We know negative thinking isn't great, but 100% positive thinking doesn't always work either. Welcome to neutral thinking.
I’m an avid podcast listener.
Early morning runs and a fair amount of time in the car provides plenty of downtime to be entertained, educated or just zoned out!
One theme I have found really interesting in a few different forums recently has been around the power of “neutral” thinking.
It’s not hard to find literature and information on the power of positive thinking.
Books like "The Secret" espouse the value of positivity, visualising an outcome and then having it almost magically turn to reality.
By contrast, we all probably appreciate the dangers of negative thinking.
One study I read suggested that a negative thought is 70 times more powerful than a positive one!
Neutral thinking by contrast is far more constructive.
I listened to a Podcast with Russell Wilson who described neutral thinking in a sporting context. Wilson plays Quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL (that’s American Football for NZ sports fan!)
He described his mindset as the leader of a team down by 12 with a few minutes to play. A positive mindset and communication style would address his team in the huddle saying things like “we’re still in this”, or “its not that bad”, or “lets stick our head down” and we will get the right result. But the end result is totally left to chance.
What he described instead was a neutral response. Essentially acknowledging the challenge of the current position, but constructively laying out the plan and the process to come back and win the game - in practical deliberate steps.
Rather than just relying on a positive mindset and a blind belief in a good outcome, mapping out how the good outcome will be achieved.
Why is this applicable to farmers and other business owners?
I’m always fascinated by farmer or business confidence surveys. Published usually by various Banks, periodically, they track sentiment and confidence levels. Usually the outcome reflects farmers view of external drivers in their business.
As farmers, there is an inherent need to be positive. That the rain will fall, that product prices will improve, that the next manager will be better than the last one! But the really successful farmers are the ones that ignore the external factors as much as possible and control the things they can.
To me the concept of neutral thinking dovetails naturally into the strategy process. Having a negative mindset will likely mean you never get to the point of having a constructive long-term strategy. Things that you have no control over will dictate your mindset and lead to a feeling of helplessness.
Equally, a blinkered faith in positive outcomes will probably translate into a strategy heavy on aspiration, but light on actual tangible steps. There will be some initial energy and enthusiasm, but there is no structure there to help navigate when the inevitable tough times come along.
In contrast, a neutral mindset that acknowledges the past – the good and the bad of how you got here, recognises the current position and looks forward with confidence to the future built around very clear pathways and milestones is far more likely to be executed, and to get support.
And any strategy lives and dies on its execution. A neutral mindset will mean the ups and downs of any business are managed calmly and constructively, and external factors won’t mean the business deviates from its clearly defined strategy.
The reality is life and business will have ups and downs. But being successful isn’t about weighing the ups and downs and judging success by the good times outweighing the bad.
Success is driven by the ability to work through the ups and downs, to stay balanced and focused on goals and objectives and to surround yourself with people who will help you stay balanced in the best and the worst of times.
This is where really good independent people in your business play a critical role.
When the external factors are getting on top of you, or your mindset has shifted to negative, the right people around you will bring you back to neutral, back to focusing on the things you can control.
Neutral thinking is also a far easier mindset for others to be around . As we have covered in previous articles, having really capable people around you and your business is critical. But to get the best out of those people you need structure, you need a consistency of approach and a consistency of mindset.
Equally, they will be the people in the very best of times who make sure a balance, long-term view is maintained.
This is what we live and breathe at NZAB.
The process of developing clear, achievable and long-term strategies, and providing the structure and support to navigate business and farming in an ever- changing landscape.