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6 Ways to Develop Mental Fortitude in Times of Business Adversity

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Mental fortitude: the ability to focus on and execute solutions when in the face of uncertainty or adversity.

Virtually overnight the world has changed. 

If you’re anything like me, your best-laid business plans for 2020 have gone right out the window… 

  • Marketing messages now seem irrelevant or even tone-deaf.
  • Selling seems insensitive and awkward. 
  • Launch strategies now seem riskier… “If we create it, will they buy?”

Growth strategies have given way to business survival strategies and the real question we all have is…

“What the heck do we do now?”

There are some things we know and a whole lot of unknowns, but as an entrepreneur of nearly 20 years, I’ve weathered many business storms before — including a global financial crisis, a recession, and market changes that forced me to pivot, adapt, and even completely reinvent my business.

I’ve asked myself that same question many times before and made it through to brighter days. So I’m here to tell you…

The most important aspect of navigating business adversity is to be prepared mentally because it’s going to be 99.99% of the battle. 

Ask any successful entrepreneur what their secret is —  even during easy times — and they’re not going to rattle off a list of tactics.  They’re going to tell you it all comes down to mental discipline, focus, creativity, perseverance, flexibility, and purpose. 

The trouble is, if you’re like most people, you’re finding it hard to get mentally focused and stay positive right now. 

We’re all distracted as a default setting as it is, but right now we’re distracted by more than Instagram alerts: we’re dealing with serious matters of security, safety, resources, health, and concern for people we love. 

We’re all operating at the bottom of Maslow’s Chart

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It’s hard to think about higher-level, aspirational needs until those lower-level needs have been satisfied. The problem is, most marketing aims for the top of that chart, and it’s exactly why marketing requires extra sensitivity right now: a lot of our customers just aren’t there. It’s not relevant.

You probably already instinctively know that in business, operating from a place of fear, insecurity, and lack means that you won’t be able to do the things you need to do to thrive and you won’t bring the right creative energy to your work. 

I know this is tough stuff. That’s why your mental health and mindset need to be at the top of your priority list. It’s more important than ever for you to practice relentless self-care — not only for you but for the survival of your business.

Create strong mental habits as a foundation for anything you do over the coming months and you’ll emerge on the other side stronger than ever. 

Here are some ideas that’ll help and things to try…

#1. Your New Mantra

Now’s not the time to be too hard on yourself (which is another default setting that comes with being human). I want you to know that if you’re not feeling motivated or super productive, it’s natural and it’s okay. 

People perform differently during difficult times. Some cope by jumping into action overdrive in order to fix things and feel in control of the situation (these are the people who launched special promotions within days of lockdown and are showing up on Facebook live every day). 

If you are not one of those people, you are definitely not alone. Most people are finding it hard to focus and are struggling to get things done.

No matter which camp you fall into, the common denominator is that you’re probably being extra hard on yourself right now. 

So here’s a mantra you can use. Write it on a post-it note and remind yourself often… 

Whatever you are doing right now, you are enough. Extend yourself plenty of grace along the way.

I’m not here to tell you to push through mental exhaustion, in fact, i stand against that. No matter what you may hear (unfortunately, I’m hearing this a LOT)… pushing yourself too hard is counterproductive.  

Remember, your mental health and wellbeing are priority #1 in order to operate from a place of strength. 

#2. Put Self-care on Your Daily Task List 

In order to reclaim your focus and productivity, include an activity as part of your workday that’ll help you combat mental fatigue. You know best what works for you, but you have permission to file it under important. 

What energizes you, centers you, relaxes you, lifts you up? Are you making time to do those things?

I find that activities that either activate your mind-body connection or get you into a state of creative flow work best. 

[Note that binging Netflix, playing video games, scrolling social media or checking the news is NOT on this list. Save these activities for after your work is through.]

Here are some things that work for me. Even just a 15 minutes self-care session will make a huge difference. 

  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Gardening
  • Yoga
  • Meditation or Guided Meditation (YouTube has lots of great ones for free!)
  • Turn your favorite music on and dance while you’re disinfecting those high-touch surfaces
  • Schedule a Zoom with a high-vibe friend
  • Breathwork
  • Tapping
  • Morning Papers (see below)

And if all else fails? I made a good old-fashioned to-do list and put easily-crossoffable things on it. Putting one foot in front of the other always makes me feel better than treading water.

#3 Create “Morning Papers” 

This is an exercise borrowed from the cult-classic book The Artist’s Way and that is, to journal first thing in the morning.

If your brain is overwhelmed, this is an amazing habit to cultivate. The way it works is that as soon as you wake up, you’ll grab your morning hot beverage, a pen, and some paper and just start writing.

This should be a stream of consciousness: write whatever pops into your mind onto the paper and keep writing until you’re done (you’ll know). 

The idea is that you’ll have a way to download all of your mental chatter first thing and start your day with a clear mind. If there are worries going on in your life, your journal will hold a space for you to get it all out so you can move on with your day feeling calmer and refreshed. 

#4 Manifest Your Dream Business

Yes, it’s okay to dream and set an intention for how you want things to be 1 or even 3 years from now. In fact, there’s no better time than right now to get clarity about the future you want.

This is a simple but powerful exercise because clarity leads to setting the right goals and the right goals lead to the right actions. 

PLEASE NOTE: If you’re operating at the bottom of Maslow’s chart this might not be possible in this moment. You don’t need to push yourself if you’re just not feeling it right now. You can do this exercise when you’re ready to move up the chart again. See #1.

But this is for anyone who needs to hear this right now — it’s absolutely okay to take a break from “survival mode” and create an aspirational vision for your future self. You have my permission! 🙂

If I had a magic wand and could grant you any future version of your business you want:

• What kind of work are you doing?
• Who are you doing it for/with?
• How much money are you making?
• What will you do with that money?
• How will that change your life?
• What are you able to do then that you’re not able to do now?

What impact will you be able to make on the lives of the people you care about, your community, even the world? 

Pause here, close your eyes, and picture it. Don’t stop picturing it until you feel excited and tingly all over.

Here’s why: you’re going to need a higher purpose, a big reason why, and a clear mental picture to come back to every single day to inspire you to put the necessary steps into action, do things that are out of your comfort zone, and to remain resilient and persistent. 

Give yourself the gift of looking past this time of adversity to get clear about how you want your life to be on the other side of all this. 

#5 Reframe Limiting Beliefs

You’re probably making lots of assumptions right now and you may even be catastrophizing…

  • “Nobody’s going to buy what I have to offer (so I might as well not even try).”
  • “Who am I to lead?”
  • “What if I pivot or try something new and fail?” 
  • “This is going to ruin me.” 

In order to achieve your goals (or just hang in there!), it’s crucial to get your subconscious on board – this is what ultimately drives taking the right actions to achieve those goals.

The problem is, your ego (a shortcut way to think about your ego is “self talk”) is designed to protect you and has a pesky habit of telling you all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily true. 

The first step is to become aware of your limiting beliefs. Then, to reframe those thoughts in order to reprogram your subconscious mind. One of the easiest ways to challenge your ego is to simply ask whether it’s true or not… 

For example, “Nobody’s going to buy” becomes “What if there are people out there desperately looking to buy what I sell?” 

“Who am I to lead?” becomes “Why not me?” 

You can also turn your limiting beliefs into affirmations, just flip the script! 

Write them down, turn them around to create your affirmation, and repeat it throughout the day and whenever you hear negative chatter rearing its head. 

For example, “What if I fail” becomes “It’s impossible for me to fail. Success is a done deal.” 

“This is going to ruin me” becomes “I always overcome adversity, I’ve got this.” 

Go ahead and try it right now. What assumptions have you been making? What fears, thoughts, or insecurities are standing in your way? 

#6. Give Yourself a Short-term Challenge 

Since we don’t have a clear picture of what to expect in the coming months, we need to stay flexible. 

Setting a short term goal gives us permission to press pause on any plans we need to set aside given the situation and provides much-needed motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

One of the best ways I’ve found to inject a surge of motivation is to give yourself a personal challenge by setting a short-term goal that’s realistic, measurable, and attainable.

Ideally, you want to be able to connect the dots between your activities and sales and to set a goal that inspires you to take daily actions that benefit your business and keep cash flowing.

What’s an outcome you’d love to see 30 days from now? You don’t need to know exactly HOW you’re going to achieve it right this second, just think about a specific result you know would help you move the needle on your business.

Vague goals like “make more money” or “write more blog posts” aren’t going to motivate you to take action, so be as specific as possible.

Here are some ideas to get you started. Give yourself a deadline such as 30-days to… 

  • Get 500 more people on your email list
  • Get your website launched
  • Write 2x more blog posts than your normal schedule
  • Create 4 videos for YouTube
  • Record 4 podcast episodes
  • Create 30 graphics & captions for Instagram & show up daily
  • Create a super valuable lead magnet and a new welcome email series 
  • Create a special service offering with a landing page to send to your list once per week for 4 weeks
  • Create a free webinar to promote an existing offer 
  • Create a digital product you can start selling by next month
  • Write 2 long-form SEO-optimized blog posts that allow you to promote an affiliate product
  • Give your website a boost of traffic by promoting your most popular blog posts on Pinterest every day for a month 

You do NOT need to do all the things. Having ONE challenge is enough — it gives you something to focus on and go deep and it answers the question, “What am I supposed to be doing right now” which — when we start out our day that way, only gets us into trouble. It’s easy to fill that time up with things like checking the news or passively consuming social media (which is mostly negative input right now) — no bueno.

Final thoughts

Developing mental fortitude isn’t about pushing yourself and making things harder for yourself. Whatever you do, it is enough.

There are a lot of people out there shaming business owners for not getting things done right now or seizing opportunities and frankly, that’s pretty gross. Not only is it an extremely privileged point of view, but it’s just not helpful — their only motivation is to make themselves feel superior by putting down others.

F* those dudes.

You are enough. I wish you strength and courage on your journey, take good care of yourself — that is all you need to do right now.