The Best Way To Think About Business

This month I want to start by sharing a passage with you from a book called Wooden. It goes like this: “I believe one of my strengths is my ability to keep negative thoughts out. I am an optimist. I believe this results from the fact that I set realistic goals—ones that are difficult to achieve, but within reach. You might say I’m a realistic optimist.

“Goals should be difficult to achieve because those achieved with little effort are seldom appreciated, give little personal satisfaction, and are often not very worthwhile.

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“However, if you set goals that are so idealistic there’s no possibility of reaching them, you will eventually become discouraged and quit. They become counter-productive. Be a realistic optimist.”

I love this idea of being a “realistic optimist” and finding a healthy tension between our current reality and realistic goals. As a mortgage lender or vendor, you have to both shoot for the stars and be realistic at the same time. Market conditions can be a vehicle for innovation and growth, but market conditions can also be a limiting factor, as well.

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A couple of positive psychologists talk about this: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (you pronounce it: “Cheeks-sent-me-high”!) and Tal Ben-Shahar.

In his classic book called Flow, Csikszentmihalyi tells us that: “In all the activities people in our study reported engaging in, enjoyment comes at a very specific point: whenever the opportunities for action perceived by the individual are equal to his or her capabilities. Playing tennis, for instance, is not enjoyable if the two opponents are mismatched. The less skilled player will feel anxious, and the better player will feel bored. The same is true for every other activity… Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.”

In other words: When the challenge is greater than our current abilities, we’re anxious/stressed. When our current abilities are far greater than the challenge, we’re bored. To get into flow, we have to find that place where the challenge meets our abilities!

As we near the RESPA-TILA deadline, for example, we can use that regulation to improve the overall mortgage process. However, we also have to know our limitations and surround ourselves with the best technology and compliance people to make it all work. In the end, the company or companies that handle this regulation the best will gain a significant market advantage.

In his book called Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar also puts it beautifully. He says we need to set “stretch goals”—as we find that place between our comfort zone and our panic zone.

I like to imagine the dynamic tension of a rubber band stretched between two fingers. We want to create a certain amount of tension by setting goals that challenge us, but we don’t want to pull SO hard that we snap the rubber band.

How about you: Where are you? Are you hanging out in your comfort zone? Or are you in your panic/snap zone? Or maybe you are just right in that stretch zone of challenging but realistic goals?

In order to survive and thrive you really have to be a realistic optimist.

In the book Wooden it says: “Youngsters are told, “Think big. Anything is possible.” I would never go that strong. I want them to think positively, but when you think big you often start thinking too big, and I believe that can be very dangerous. Wanting an unattainable goal will eventually produce a feeling of “What’s the use?” That feeling can carry over into other areas. That is bad… We should keep our dreams within the realm of possibility—difficult but possible—and make every effort to achieve them.”

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