| Published: June 15, 2020

The Power of Positivity in Uncertain Times

The agricultural industry has faced many challenges during the global pandemic including uncertainty of markets, volatile prices and even the health and well being of our families and employees.

Gary Heckman shared his perspectives on how to maintain a positive mindset, especially during times of uncertainty.

You have a long career of working in the agricultural industry. What have you found over the years about why maintaining a positive outlook is important for farm businesses and their families?
I’ve been serving the ag sector for more than 40 years and have met and worked with many farms and farm families. I’ve observed a lot of things during that time. All farms have common uncontrollable things they deal with daily – commodity prices, prices paid for their inputs and weather. At the same time, all of them also have many controllable aspects of their farm businesses. That might be their crop management, how they manage their labor, risk management programs they put in place, business strategies, etc. Some farms struggle with how to deal with all these decisions. Others don’t. So, the big question is, what's the difference? Those that have appeared to struggle less take a more positive outlook in how they deal with these things. And by taking that positive outlook they feel in control, they feel more confident, they have a plan and they expected results, and usually they get better results.

I enjoy quotes, and over the years, a few really impacted my life. One of those quotes is, "You become what you think about."

To me, this quote means that the more you concentrate on something in your mind, the more apt you are to achieve that. If you have negative thoughts or you have a negative outlook, you're likely to have negative results. If you have positive thoughts and consider your success, you're likely to have positive results. Farms with a positive mindset seem to struggle less and have a vision of where they want to go and what they need to do to get there.

What strategies do you use or have you seen others use to help stay positive?
There are three strategies that stand out in my mind that I believe can help anybody be more positive and as a result be more successful. 

First, it starts with being thankful and sharing gratitude every day. Hank Wagner, a dairy producer from Wisconsin, was a speaker at the 2009 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit. 2009 was a very difficult year for the dairy industry. Hank shared things that he was doing for himself, his family and his workforce to keep them more positive and get thing accomplished. One strategy he used with his team was asking family members and employees to start each day by thinking of three things that they're thankful for. By doing that, having those positive thoughts on your mind right out of the gate, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of fulfillment, it does help to keep you on a positive track. That’s been a strategy I now use. I try to identify three things in the first hour of each day and that way they can have an impact on me for the full day.

Second, everybody knows that things will go wrong. And when this happens, it's often pretty easy for us to point our finger at something and blame that individual or that situation. So to have a positive outlook on things, I think first in these situations we need to look at ourselves and look at what might we have done differently that would have produced a different outcome? Rather than us just blaming someone else, let's reflect back on ourselves and say, "What if I would've done this?" or, "What if I would've done that? Could that have had a difference?" By practicing this, it helps us learn how we might have a more positive influence, if that situation arrives in the future.

The third strategy is surrounding yourself with positive people. This is one of the criteria that's high on my list whenever I meet someone new. If they're good old negative Nellies, that's probably the last time I'm going to spend time with them. Ask the people who come onto your farm to bring positivity and good ideas. You don't need other people dragging you down. Over the years I've been on many farms, calling on farmers. And I really appreciated when the farmer says to me, "I'm glad you stopped by today. I needed a little boost." To me, it was just a sign of the impact that we can have by being positive ourselves, but also by having others around us that are positive.

Are there any other thoughts you'd like to share with our listeners here today?
Everyone goes through ups and downs during their lifetime. It could be a personal relationship, some family dynamics, maybe financial circumstances, health situations, other outside influences or many other things. And what I've observed and experienced is that the quality of your life is directly related to how you handle those ups and downs, how we take charge.

Today, we're in uncertain times once again. Remember that you have more influence over the outcome than you realize. Think about the outcome that you want out of a situation and concentrate on it. You're likely to achieve it as you set that new path forward. Concentrate on what you're thankful for, share your gratitude to have other positive influences on your family, coworkers and other friends. Lastly, have faith in your ability to handle the challenges. It's amazing what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it.

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