It's Not What You Go Through That Matters
It is not what you go through, it is how you react to what you go through that matters. The contracting business has been very painful the last few years. Even the best-managed businesses in the world, sooner or later, encounter hard times. Doesn't it seem like when one part of our company goes south, many other parts follow? During these times, it's easy to get down on yourself and have thoughts like, "What did I do wrong? How could I let this happen? Why can't I fix this?"
Well guess what: Bad things happen to good people. The pride gained after winning many games in a row fades quickly when we are all of a sudden on a losing streak. At that point, one may unjustly tell himself that he is a loser. So, what do we do when it seems like nothing can go right? I can tell you what I did. I started from the basics and retrained my mind.
Over the years, I have gone through really hard times. During the lowest points, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of self-pity, to the point of telling myself I was a loser. I looked in the mirror and didn't like what I saw. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am generally a happy guy. Negative attitudes, especially when they are my own, won't sit well with me. So, I studied everything I could on self-improvement. I realized that I couldn't fix my companies without fixing myself first.
One book I read, Earl Nightingale's "The Strangest Secret" explains: "You become what you think about most of the time." What a great lesson. I dug deeper, studying the writings of Steven Covey, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Nepoleon Hill, Dennis Waitley, Dale Carnegie, Anthony Robbins, and other authors who focused on how our minds work. I was amazed when I learned that we all have a conscious and a subconscious mind. While the conscious mind only deals with day-to-day tasks, our subconscious mind was developed over time and has given us deep beliefs in who we are. In reality, what we have thought about most of the time develops our subconscious and is actually more powerful than our conscious mind.
So how do you retrain your subconscious mind? You change your mind just like you train your body, by what you feed it. You can do this by feeding your mind more positive thoughts (many more) than negative thoughts. Convince yourself that you actually like what you see on the inside by telling yourself hundreds of times each day positive thoughts. At one point, I had to repeat in my mind several times each day, "I like myself, I like myself, I like myself, I like myself, and so on." It was months before I eventually convinced myself I really was a good guy, as my subconscious would keep saying back, "No, you really don't like yourself." Finally, I started liking the person I saw in the mirror.
Books that study the way your mind works also explain that people who do terrible things to themselves and/or others do it because they don't like themselves. They have programmed their minds backward and feel pleasure when they inflict pain. On the other hand, when they do something good, they link those positive thoughts to pain. Now, I know that sounds messed up, right? Well, that's because the subconscious mind is so powerful. There are tricks to retraining your mind on even these extreme cases. For instance, to reverse the "pain for good thoughts and pleasure for bad thoughts," you have to retrain your mind back to reality by linking negative thoughts to pain and positive thoughts to pleasure. A simple exercise to do is to pinch yourself when you get a negative thought and pat yourself on the back and smile when you have a good thought. Keep repeating the process. Always be aware that the subconscious mind is such a powerful thing and, because of that, this retraining is very difficult to do.
I realized this: We don't hesitate to recognize changes in our outward appearances, so why don't we pay as much attention to what goes on deep inside our minds? Hard times hit everyone sooner or later. Bad things do happen to good people. Ultimately, it isn't about what you go through, it is how you deal with what you go through that really counts. That's what our employees see, that's what our children see, and that's really who we are.