Yesterday a friend emailed me to say that after years trying to make it as a freelance writer she's admitted defeat and is now trying to find a paying job. I replied to her that she needed to drop the 'defeated' talk and instead reframe her situation more positively. That is that she enjoys freelance writing; and while she will continue to write, she is pursuing work that provides a more reliable source of income. She quickly replied that she felt far better (and I'm guessing, more powerful) putting it that way.
Never before has it been more important to be mindful of the oppressive impact of fear, vigilant of the fearful thoughts that are so quick to metastasize and discerning about which fears we pay heed to. Yes, times are tough and more people are finding themselves out of work than there have been in recent history but that doesn’t mean that they have been ‘defeated’. It’s crucial to be mindful of the language we use in describing our circumstances, not to take our setbacks too personally nor to interpret meaning into them that leaves us feeling hopeless, despairing and victimized. Put another way, we need to have our own unique Emotional Stimulus Plan that will enable us to ride out the bumps, weather the setbacks and rise to the challenges that come our way.
Right now there are millions of people having to deal with significant changes and challenges in their lives due to the economic crisis that has rippled out from the burst of the housing bubble. People are cutting back on all sorts of things they'd previously taken for granted. Suddenly their financial security isn't so secure, and their lifestyle is being 'trimmed' in ways they'd never foreseen. Without warning, they are finding themselves wrestling with an identity crisis because so much of their identity has been tied to their job, their income, their McMansion and the list goes on.
So, just as the Federal Government has taken it upon themselves to launch an Economic Stimulus Plan, so too will you benefit from creating your own plan to weather whatever storms are blowing over you. Sure, many people are suffering hardship that is beyond their control; but if you take a step back from all the fear mongering and dooms-daying and look heavenward, you will notice that the sky is not falling and that, while times are tough, times have been tough before (actually, far tougher!) and humanity has not come to a crashing halt.
The reality is that in the U.S. and other developed countries, we are living way better than any time over the course of human history. So you have to give up your spa trips or restaurant outings for awhile? Come on! Just as losing your job or downsizing your home doesn't mean you are a failure, neither does unmanicured feet render you unlovable.
Sure, it's no fun having to trim one's spending habits. At the same time, I think it's a good reminder to us to take stock about what is truly important in life and get back to basics. While money can buy a lot of fun things that add pleasure to life, it can't buy rich and rewarding relationships. Neither can it buy having a sense of purpose in life, nor can it buy us genuine security. In the end, nothing in life is permanent; and all the 'stuff' that we get so attached to is, at the end of the day, just that... 'stuff!' Of all the benefits that will ultimately come from this current crisis, I think the first will be to help people to focus in on what matters most and put first things first.
So next time you turn on the TV and hear some bloke raving on about how things are only going to get worse before they get better, just remember that you always have a choice whether to:
a) live under a dark cloud of anxiety that taints every experience and interaction you have each day and leaves you feeling hopeless, helpless and hunkering down on your couch (becoming ever more fearful with each passing news broadcast!), or
b) choosing to be optimistic that good times lie ahead, trusting in yourself that no matter what hardships come your way - no matter what work changes you have to make in order to make ends meet, no matter what 'stuff' you have to give up in the process and no matter how many times you may hear the word 'no' - you have everything, and I repeat, everything you need within you to meet your challenges head on one day at a time.
Truly! It's only in adversity that any of us can come to know just how resourceful and resilient we really are. Right now, there is an abundance of opportunity to learn and grow and evolve in who we are as human beings (individually and collectively)...IF we look for it! Are you? I can promise you one thing. That only those who refuse to succumb to fear and who choose to remain optimistic about what the future holds will be able to find opportunity in amidst the adversity and reap the rich rewards that emerge during turbulent times.
By Margie Warrell, author of Find Your Courage: 12 Acts for Becoming Fearless in Work and in Life (McGraw-Hill). Visit www.findyourcourage.com.