Opinion: Positivity in the face of adversity is the best policy

I was expecting to write this column about our move to a new joint venture in the new year, and how this linked to succession. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be, and we are starting 2020 without a farm.

I am both excited and terrified in equal measure. My in-laws, who are allowing us and our two small children to move back in with them while we plan our next step, are probably feeling the fear as well.

See also: Developing a life plan is a SMART move, says Liz Haines

There was a time when something like this would have sent us reeling. My husband and I have both struggled with our mental health at times in the past. I don’t always cope well with change, but I’m very driven.

I have always had a clear sense of direction in my business and personal life, so this is new territory for me.

Farming has already sent a huge curve ball into my life. When I collected my degree in English, I never imagined that 10 years later I would be a dairy farmer.

I’m so grateful for the opportunities that farming has offered me, not least the chance to join the AHDB Dairy board.

I’ve learned more about myself in the past six years at Hardwick Farm than the rest of my previous life.

When I collected my degree in English, I never imagined that 10 years later I would be a dairy farmer

This is mostly due to taking on a business, managing staff, facing hard times – such as disease outbreak and the milk price downturn of 2014 – and coming out the other side feeling like you have achieved something positive.

But it is also because of formal opportunities for learning and personal development I’ve benefited from – the Entrepreneurs in Dairy course, the Positive Farmers conference, strategic management training and, most recently, the AHDB Dairy Leader event, to name a few.  

This year’s event coincided almost directly with our move falling through, and it was exactly the boost of positivity I needed to take the bad news on the chin.

I can’t think of another event where such a buzzing crowd of optimistic, forward-thinking people come together, and the effect was transformative.

The theme was “It’s not all about the winning” and the conference explored growing a successful business without solely focusing on the bottom line.

Sir John Jones, a retired headmaster, spoke with immense passion and humour about developing a happy organisation, weaving in his personal story from growing up on a council estate in Liverpool through to working in some of the most challenging schools in the North West, to becoming a government adviser and receiving a knighthood.

At times, his presentation moved me to tears. He started by asking the question: “Are you too busy for happiness?” and proceeded to talk about the ways businesses can create the context for happiness, including making the job fun, showing gratitude and having a purpose.

The biggest thing I took from it was that we have a choice – we can choose our attitude (although it might not always be easy), and that’s something no one can take from you.

I’m choosing to go into 2020 looking at the positives. We are incredibly lucky to have a supportive family, some money in the bank, and we are now free to dedicate all our time and energy to finding our next farming adventure. I’m also booking a holiday for January…

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