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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Sustaining Your Sanity in Tough Times

As I fly home from New Orleans after speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention, I am inspired by the resourcefulness of an industry hit hard by the economy. Over 10,000 attendees attended workshops and keynote addresses to hear of new ways to keep moving in the right direction with so many obstacles impacting their business.

Former Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton were the celebrity speakers at this event teaming up to provide their unique perspectives about the economy, business strategies, and ideas for growth.

Clinton made the point, "Tough times don't test us. They teach us about our character and our resilience."

My task at the NADA Convention was to provide smart strategies for Working in the Smart Zone at work, home, and with family. Here are a few Smart Moves to help you sustain your sanity in difficult times.

  • Do what others are unwilling to do. This is a Smart Move no matter what economic challenges you face. Volunteer when others have stopped, follow up with customers when others don't have time, and continue to attend conferences and association events when others see those as places to cut costs. Stay focused on what you need to do to grow your business, bond with your family, and help you be the person you want to be.

  • Go where you feel most like yourself. This is a quote I use in my book, Working in the Smart Zone. Think of where you can go, both physically and mentally, to feel most like yourself and do that. For many people, these are stressful times. Things like exercising, reading, and spending time with people outside your office can help you feel most like yourself. I see that as an "anchor" to keep you grounded and in touch with your core values and beliefs about your own life. For me, I feel most like myself when I am at the beach. Living in Texas, I have to settle for going to the lake and that will have to do. It reminds me of growing up in Florida and times when things were simpler.

  • Always be a student. You never know it all. You don't have to learn from a book. You can learn from being around people who are in different industries or live different lives. My husband and I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend together in Oklahoma City. Our friend Julie (God bless Julie) gave us a certificate for a night at a Marriott and offered to keep our 3 boys. In the breakfast line, we met 2 incredible women who were there for a sales meeting. Deborah was from Northern England and Cathy lives in Alaska. A table for 4 was easier to get than a table for 2 so my husband asked if they wanted to share a table. We lingered for way past our time as we heard about how Deborah moved to a farm in Alaska after marrying her second husband and Cathy started her own business at the urging of her husband, a V.P. for British Petroleum. We learned so much about their lifestyles, their businesses, and their outlook for the future. They were in their Smart Zone as they spoke with optimism and happiness about their businesses and personal lives.

  • Surround yourself with people who hold you accountable. To keep your sanity sustained, keep close to those people who hold you accountable both personally and professionally. Remember there is a bit of truth in every piece of feedback. Being held accountable keeps you humble and for many people, it helps them stay focused to Work in the Smart Zone.

  • Test yourself often. Don't wait until a tragedy in your life to find out what you are made of. Test yourself with smaller events that will build up your resilience. If you don't like to speak in front of others, try to do so in small doses before you are asked to present to your company board. Don't automatically migrate to the software you are familiar with because it's easier. Challenge yourself to learn something new before you are forced to test your computer skills with something more critical. Attend networking events and engage in small talk when the meeting isn't as important as an annual meeting with investors. By testing yourself often, you will build the confidence and skills needed when larger tragedies occur.

Working in the Smart Zone is even more important now that most of you are being asked to do more with less as you try to balance your personal and professional responsibilities. Click here to watch my recent TV appearance where I discuss the Smart Zone. I know the automobile dealers left New Orleans today working to the best of their ability emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally ready to put it all into play in their business and personal lives.

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