The past several years have been difficult ones for small businesses.

Recently, there have been signs that the economy is picking up again, and many small business owners say they’ll end the year on a high-note. But others admit they’re continuing to struggle, blaming the economy for their plight.

Now with the fiscal cliff looming, the majority of small businesses fear another economic downturn may be inevitable. A recent Small Business Optimism Index released by the Gallup Organization found small business optimism is the lowest it has been since July 2010.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you blaming the economy for your inability to build your business dreams? If you are, it’s time for a reality check.

Do you need an attitude adjustment?

Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses and have come to the realization that the problem with many struggling small businesses—in any economy— begins with the owner’s attitude. The way you think—what you’re telling yourself—is reflected in your external results. You create your own reality.

Tough times are often the best times for business growth and opportunities. Some of the most successful businesses in the U.S.  were started in down economies—companies such as Southwest Airlines, Charles Schwab, and Federal Express.

The only thing you can control is how you react when things are out of control

As business owners, we can’t control Washington or Wall Street. So instead of focusing on things you can’t control, focus on the things you can.

When times get tough—get creative. Step back and look at problems from a new perspective. As my mother used to say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Businesses who rise to the top during tough times are the ones who are flexible enough to adjust to uncontrollable external factors and put faith in and focus on their strengths.

What can you do to enhance your customer experience? What products or services provide the greatest revenue opportunities for your business? Are there ways to improve your productivity to add to your bottom line? Do you need to reinvent your business model?

Things to think about

As the year comes to a close, focus forward with positive thoughts about your business. Commit to building your success despite what economic circumstances prevail in the New Year.

Be one of the business owners who not only survives, but thrives. Take personal accountability for your success.

Don’t be a victim—be the victor!

What things did you struggle with in 2012 and how did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments below.