our business. We may jump into a wasteful ad campaign. We may over stock our inventor, because we are so sure that our business will boom.

We may spend money on unwise expansion plans to beat our competition.

We may even waste money on personal whims like plush office furniture, "because we deserve it."

When our emotions swing the other way, and it all looks bleak, we get depressed. We become negative about our surroundings, our family, our employees and ourselves.

A slow day, and we think our customers will never come back or are disloyal. Or that our employees are incompetent or plotting against us. What do we do? We withdraw, we feel like hiding.

At such times we don't communicate positive thoughts or ideas. Our employees may get nervous, sensing their jobs may be at risk. Even our customers may jump to the conclusion that our business may be in trouble and head to our competitors.

Such emotional swings can be costly to your business. Reading this column is not going to stop your swings. However, by being aware of the damage your mood changes can cause you and remembering "This too will pass" is helpful. You may enjoy your upswings and want to hide from your periods of pessimism. But you can't.

Remember that your outlook on life at either end of the swing of your emotional pendulum is not real and will not last.

If you are willing to admit your mood swings, what do you do? Start by reminding yourself that such highs and lows are temporary and not reality. When depressed, do something that is enjoyable and keep telling yourself it will pass. And it will; has it not always?

When giddy with the world, watch out - it's a dangerous time for you. Think of your past dumb mistakes. Don't be in a rush to repeat them.

If you can't stop your mood changes, how can you protect yourself? I suggest that at such times you postpone or avoid those decisions and commitments that will have major or a long-term impact on your company or your relationships. Don't expand during periods of euphoria or fire half your staff when you are depressed.

It is a rare person who is always calm, always even-tempered, who never becomes excited or despondent. Perhaps they are blessed, or perhaps they are bored with life as emotions mean you are alive.

Most emotional swings mean you are human and affected by the successes and disappointments of life. It is the extreme swings that can put you in "harms way." If you must make a decision, think about it, and put it off for a day. A night's sleep can be a wonderful insurance policy.

If you do so, when you make those important choices you will be more rational, more analytical, more thoughtful, and your insight will be in better shape.

Perhaps this idea will help. I have been told by friends who were troubled by such swings that keeping a daily dairy of how they feel each morning helps as it reinforces the temporary nature of feelings. Try it.

It's wise to remember the three Cs of successful actions - be calm, cool and cautious. You know the outcome when you rush to buy a stock at its high, or get depressed and give up and sell out at the low. Unwise actions - I know, I have regretted my investment decisions more than once.

By the way, before retirement, I have had my share of mood swings and made dumb business decisions. No need for you to. o

Dr. Paul E. Adams is Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at Ramapo College