‘Put It In a Box’ by Fatima Salaam

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When I first became a business owner, I had to overcome a huge learning curve. I had to learn new skills, develop my mindset, and change some of my behaviors. One concept I learned in the beginning is that attitude is truly everything. I define attitude as the energy that we give out as we go about our day.

Typically, our attitude is regulated externally by other people and circumstances. For instance, you can wake up in a good mood and go downstairs to find that there is no more coffee.

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This minor inconvenience could easily plummet someone’s day which can lead to giving out negative energy all day. But for me, my attitude was impacted by how my family was doing. If they were happy and in a good mood, I was happy and in a good mood. If one of my children had a bad day, I would more than likely drop what I was doing to rescue them from whatever was bothering them—big or small; real or imagined.

After I started my business, I realized and learned that it was important to keep my energy high. I needed a strategy to deal with outside distractions especially from my family. I called this strategy, ‘Put It In a Box’, because I once read an article that stated that some men compartmentalize their thoughts while some women allow their thoughts to flow fluidly.

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Imagine a man’s brain with boxes neatly lined up in a row. Let me use my husband, Bert, as an example. When he is focused on his business, he opens his ‘business’ box and focuses on winning. At the gym, he opens his ‘beast mode’ box and focuses on beefing up. At some point, he opens his ‘wife/family’ box and focuses on our needs. I am oversimplifying, but you get my point, he only opens one box at a time.

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On the other hand, imagine my brain. To me, everything is connected. One thought would lead to another. Before I changed my behavior, I thought about ‘everything’ all the time. While I was very organized and successful at my job, I  let my thoughts control me instead of controlling my thoughts.

As a business owner, I learned quickly that I could not afford to allow my thoughts to control or distract me. I had to protect my attitude and my business. Therefore, I had to make some changes. During my business hours, I only opened my business box.  I disciplined myself to deal with distractions and frivolous matters after business hours.  It took some practice but with time and sharing it with my family, I noticed a tremendous difference.

Here are the steps that I took:

Step 1- Get Buy-In from Family

I sat with my family and explained to them that I had to make some changes that would be beneficial to everyone in the long run.

Step 2- Eliminate Distractions

Then, I stated firmly that I would no longer be available for them during school hours unless there was an emergency. This meant that I would not check texts or answer phone calls from them nor would I take forgotten homework, lunch money, supplies, or permission slips to school.

Step 3- Develop Planning System

Next, I taught them to use the family wall calendar to write in their events and extracurricular activities.

We also have a white board that is updated weekly with requests. They write their requests and include the due date and what they need the us to do. If it is NOT on the board, it is NOT my responsibility to respond like it is an emergency.

Step 4- Increase Effective Communication

We meet with each child about their goals and our expectations at the beginning of each school semester and we have monthly check ins to see how they are progressing.

We expect them to plan and keep us informed about their social activities in advance.

Step 5- Delegate Responsibilities

We have a chore schedule where each family member has responsibilities to clean their personal and family space.

Our teens work for the family business after school.

Implementing these changes and STICKING to them made a HUGE difference in my ability to stay positive and focused. My results:

  • Our business income tripled.
  • We travel extensively.
  • Our children have the resources to pursue their passions.
  • We spend quality time as a family every day.

For more help with developing a positive attitude, connect with us!

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