It's Not the Market it's how you React

Anyone who has hit a speed bump knows there’s a right way and a wrong way to take this arbitrary, often irrational, obstacle to your intentions. The recession is a speed bump, a big one, but just a speed bump. If it is taken the right way, it will not be a barrier to a satisfying future, but a springboard — your choice.

If you use the recession as an excuse for anything, you’ll lose. If you decide to let these “down” times help you get ahead of those who seemed miles in front of you during the boom, you’ve got your mind in the right gear. It’s not the recession, it’s your reaction that matters.

If you don’t like my metaphors for the opportunity that lies ahead, discover your own. Let the shock and grief wear themselves out as quickly as possible, and then ask yourself, “How are things different for me now?” Don’t let this economic equalizer go by without stopping to think about what has really happened.

In this column, we’ll continue to zero in on real estate, home, small business, communities and related relevant decisions to share views on why this could be a significant, productive time in your life. As futurist and strategist, my perspective is not limited to this vital slice of life or the economy, so realize that what is said here can be extrapolated into many parallel and overlapping areas.

Reinventing your lifestyle or SOHO business may require a new way of thinking at some, or all levels, and in the way you make repeated and one-of decisions. For many real estate buyers and owners, the problem has been following, not thinking for themselves. The New Year offers an excellent example of what is meant by this.

Western society promotes the custom of making New Year’s resolutions to start the year on the right foot. These statements often become self-defeating illusions that can reinforce one’s sense of powerlessness over change. By now most, if not all, of your resolutions have faded, unachieved, into the past. This may have convinced you that change is beyond your control.

Resolutions are publicly-declared attempts at abrupt personal change. They initially create the illusion of progress and a fresh start. When resolutions crumble, they can leave a publicly-humiliating sense of failure, a negative view of a fresh start. The dire predictions and consequences attached to the recession have robbed many from even the illusion of a clean slate as the year begins.

Success with self-directed change lies in striking a balance between society’s customs and proven methods for self-discipline and personal improvement. For instance, our culture emphasizes beginnings as essential for change—start of the year, first of the month, beginning of the week. These are artificial markers. Try the month you’re in, the 14th, a Friday, or the end of something. Does waiting improve success? What’s wrong with now? Resolvers who succeed with their goals do so because of the way they approach the task, not because of the date they begin.

Start now as you read. What do you want to change—pay cash instead of using credit, make more than the minimum monthly payment on your mortgage, finish each home maintenance task you start…what home ownership patterns would create benefit if you varied them?

How can you be sure to stick with the improvement you’ve decided on? Attitude.

Most people try to think themselves into change, but the best way to maintain a new behaviour is to act as it the improvement has been made and you’re just continuing on. Make a positive statement that embodies the goal, and keep repeating it. Believe you’ve made the change, and act accordingly. Say to yourself: [bullet] I pay cash, or wait ’til I can. [bullet] I will own my home “X” days or “X” dollars earlier. (Use an online mortgage calculator to determine what you can save with even small payments, and you’ll become driven.) [bullet] I’m building equity, sale-ability and choice with each property-management task I successfully complete.

Fine-tune your behaviour as you go, and take on new home-equity building or value-appreciation tasks. You’ll stay ahead of market trends and continue to ensure your real estate is working for you as an increasingly valuable and useable asset, not a burden. You’ll find your value system readjusts to make this a permanent way of acting, probably before you’re completely aware of the new you.

I can hear, “Yeah, but what if I can’t resist the old ways”—racking up credit card debt, borrowing to make the minium mortgage payment, watching YouTube goofs or gaming instead of looking after what I own. Sliding back into well-worn habit ruts does not cancel out success. The conscious effort to correct yourself makes success sweeter. Just stop the old habit immediately and put things right. Return the indulgent purchase. Review the budget for extra mortgage loonies. Turn off the electronics and build some sweat equity in the real estate that houses your future.

Inventor Thomas Edison “failed” his way to success along with countless other high achievers, so why can’t you? “Onward & Upward” is my reminder that investing in “now and next” is more useful than whining over what was or should have been.

Yes, fasten your seat belt, you’re in for a bumpy ride, but you can still reach your destination. Where are you headed in 2009?

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