In recent conversations with friends, families, and other business leaders, I’m finding that most people are pretty concerned about the economy, international events, and just the direction of society in general. I think this is normal. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any concerns.
But as I’ve been reflecting and praying lately, I’ve had it on my heart the importance of remaining optimistic.
Remaining optimistic – even in the midst of challenging times – is always a challenge in leadership. This is true in our vocations, marriages, family lives, and everywhere.
As leaders, we must lead ourselves before we can lead others. And I believe that if you can learn to do that, that’s a skill that will last a lifetime and serve you well.
I’m big on practical application, so here’s a few ideas I have on how to keep your spirit up during challenging times:
1). Connect with God
We are all created in the image of God, which means that you were not created to function without a connection to Him. I love this quote by C.S. Lewis, “God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.”
God is the ultimate source of encouragement. God does not promise everything will be easy and without challenge, but we are promised: “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
I heard once that trying to navigate life without God is like trying to ride a motorcycle without starting the engine. You can do it, but it only works downhill. As you know, a lot of life is uphill.
The way I connect is by reading a passage from the Bible and praying daily.
2). Turn off the news
I’m a recovering news junkie. The truth is, I really like the sense of knowing what’s going on.
The problem is that the news is no longer reporting the problem – they are the problem. The news is designed to be negative. Some of the statistics on this are staggering. The relentless bombardment of bad news only makes us more discouraged and less confident about the future.
It’s time to turn off the TV, news podcasts, and radio.
Dave Ramsey is correct – what happens in your house is more important than what happens in the White House.
3). Develop positive inputs
It’s not enough just to stop the flow of negativity, you need to replace it with something positive. Go read inspirational books, or listen to inspirational podcasts. I’ve found this to be a tremendous help in keeping my spirits up durning down times.
4). Spend time with positive people
Negativity is a learned behavior. It’s also a disease. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but people who are constantly negative have a way of bringing you down. The more time you spend with them, the more you will become like them.
Some negative people you may not be able to always avoid, but like developing positive inputs, seek out and cultivate relationships with positive people. Fortunately, positivity is also contagious.
5). Exercise often
This is one of the most important things you can do to keep your spirit up. It’s also where I’m finding the most resistance currently – and I’m someone who enjoys working out.
I use excuses like, I don’t have time, but the truth is, I can’t afford not to exercise. It’s hard to feel good about life when you feel badly about yourself.
When I exercise, I always feel better. The release of endorphin’s also has a measurable, positive impact on your brain and on your thinking.
Plus, it’s a win that can be repeatable. After I exercise, I can notice how I was proactive and accomplished something. That opens up the door to realizing life is full of opportunities if I take initiative.
6). Make rest a priority
Energy is not infinite. It’s difficult to be a positive leader if your batteries are drained. Therefore, it is important to make rest a priority.
If you’re like me, it’s more challenging to fight off discouragement when I’m tired. It’s amazing how much better things can look after a good night’s sleep.
7). Don’t isolate
I’m naturally an introvert, so if I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to isolate more that I should. But often this is exactly the opposite of what I need if I’m discouraged.
Being with others, especially those who are positive, can provide a source of encouragement, even for us introverts.
Leading yourself and others is easier, and usually more fun, when things are going well. But we are promised that, “In the world you will have tribulation…” John 16:33b, and when the external environment is negative, it takes even more effort to be a positive, upbeat leader. And, we can take heart in the last part of John 16:33, that Christ has overcome the world. So it’s all going to be ok!