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Afraid for your Livelihood? Now’s not the time to hunker down.

This could also be titled Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose.

What tends to happen in frightening circumstances is that we pull in, physically and mentally.  We play not to lose.

Making decisions out of fear is the hallmark.   Many times, we know these decisions aren’t good ones, but we make and commit to them anyway, because we’re afraid of losing.

What this looked like for me personally was staying in a job that I despised, that was ruining my health, that clinically depressed me, because I was afraid that I couldn’t earn what I needed to earn by leaving.

For small business owners, what fear-based decision-making may look like is not investing in things that will grow the business, such as advertising, marketing, or training.  What if it doesn’t work?

For larger organizations, fear-based decision-making manifests in large groups of employees hunkering down, laying low, hoping that they won’t get laid off.   There’s a pervasive belief that sounds like, “If they don’t remember that I’m here, they won’t lay me off.”   That leads to mediocre work in a climate when people need to be at their most effective.  It also leads to people withholding their good ideas, because speaking up looks like standing up.  That might get noticed.   There’s little improvement at the level of leadership where resources are invested.   Playing not to lose means not investing, even with proven return… because that requires investment which denotes risk.

Another hallmark of playing-not-to-lose is focusing on what we don’t want instead of what we do want.

Here’s what’s dangerous about that.  We get more of what we focus on.  That’s because our unconscious strives to create that on which we focus.

Imagine that power in the collective mind.  Do you really think this recession would continue if all of us collectively believed that we could sustain hires, that the market would be better?  How would you spend your money differently if you were reasonably assured that more money would be coming in?

The other issue with playing-not-to-lose is that once we get far enough away from losing, the sense of urgency goes away.  I know this just from my relationship with diet and exercise over the years.  I don’t want to be fat, ugly and decrepit.  So, I do what needs to be done.  Two years ago, I lost 40 pounds.  I wanted to lose 50, and somewhere around the 40 pound mark, there was much less danger of being fat and decrepit, so it was OK to have some wine and chocolate.  And when 5 pounds came back on, I could lose it next week.  Well, here we are again, and the sense of urgency didn’t come back until that last pound came back on.  Folks, this is what happens in our businesses.

And, as you know, as we practice behavior, the neural pathways get created in the brain and it becomes habit!  Imagine that in the collective conscious of your organization.

This is not the time to hunker down and hide.  This is the time to play like you mean it and play to win.  You can’t afford not to because those who are playing full on, playing to win, they are going to win big.

Be Your Best You Today,

Carolann Jacobs

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