Overwhelmed?

These are indeed strange and turbulent times. Health care reform has ushered in a whole new generation of unknown government policy. Unemployment remains high and isn’t likely to subside anytime soon.

Afghanistan can now be characterized as the longest offshore war other than “the real wars.” Small businesses, which account for more than half of our country’s GDP, can’t really predict whether things will get better or worse.

So what can we do?

Business owners, senior execs, employees and even our families all want to know. Here are a few ideas that I’ve seen work over the past 40 years.

Turn to an advisor

Throughout history, when business leaders or our country’s leaders were troubled and confused, they turned to trusted advisors for counsel. Those have included CPAs, attorneys, psychologists, fellow business owners, business coaches and priests or ministers.

Turning to someone else doesn’t mean instant salvation. It’s simply a way to get feedback on your own confusion, and maybe clarify issues you’re confronting. It’s valuable third-party input.

The big first step, however, rests with you. Decide to do this and then choose a trusted source.

Look inward

People dole out this advice often. One of the best ways to do it is to meditate. I know a number of TEC members who practice meditation on a daily basis.

The procedure is deceptively simple. You find a quiet place and give yourself 20 minutes of uninterrupted privacy. The challenge is to literally put yourself in the moment. Use any technique to stay there. It’s thought control or, if you prefer, managing your thoughts.

Your objective is to clear the air, to take deep relaxation breaths, with no tension in your body. You don’t want to fall asleep. You simply want to relax.

After 20 minutes, you will feel alert, vitalized and refreshed. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t want to give it up.

Volunteer

Taking the first step to volunteer is the hardest of any steps that follow. Whether it’s through a church, hospital, food pantry or neighborhood group, the results are always the same: a feeling of renewed self-pride and individual worth, value and importance.

The ongoing volunteer effort in Haiti is a case in point. Mostly, we hear about the celebrities who drop in and out of there. What we don’t hear about are the untold thousands of people from around the world who have made personal sacrifices to temporarily drop out of their lives and participate on site, or remotely by launching fundraising campaigns.

Regardless of the method or cause you choose, volunteering offers a fast way to bring purpose and a sense of direction back into your life. And it can bring far more personal satisfaction than simply putting in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.

Social networking

Much has been written in this column recently about the sudden mushrooming of social networking in our lives. And yet there are many people I know who are still standing on the sidelines, more or less left in the dust. Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn, to mention a few, and the technology that accompany them, remain a mystery to many business people.

That’s a shame.

Social media can tell you what the public – and some of your customers – think about a wide variety of issues. They can be used as free and powerful customer service tools. And they offer a public forum where you can share tips and advice and help people solve their problems – an excellent way to start building a relationship with them.

Let me close with a comment about our self-biases.

You’ve heard the old saying, “We see what we want to see, and we hear what we want to hear.” We watch a certain news program because we believe it’s not as biased as all the others. We read a certain newspaper, and ignore others, for the same reason.

Opening ourselves up to contrary opinions and ideas is the only way to shed our own deep fears and biases. It’s like a strenuous exercise. It isn’t easy and requires discipline. But if you truly want to know what you can do, when you don’t know what to do, this is by far the most important first step.

Until next month, think about what you can do – and then do it.

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