When times get challenging we become more disciplined. When times are good, it’s in our nature to not be quite so rigid, and this does not benefit us in the long-run.
Let's take economics. In a bad economic time, people have a tendency to save more and negotiate for the best price on items they buy; they tighten their budget and so on. In good economic times, some people just don’t care as much. They might splurge or be more impulsive.
With regards to their careers, in bad times, people might work harder, they might make the extra phone call or go to networking events. With regards to relationships, people might listen better and make an effort to keep in touch. It all boils down to developing better habits during difficult times and sustaining what we’ve learned throughout the better ones. Adversity is an extremely effective teacher.
My advice is to use this economic downturns, any adversity you might have, and look at it as an opportunity to develop habits that will sustain you during both the difficult times and the good ones, because inevitably what can happen is things are going to turn around. The worst thing one can do is become lazy and not utilize the good habits they've developed when life was harder. Instead of saving $100, they might go out to dinner. Instead of calling prospects, they might take a Friday off. I’m not saying that you shouldn't pamper yourself when you can, but just exercise good judgment. There have certainly been times when I've thrown caution to the wind and spent a lot of money on myself but it was always tempered.
In order to get ahead, my theory is that people need to have a strict regimen of activities they need to do. If you are in sales, you need to be on the phone; if you are a lawyer, you need to be writing and researching all the time. Personally, as a speaker and a writer, there's a whole host of things that I need to do and I am taking this bad economic time to develop a strategy that I can exploit at any time.
Imagine when times were good. If you worked like you do now, how much money would you have in the bank? Imagine if five years ago home buyers were as skeptical as they are now. In the late 90s, people were buying stocks left and right, and not on solid economic principles. People were taking stock tips from their next door neighbor. As my friend Alan who was a stockbroker said, in hindsight, I knew something was wrong when I started taking advice from my gardener. In difficult times it would be unheard of, but when everybody was making money in the market it was somehow okay.
One of the reasons that most diets are yo-yo diets is because people may be disciplined when they are on the diet's they work out, they eat right, and when they reach their goals they revert to their old habits, which only brings them back to where they started.
Take the time today to develop a strategy that will prepare you for when times get better. Don't just revert to the less cautious habits you had when times were good. Keep doing what you are doing now, keep in touch with your colleagues, keep the budget in place, think twice about spending that $1,000 bonus on a television set, etc. I guarantee that most people are not going to do this. They will revert to their old habits. They will loosen their belt, spend more, and not work as hard as you. What will happen is when the next downturn takes place, you will be a lot stronger and they will start from a weaker place.
Here's the thing: Like any advice, this blog needs to be analyzed by you and not be followed without thinking. For example, if in this economic time you took a second or third job to get by and it's hurting your relationship with your kids or your friends, of course when times get better you quit your second job. Take part of your free time that you receive and start reading books. If you suddenly get that $1,000 bonus, maybe you spend $100 of it and take your family out on the town. My goal with is to give you a fresh perspective, it's not to dictate how you should live your life.