FTIL 3 – Be Happy

It’s only human to focus on the negatives.  Some anthropologists would argue it is this exact trait that helped our species to survive, e.g. , see trouble on the horizon and manage risks appropriately.  Beyond our personal doubts and fears, today’s hectic world imposes additional external stresses on our lives.  When we’re not suffering from rampant overachiever syndrome, we’re worrying about keeping up with the Joneses.   To break this vicious cycle in our personal lives we need to recognize our negative instincts and routines, and counter them with positive influences and constructive habits.  I’ve found that positive lifestyle changes can be both physical as well as psychological, and often start from within with honest self-reflection.   

  • Know your hot buttons – Do you fall off the deep end and obsess about things that shouldn’t be a big deal in the grand scheme?  Everyone has triggers, but the important question is how do you deal with them?  Being ex-military, I actually fight my negative triggers with reflection and organization.  They help me to draw an invisible line between work and home so that my reactions are measured and appropriate.
  • Take a break – Whether you realize it or not, your mood goes through cycles during the day.  Take a break; go for a walk; go for a run; get some sun; get some green tea or coffee; etc…  My business partners and I will often look at each other during the day and say, “let’s go for a walk around the block.”  It makes a big difference.
  • Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate – I recently had a nice meal with one of our clients, who has become a dear friend over our longstanding relationship.  On paper both of our businesses had their worst years in recent memory.  But at the end of the day, we joked that most small businesses would love to have our worst year, and appreciated that we still have our health, family and friends, so nothing else really matters.  Everything’s relative so make sure you appreciate little things in life.
  • Be an advocate – I am not talking about mindless cheerleading.  Rather, help others focus on the positives.  Have an earnest discussion on the efficacies of the topic at hand, and why it is so great.   Beyond the positive influence you can have on others, the biggest benefit is that you actually help yourself to be more positive and more effective.

Now only if I can follow my own advice…  Here’s to the finer things in life.  Cheers!

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About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (www.SMBmatters.com); following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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