Positive Self-Talk to Thrive During Your Busy Season
By Jon Lokhorst, CPA, PCC
If you are a CPA, no matter your role, you are going to encounter crunch time for one reason or another. If you’re in public accounting, mid-April marks the end of tax season (at least the first one of the year). If you’re in industry, government, or the nonprofit world, crunch time might involve completing an audit, preparing quarterly reports, providing in-depth financial analysis to address growing economic challenges, closing year-end.
It’s too easy to slip into the hard shell of survival mode during these times. Or, perhaps, you get down on yourself when productivity wanes, deadlines come and go, or results don’t meet your expectations. Instead of shutting down or beating yourself up, try using positive self-talk to build up your perceived ability and efficacy to successfully navigate challenging situations. Increasing positivity leads to better performance and effectiveness.
To better understand the usefulness of self-talk, consider two characters from well-known children’s stories.
First, let’s look at Eeyore, the loveable but miserable donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories. One of Eeyore’s classic lines is, “Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be.” You can probably hear the sound of Eeyore’s gloomy voice in your head. Eeyore’s self-talk reflects a pessimistic outlook, always focused on problems and obstacles.
Second, consider the Little Blue Engine. After much larger engines decline to pull a long train over a mountain, the much smaller engine accepts the challenge. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” it says in an optimistic mantra. Ultimately, focused by its positive self-talk, the engine pulls the train over the mountain. The Little Blue Engine’s self-talk did not ignore the daunting challenge of the uphill climb, but rather focused on possibilities and opportunities.
Which character does your self-talk resemble: Eeyore or the Little Blue Engine? This isn’t just the stuff of children’s tales. Self-talk does include an element of self-fulfilling prophecy. In their book on self-leadership, Andrew Bryant and Ana Kazan say, “Self-leaders can choose to self-talk and self-coach themselves to winning attitudes.”
Consider these contrasting examples of self-talk:
“I’m nervous that the client is going to ask me a question that I can’t answer” vs. “I’m well-prepared and will deliver a great presentation to the client.”
“I tend to freeze up when I deliver bad news to my boss” vs. “I’ve done my homework and am ready to give my boss the information she needs, even though some of it is bad news.”
“I back down when confronting my direct report over poor performance because it makes him feel bad” vs. “I care enough about the development of my direct report to help him improve his work.”
Which self-talk statements are more likely to lead to a successful outcome? In each case, it’s the second statement. So, be aware of what you tell yourself.
Rather than go through your crunch time saying, “I don’t think I can pull this off,” coach yourself with self-talk such as, “Busy season is a challenge, but I’ve been successful in the past and will be this year too.”
Jon Lokhorst, CPA, PCC, is a leadership coach, corporate trainer, and the author of Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions. Before launching Lokhorst Consulting LLC, he enjoyed a 30-plus-year career as a CPA, CFO, and organizational leader. Lokhorst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published online under CPA Now by the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants. https://www.picpa.org/articles/cpa-now-blog/cpa-now/2023/03/22/positive-self-talk-to-thrive-during-busy-season