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How good mental health practices make for better business decisions

It’s easy to have plenty of emotion bubble to the surface when making decisions on the farm, especially during stressful or trying times. But balancing emotions and decision-making to remain pragmatic for the good of the farm and your employees is an important skill.

The role of emotions in decision making

“We’re closely tied to our farms, often through family legacies, or a long-standing commitment to the betterment of our industry,” says Lauren Van Ewyk, a social worker and owner of Wellspring Counseling Services in Courtright, Ont. “The difficult thing is that our emotions are not always trustworthy.”

Making farm business decisions based on either logic or emotion alone doesn’t usually work.

“We need to strive to find balance between both,” Van Ewyk says. “During periods of stress, we’re much more likely to make decisions out of our emotional side, which can easily lead to self-doubt and regret.”

Balancing strategies

Stress is not an emotion, but a symptom of one – often anger, sadness or fear. Van Ewyk suggests the following steps for balancing emotions with pragmatism to tackle on-farm decisions:

  • Acknowledge the fundamental emotion, then address the decision that’s causing the stress
  • Determine what you can and can’t control
  • Remember that there’s no one golden opportunity that will make or break a business
  • The farm can’t function properly without some degree of care and compassion for yourself

When decisions bring on stress, check the farm’s business plan and ask yourself some questions – be a detective to figure out the emotional connection to the logical business decision.

  • Reread your farm business plan
  • Identify what’s working and specifically what isn’t and why
  • Specify the barrier to addressing the problem you identified
  • Ask yourself why this issue causes an emotional response
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If there’s one thing we can all count on, it’s change. In a world full of increasing complexity and unpredictability, for many, change can be an unwelcome guest as we crave a sense of certainty and stability in our lives. What comes to mind when you think of ‘The Challenge of Change’? Does a knot form in your stomach? Do you get excited by the prospect of new opportunities? Change is all around us in farming…from weather to markets and transferring the farm.

While change can be difficult, it also provides immense opportunity if we are in the right frame of mind and positioned to take advantage of new prospects. Borrowing the wise words of John C. Maxwell, it’s important to remember, change is inevitable, but growth is optional. As we continue to find ourselves in unprecedented times, how has COVID challenged you and your business? What new opportunities have been presented? Were you ready to take advantage? American singer-songwriter Jimmy Dean once said, “I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

In this session, Heather will explore how we can position ourselves and our farms to confront change with confidence and seize opportunity – how to embrace the challenge of change.