If you watch the news or listen to the radio or go online, the message is pretty clear:
The sky is falling (or has already fallen)
The world is coming to an end.
Well I don’t know if the sky is falling as I think we would have felt that.
But the world as we have known it may be about to change.
Those who have forgotten that “no one has repealed the business cycle” have just been reminded that “no one has repealed the business cycle.”
If you entered the work force straight out of college in 1991, you could be almost 40 years old and you would have never known a time of prolonged economic uncertainty.
So… what should you do? What can you do?
It all starts with moving from a state of ineffectiveness to a state of effectiveness.
The Three States of Ineffectiveness
I believe there are three states of ineffectiveness—anger, fear, and fatigue. When we are in any one of these three states, we are incredibly unresourceful. We are in a reactive mode and are not able to effectively problem solve. Look at each of these states and you’ll understand why.
Anger is what is known as a “secondary emotion” in that it follows another or “primary emotion.” Fear, shame, embarrassment and loss of control are examples of primary emotions.
Imagine you are driving down the road and another car suddenly pulls out in front of you.
You beep your horn and scream at the other driver because you’re angry. The truth is you actually were afraid he was going to hit your car. Then you got angry.
Let’s say you have decided to react to the downturn in the economy by getting angry.
At whom or what would you get angry?
The government for proving no oversight?
Your financial adviser for their failure to see this coming?
Yourself for living beyond your means?
Be my guest. Get as angry as you want and let me know what that changes.
Focusing on your anger will get you nowhere. Focusing on your fears might provide more useful information.
Fear like worry is about the perceived future. The anxiety it creates is born of an attempt to solve a perceived problem we cannot clearly identify.
Fear can cause paralysis as we exaggerate the situation and withdraw from others.
When you become afraid, ask yourself “What am I really afraid of?”
Try taking the fear to its farthest extreme. In the case of the economy, what is the very worst thing that could happen? You could lose your job. No, that’s not the worst thing. You could lose your home. No, it could get much worse than that. You could lose everything you have and end up living under a bridge with all your possessions in a shopping cart.
Now look at a bad scenario. Not the worst case but a bad case. You could lose part of your savings. You might lose your job.
Then look at a good scenario. You’ll weather the storm, keep your job and learn to be a wiser spender and saver.
Next take those three scenarios and examine them one by one. Do you really think you’re going to end up living under a bridge?
Of course not.
What about the second one? Could you lose your job? Maybe, but if you did you’d get another job.
What about the last scenario? Isn’t it possible nothing really terrible could happen?
Why not stick with that worldview?
In the absence of not knowing, why make up something bad? Why not assume something good?
Legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi once observed, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
While hearing doom and gloom over and over may not turn one into a coward, it certainly is exhausting.
So is spending time with negative people.
So is reading the paper and watching the news.
And staying up too late and not getting enough sleep.
If all of this is getting you down take some positive steps to change the way you feel:
Watch a movie, take a nap, read a book, go outside and take a walk, play with your kids.
Tell some one in your life how you feel about them.
You’ll feel better and you’ll have more energy.
You may not be able to do anything to change the economic news but you can do a great deal to change how you react to such news.
Should you be one of the people affected by the economic events of the past few weeks your ability to make sound decisions will have a huge impact on how successfully you deal with whatever problems come your way.
Patient, positive, and reflective are the emotional states that will help you problem solve.
Choose to be internally, not externally, defined.
Choose to be positive.
Choose to look at the upside.
Choose to take the long view.
And when this “whatever it is” works itself out, congratulate yourself for having the wisdom and perspective necessary to weather a storm.
Simple isn’t it?