I have always compared the business market to a traffic light. There is a market where the green light is on and the attitude of the marketplace is optimistic, the yellow light where the mood is cautious optimism, and the Red Light where the market mood is cautious and almost to a dead stop. I have watched as the business market slips in and out of these three.

What is interesting to me about a traffic light is you will come upon a light where the yellow or the red is flashing, but never the green. For me there is a lesson in that. When the light is green, you don’t have to stop; you just go. When the light is flashing yellow, you need to look in all directions and then proceed with caution, but when the light is flashing red, you must stop, look in all directions and then proceed, while continuing to pay attention to what is going on around you. Each light carries a signal of what one must do.

If I apply this light theory to today’s market, I would say we are in a “Red Light” market. BUT, for many the light is not flashing; it is on permanent red. The mood for others is not to “stop, pay attention and then proceed;” it has become just STOP! There is a big emotional difference between a flashing Red Light and one that is solid red. The difference is creating the mood of the business market today.

When the Red Light is perceived as solid red, here is what I see happening. First, staring has replaced focusing. When one is staring at the market, all they are seeing is what they feel is wrong. That shuts down their imagination and causes them to increase their emotions and lessen their creativity. The reality is if they were focused, they would see there is business out there, but their emotional attitude isn’t designed to see it.

When the Red Light is perceived as solid, thinking diminishes and emotional reaction increases. Reality is — there is always business, BUT one has to be creative to see it. Business never stops; people do. Creative people will always sense, see and find the business. Those people who are sitting at solid Red Lights are waiting for something to happen and aren’t going to move until it does. The longer they sit there the more their emotions increase. As there emotions increase, their beliefs that there is business to be done turns to doubts that feed their frustration and anger. With that as their action foundation, they will remain stuck.

When the Red Light is perceived as solid red, obstacles overshadow opportunities. How many times have we heard from the media that it is a tough business market? How many business articles have been written describing the woes of the market? The role of the media is not to create a sense of calmness; it is to create emotional reaction. Isn’t there something wrong with a society when they search for the “bad news” rather than the “good news?” The good news is there is business in any market; one just has to search for and work a little harder to find it.

Maybe the “work for” is the real challenge. For several years the market was a Green Light market. There was business at every intersection. One really didn’t have to work for it; it was just there. That market creates lazy people! They forget how to work; they just show up and expect the business to be there. When the Yellow Light starts flashing, they really don’t pay attention to it. They just continue to speed forward without paying attention to what is happening. THEN, they show up at a flashing Red Light and they aren’t prepared. With the lack of preparation they don’t see the Red Light flashing; they see it as a solid Red Light. That means they stop and feel paralyzed. They can’t see the opportunities that are right in front of them; all they see are huge obstacles that are only there because they got so busy doing business, they forgot how to prepare for business.

When the Red Light is perceived as solid red, perception turns negative. It has been many years since I have talked to so many negative people. They describe the market as “tough” or one where “business has just stopped” or “the government needs to step in and fix the economy.”

The truth is the market is not “tough;” it is just presenting a different set of challenges. There is always business; it just takes a different imagination.

The reality is “business has not stopped.” There is always business, but there is not always people seeking how to do the business. When one loses their ability to think on their feet, they will be paralyzed in a transitional market. All the business market is doing right now is going through a correction. That doesn’t mean business has stopped; it just means people need to slow down at the Yellow Light and adjust.

The fact is “the government doesn’t need to step in and fix the economy.” That is the last thing we need. We don’t need BIG Brother rescuing business. It means we need for business leaders to start leading and stop complaining. It means there is a need for leadership! It means we need leaders who will pull their head out of the sand, stop thinking only about the bottom line and start doing what they are being prepared to do – lead!

Every time the government steps in and rescues an ailing business, it weakens the business market. The government needs to look at a business and say, “Put your thinking cap on and work it out.” As long as there is a rescue plan, a business environment doesn’t have to think; all they have to do is scream wolf and here comes BIG brother. Hey, if you make the mess, you should have to clean it up. There is always an answer, but it will only be seen when dependency is replaced with accountability.

I believe we are in a flashing yellow market. We have been a great nation that can rise to the occasion through imagination and hard work. Yes, we need to be cautiously optimistic, but not stopped. We need to pause, examine what is really happening and then proceed with “a belief that says there is business to be done,” a thought out process that says, “This is what we need to do” and a behavior that demonstrates that states, “We are still the strongest nation on this earth.”

Too many have lost their belief in themselves, which has weakened their imagination, which has weakened their resolve and left them stuck at the Red Light. When a person loses their optimism, they lose their trust in finding an answer. There is always an answer that allows one to move forward; the challenge is they must not sit down and wait for it to come to them. They must stand tall in their belief and trust that in their imagination there is a solution.

What does it mean to have cautious optimism? It means the foundation of thought that says, “Can Do!” not “Can’t Do!” The difference is one’s imagination being stronger than their emotions.

It means “adjusting,” not being locked into “sameness.” Change is always going on. One either moves with the change and improves or sits down and gets lost in the past. The difference is one’s desire being stronger than their fear.

It means “understanding what must be done,” rather than “complaining about what isn’t happening.” Without a positive response there is always a negative reaction. The difference is one’s mind being stronger than their feelings.

It means, “trusting in self,” rather than “waiting to be rescued.” Without trust there is only a world of disbelief. The difference is one holding self-accountable for the answer, rather than blaming someone else for their situation.

It means “interaction,” rather than “no action.” The answer is always present; it just depends on who one is looking to for the answer. The difference is collective genius, rather than negative reactions.

It means “opportunity driven,” rather than “obstacle seeking.” A person sees what they want to see. They find what they want to find. The difference is a positive search, rather than a negative escape.

Cautious Optimism means, “uttering a success strategy,” rather than “pronouncing defeat.” There is always a solution; it may not always be right in front of you, but it is there. The difference is whether the message is coming from one’s belief center or bag of doubts.

Cautious Optimism means “staying the course with creativity,” rather than “running away while screaming the sky is falling.” Don’t ever forget that Chicken Little acted before her research was complete. The difference is whether one sees blue skies or dark clouds. There are always rays of sunshine; you may not always see them, but they are always there.

So, how are you going to start 2008? Red Light, Yellow Light or Green Light? For me, I am going to start with the Yellow Light and move toward the Green Light. I am not going to let the Red Light cause me to miss the opportunities that are all around me. I am going to trust in my ability to succeed and find the solution through turning my creative spirit free to soar. What about you?

Author's Bio: 

Richard Flint, CSP is one of those unique people who has been given the ability to see the clarity in the midst of what looks confusing.

Since 1980, he has been sharing his insights and philosophies with audiences all over North America. He is known as the person who knows you even though he has never met you.

He has written 13 books, recorded over 50 CDs, and filmed over 20 videos. Beyond being a nationally recognized speaker and author, he is a lifestyle coach to many who are seeking to stop repeating and start achieving, and a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows.

But more than all this, you will find him to be a friend whose understandings can calm your emotional confusion.