Get Your Mind(set) Right To Avoid The Fate Of 49% Of Real Estate Pros

Key Takeaways:

– Inman’s fifth annual Agent Appreciation Month is taking place in January, culminating at Inman Connect New York.
– NAR reported a decline of 1.7 percent in membership, the first decline since 2012, due to a difficult year in the real estate industry.
– Many agents faced discouragement and personal challenges in 2023.
– The Maxwell Leadership Podcast provides four keys to overcoming discouragement: understanding that discouragement affects everyone, recognizing the two types of responses to discouragement (splatterers and bouncers), taking actions to counter discouragement (getting the right perspective, seeing the right people, saying the right words), and making positive decisions.


This January marks Inman’s fifth annual Agent Appreciation Month, which culminates at Inman Connect New York in a celebration of agents at the end of January. Plus, we’re rolling out the coveted Inman Power Player Awards, as well as the New York Power Brokers and MLS Innovators awards.

Let’s face it – 2023 was a brutal year for many in the real estate industry. Soaring interest rates, reluctant sellers, losses in consumer confidence, commission lawsuits — the year dealt blow after blow. As a result, NAR just reported a decline of 1.7 percent in membership — the first such decline since 2012.

Additionally, reports state that in 2023, 49 percent of agents sold either one home or none at all. Adding insult to injury, many encountered life-changing personal issues last year. One associate I know not only suffered a five-year low in business revenue but also lost two siblings to unrelated health issues and had two of his cars totaled by others.

Most Realtors I know, glad the year is over, are hoping 2024 will provide an antidote to some of the pain, frustration and discouragement they have been living with. The problem is, there will always be situations that will bring on discouragement, and we all get discouraged at various points in our lives.

The question is never, “Will I get discouraged?” but “How do I respond to discouragement so I don’t wallow there for long periods of time?”

A Maxwell Leadership Podcast provides four keys that, when implemented, can provide a pathway out of discouragement and despair.

1. Understand that discouragement affects everyone

No matter how upbeat or positive a person may be, there will always be situations that lead to discouragement. Lloyd Ogilvie once stated, “Discouragement is the illegitimate child of false expectations.” In other words, we set ourselves up by making false assumptions about the realities that lie ahead, and then, when they do not materialize as we had hoped or planned, we lose heart.

Many of us, heading into 2023, knew we would have a difficult road ahead and mentally planned for a market different than the previous two years, however, we did not expect it to be as bad as it turned out to be.

Neal A. Maxwell has a great definition as well: “Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.” In other words, it is not the lack of ability or skills to do the job, but a stripping away of the courage we had based on assumptions that turned out to be inaccurate.

Every fall, real estate teams begin strategizing production goals for the following year. Not only do they focus on the numbers, but they home in on the types of activities that will be required to meet those goals.

Years such as 2021 gave us a false sense of competency since all we seemingly needed to do was get out of bed to be successful. Many agents went into 2022 and 2023 assuming the same metrics would occur. Unfortunately, sellers did not cooperate en masse.

Regardless of your skill levels and core competencies, you will never meet an ambitious sales goal if there is simply no product to sell. As agents ventured further into 2023, it became very clear to everyone that our hopes and dreams for the year were going to crash into the barrier of improbability.

When your best efforts fail to accomplish your dreams and goals, whatever the reason or cause, a loss of the courage required to awaken early, eagerly embrace the day and do all of the required activities to rally some semblance of productivity begins to wane.

2. Understand the 2 types of responses to discouragement

Although discouragement is common to us all, not everyone responds in the same manner. John Maxwell points out, in a humorous fashion, that those succumbing to discouragement fall into two separate categories:

  • Splatterers: Those in this category hit the bottom with a splat, then adhere there like they are stuck with glue. They descend into a morass that, if they remain too long, can lead to depression.
  • Bouncers: Those in this category hit the bottom, pull themselves together and then bounce back up. They have learned to recognize the symptoms and look for a way to get up and out of their situation.

Maxwell asks a significant question: When facing discouragement, “Are you going to give up or get up?” He points out that the fundamental difference between the two groups is determined by a person’s attitude.

3. Understand the actions required to counter discouragement

Once you recognize that you are dealing with discouragement, the podcast outlines three steps in dealing with the problem:

Get the right perspective

Perspective is simply the way you look at things. Years ago I was aboard an airplane as the sun was rising. Looking out the window facing the emerging sun, the view was spectacular and bright.

As I turned and looked out the windows on the other side of the plane, however, it was still completely dark. Based on which window I viewed, the airplane was either transporting us into a bright new day or was still enmeshed in the darkness of night.

Perspective is everything. I recently talked to someone going through a difficult situation, and they said, “This will pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but this too shall pass.” In other words, no matter how difficult the night, you will still be alive in the morning.

You are in control of your perspective. You dictate what you are looking at. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide if you will allow your circumstances to destroy your morale or if you will use them as stepping stones to move to a new and better level.

Adversity can destroy or can be used to strengthen and galvanize: The choice is yours.

See the right people

We do not exist in a vacuum. A proverb states, “An enemy might be able to defeat one person, but two people can stand back-to-back to defend each other. And three people are even stronger. They are like a rope that has three parts wrapped together — it is very hard to break.”

Seek out people who can provide the correct perspective and who will lend a hand to lift you out of your current perspective. The famous 20th-century “philosopher” Oprah Winfrey states, “Surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.”

One unknown sage put it even more succinctly: “You can’t soar with the eagles if you’re hanging out with turkeys.”

Say the right words

Maxwell quotes Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, who stated, “Most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.” Maxwell goes on to explain, “Listening is passive, talking is active.”

If you are a normal part of humanity, then you know that you can, without even trying, generate any number of negative thoughts about yourself and your current situation. These are generated subconsciously as your body reacts to your current pain. It’s a form of self-preservation as your subconscious, aware of the distress, is sending you signals to generate flight.

In reality, we do not need to flee our current circumstances; we need to embrace them and power through to get to the next level. Instead of listening to our negative self-talk, we need to actively speak words of encouragement to ourselves.

Affirmations are a powerful way to help transform your focus from the negative to the positive and help shift your mindset in the right direction. Lisa A. Koosis, in The Science of Affirmations: The Brain’s Response to Positive Thinking, states, “Proven benefits of self-affirmation include a stronger sense of personal worth, less negative self-talk, and reduced anxiety and defensiveness in challenging situations. It may even have a beneficial effect on people dealing with health-deteriorating stress or chronic physical pain.”

4. Understand how to make positive decisions

Left on our own, most of us will migrate to the negative end of things. We get comfortable in our negativity, and rather than do the work required to get up and out, sit and stew in our quagmire.

Richelle E. Goodrich, in Smile Anyway, declares, “Disappointment is really just a term for our refusal to look on the bright side.” She continues, “There are far too many silent sufferers.  Not because they don’t yearn to reach out, but because they’ve tried and found no one who cares.”

We had a graphic example in our home recently. We adopted two kittens and, even though they were brothers, were amazed at the differences in their attitudes. One was friendly and would come and snuggle in almost every situation. The other, however, was constantly avoiding human contact and would hide under anything in sight.

To teach the “scaredy cat” new behaviors, we did two things. First, we sealed off any areas he could access to hide. Second, I began taking him into a closed room with me for at least an hour and began talking to him.

Over time, as he approached, I rewarded him with affection. Today, he no longer flees and voluntarily approaches instead of running away. We had to teach him positive behaviors, and as we did, the change in his demeanor and affection was nothing short of amazing.

Brendon Burchard states, “It’s a simple choice, really. Either you let the unexpected discourage you, or you simply get curious to learn more and figure things out. You let discouragement stop you, imagining that improvement is impossible; or you simply sense things are not right YET, and you’re going to keep learning and adapting and moving forward.”

Maxwell confirms, explaining, “Discouragement is a choice.”

Abraham Zaleznik was a Harvard Business School professor who specialized in the psychodynamic of leadership. In an interview with Gerhard Gschwandtner, Zaleznik provides four keys for getting out of the disappointment trap.

Establish new priorities

Stop running. Think. Review your experience. If you are alone, put it on paper. If you have access to a good friend, talk it over.

Minimize your exposure

One major source of disappointment is unrealistic expectations. We often overestimate what our abilities can do, what money can do, what authority can do, what contracts can do, and what other people will do for us. Disappointment in expectations helps us learn about the practical opportunities in life. Unrealistic self-expectations can lead to unnecessary disappointments.

Increase your resistance

Increase your ability to tolerate love and hate, and avoid confusing them with indifference. How? Through commitment. Why? If your commitment to your job, your mission or your goal is the global reason for deploying your energies, then love or hate do not become the personal reasons for doing something. Commitments can transform the roadblocks of love and hate into clear pathways.

Put the odds in your favor

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Monitor your expectations. Know your abilities and their limits. Increase your tolerance for love and hate. Keep your eyes open to your dreams. Renew your commitments every day. Learn to accept other people’s negative feelings. Accept your vulnerability. Think.

Bottom line: Accept disappointments as growth experiences. Learn from them, or you’ll sidestep growth by becoming cynical. “Cynicism is the scar tissue of unresolved disappointment.”

Excellent advice. Which direction will you take in 2024?

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Property Chomp's Take:

heroes who face adversity with a smile anyway.” Making positive decisions is crucial when facing discouragement. Here are a few ways to do so:

- Focus on gratitude: Take time each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for. This can shift your mindset from negativity to positivity and help you see the good in your life.

- Set realistic goals: Instead of setting lofty goals that may lead to disappointment, set smaller, achievable goals that can boost your confidence and motivation.

- Take care of yourself: Engage in self-care activities that help you relax and recharge. This can include exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing hobbies that bring you joy.

- Seek support: Reach out to friends, family, or mentors who can provide encouragement and guidance. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people can make a world of difference when facing discouragement.

- Learn from setbacks: Instead of dwelling on failures or setbacks, view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Take time to reflect on what went wrong and how you can improve moving forward.

In conclusion, discouragement is a common experience in life, especially in challenging industries like real estate. However, by understanding that discouragement affects everyone, recognizing the two types of responses to discouragement, taking actions to counter discouragement, and making positive decisions, you can overcome discouragement and find the motivation to keep pushing forward. Remember, setbacks are temporary, and with the right mindset and support system, you can navigate through challenging times and come out stronger on the other side. As we enter 2024, let's embrace a new year of possibilities and opportunities, and let's celebrate and appreciate the hard work and dedication of real estate agents during Inman's Agent Appreciation Month and Inman Connect New York.

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