By Troy Schneider
As you know, the famous physicist Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity, which had to do with universal laws of physics. Farmers have their own theories, particularly about negativity. Farmers are some of the most optimistic people on the planet. Farmers know negativity does not solve situations but only creates an unhelpful and harmful “victim” mentality.
Prices for virtually all farm commodities are low, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Many farms are borrowing more money simply because their income is not covering expenses. However, successful farmers still stay positive during difficult financial times. Here’s how:
Successful farmers do not panic. The successful farmer will take small steps to improve his or her situation. In a recent article, John Ikerd wrote: “During challenging financial times, farmers need to manage more intensely. Intensive management requires making money on less land, labor and capital. In contrast, during good times, farmers often shift their management style to managing more land, labor and capital. During these times, the focus is managing more effectively.”
During difficult financial times, farmers must focus on what they can control. In last month’s Legal Matters article, attorney Tim Halbach suggested several things farmers can do to improve their current financial situation. Many of the suggestions are within a farmer’s realm of control.
Too often during difficult financial times, farmers “freeze.” In other words, they let panic set in and do nothing. However, farmers need to think about what is happening and their response to the crisis. During tough financial times, farmers often get into a “negativity loop.” A negativity loop occurs when you start with a negative expectation; that negative expectation causes you to act a certain way that supports the negative expectation, which then creates the negative expectation and gives reinforcement to your negative expectation. This gives you an excuse not to change anything because you just had your negative expectation proved as true. Another name for this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Often, mental depression can occur as the result of a continuous loop of negative thinking.
Focus on the positive
During financially difficult times, it is sometimes helpful to focus on several positive things that are occurring rather than only the negatives. Chronic or compulsive negativity can trap or imprison a person and taint every aspect of his or her life. For example, often in a family or friend relationship, a person can get into a pattern of having and expressing negative thoughts and feelings about the other person. A groove of negativity then develops. The simple fact is that no person is ever always good or always bad. Therefore, finding something positive about your family member or friend will likely alter the relationship for the good.
Farmers in financial distress also need to reach out to others. Farmers are never alone during difficult times. Many farmers are in the same situation, even though it may not feel that way. There are also others, such as the good people who work at the Wisconsin Farm Center, who are willing to help or lend an ear to listen.
Also, farmers in crisis need to have to a great deal of self-awareness. The dictionary defines self-awareness as “the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.” It is often helpful to meditate on what is real or imaginary. You can ask yourself these questions: What has happened (the triggering event)? What is my interpretation or judgment (my thoughts)? What are my actions (my behaviors)? When you consciously decide to change your expectations, the outcome usually changes.
Finally, during challenging financial times, farmers often are forced to re-evaluate the meaning of life. Some things that seemed important before may seem less important. Beliefs may change. Be prepared to give thanks for the things you have rather than focus on the things you have lost.
Farmers are notorious for staying positive during challenging times. They usually stay strong during a challenge and often grow stronger.
A good way to end this article is with a quote from well-known psychiatrist Viktor Frankl: “Man is not free from conditions. But he is free to take a stand in regard to them. The conditions do not completely condition him. Within limits it is up to him whether or not he succumbs and surrenders to the conditions. He may as well rise above them and by so doing open up and enter the human dimension. … Ultimately, man is not subject to the conditions that confront him; rather, these conditions are subject to his decision. Wittingly or unwittingly, he decides whether he will face up or give in, whether or not he will let himself be determined by the conditions.”
Schneider is a partner in the Chilton, Wis., ag law firm Twohig, Reitbrock, Schneider and Halbach S.C. Call Schneider at 920-849-4999.