The current financial and economic crisis will most likely be long and protracted and for millions, it will be a life-changing experience. As such, two important questions need answers spring to mind: "how will this change my life" and "how will I choose to face this journey?"
During this crisis, much of what we think, believe and feel about how we live our lives, what we need to do and have to be "happy" and "successful", and what kind of work defines "me", etc., may no longer provide a healthy sense of well-being, success or financial stability.
For example, how we feel about our work, our career, the house we live in, the material needs we have, all are beliefs and assumptions that we may need to change.
Many believe their notions of how the world is, how it should be and how they are in it are all correct and never need changing. But change is inevitable. The current crisis is a huge tug on our sleeve, saying, "If we do not change our thoughts about ourselves and about life, we may not be able to sustain our continuous personal growth and development."
In fact, our old thoughts may be inhibiting our natural growth processes, and blocking our soul from manifesting its intelligence in these rough times. It is easy to recognize people who think and feel the same way as they always have. But these times call for taking a serious step back and reconsidering.
In good times and in bad, we need to continuously challenge ourselves to learn, to see life from differing perspectives, to enlarge our vision and to rediscover ourselves. Now, more than ever, we need to allow ourselves to be open and conscious of how our soul is operating in our lives. If we don't, and remain mired in our mental and emotional status quo, pain and suffering are the most likely results.
How I approach change
How one approaches change is a choice, pure and simple. One can approach impending change with an attitude of positivity, seeing this experience as a "blessing in disguise," an opportunity, or with a negative, resistant attitude - that this is "being done to me" - and fight their experience kicking and screaming.
Whether we respond positively or react negatively and defensively is a function of how we view pain and suffering. When we approach life as a learning experience, we look to understand what the pain is trying to teach us - to find meaning in the challenge and upset.
These times present an opportunity to see what we need to see about ourselves. The desire to escape or deny our challenges rather than to meet them head on as a valuable learning opportunity, leads only to more pain and suffering.
These challenging times call for resiliency – the willingness and ability to be flexible, steadfast, optimistic and open to change, growth and learning. Those who are not willing or able to be resilient will most likely experience burnout, exhaustion, confusion, malaise, depression, resistance and cynicism. Most folks are not naturally resilient; resiliency has to be consciously learned and, more importantly, practiced.
In the throes of this economic crises, many will have to make hard choices, large and small: whether or not to renew an insurance policy, move into a smaller house, sell a car, send the child to a less-expensive college or perhaps no college at all, change jobs, dine out less each week, postpone vacations, buy fewer clothes.
How folks approach these choices will determine the degree of well-being they experience. If they see life's challenges as opportunities to grow their souls, mature and learn about themselves, well-being will be a part of their reality. If they see themselves as "victims", chances are well-being will be largely overshadowed by anger, depression, disease and disharmony.
Reactivity to fear
In these times, fear and anxiety are huge issues. Another important consideration is how folks are dealing with their emotions. Some are seeking professional support from therapists, clergy or coaches. Others are acting out their emotions through drug, alcohol and food abuse, engaging in illicit affairs or gambling.
Still others are in denial – hoping that the problem will go away if they don't acknowledge it, engaging in distractions and seeking a false sense of relief.
Self-awareness and self-responsibility
"Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame." - Erica Jong
For those who are not averse to facing the crisis head-on, growing their emotional and spiritual maturity, and are willing to do some deep soul searching and self-refection, this crisis provides an opportunity for exploration – the type of exploration that can lead one to uncovering the "truth" of their lives while leading to extraordinary personal growth. This is an opportunity to take a serious look at one's life by honestly and sincerely asking and answering questions such as:
"What's most important in my life?"
"In what types of activities have I been engaged that are really not making appropriate use of my time and energies?"
"Have I been focused on experiencing true and real connection, intimacy and happiness with my spouse/partner, and family?"
"Have I been overly consumed with money and material possessions, and if so, why?"
"Is my self-worth defined by my net worth?"
"Am I exacerbating my and my family's pain buy refusing to cut back and make hard decisions or by staying in denial?"
"Am I spending money I don't have and living beyond my (our) means?"
There are a number of actions and attitudes that can support one to become resilient, to consciously move through these challenging times on an even keel.
First, being open to change is very empowering. Don't just look at your corner of the painting. Make an effort to see the big picture and where you can fit in - in your career life, in your life at home, in your community. What needs upgrading and downsizing? Who needs to be in your career and social circle in a supportive way? Let go of the need to be in control – of everything. Consider the steps you need to take to move forward.
- How are you faring in these challenging times? How are your moods, your emotions?
- What are your greatest fears right now and how are your dealing with these?
- What decisions are you avoiding and resisting? Why? Are you in denial?
- What thought and behavior patterns are supporting you or limiting/sabotaging you as you navigate these rough waters?
- What creative efforts are you crafting to move forward?
- How are you supporting your family to "get through this together"? Or, are you separating emotionally from your family?
- What is your heart telling you that your brain contradicts?
- Are you allowing a victim mentality to keep you from acting?
- What support do you need right now, and from whom, to help you cope and move forward? What steps are you taking to get this support?
- What defense mechanisms are you using to resist change?
Second, explore what knowledge, skills and abilities will help you navigate these rough times. Create an action plan and pursue these steps one at a time, notice if you are resistant and why.
Third, explore why you are on the planet. This exploration will support you to create a conscious and healthy context within which you will create, or re-create, a new-improved "you" that can meet today's challenges and opportunities. Explore who you are, really, inside and outside of work and pursue those skills, interests and activities that will support your honest and realistic image, not a fake and phony "you."
Fourth, explore how your knowledge and skills may be transferable to both existing and new career areas and how you can support businesses to be more successful.
Fifth, spend time in self-reflection. Take time regularly to explore your attitudes, feelings and emotions. Explore what you're learning about yourself during this journey.
What "do-ing" and "be-ing" patterns are supporting you and which are sabotaging your journey? Which are relieving stress and which contribute to upset? Which are deepening your relationships with loved ones and which are causing emotional, physical and psychological separation from others? Which reflect positive self-management efforts and effective time management practices? And, which don't?
Finally, explore any stories you are telling yourself that point to doom and gloom. Are these stories really, really true or are you using them to rationalize and justify denial, doing nothing, and maintaining your status- quo way of living your life in the face of mounting odds? Be honest. Are you refusing to take a risk and see what's possible "out there?" How do you need to prioritize your life?
What I need, not what I want
The Universe often acts in strange ways. That's "strange" according to our idea of how things should be; but quite appropriately according to our True Nature. Honest self-reflection can bring us to the realization that life's challenges and struggles may not give us what we want (our ego-mind), but will often give us what we need (our soul's growth) – what we need in order to become more caring, compassionate, humble emotionally mature human beings.
In the process of self-discovery, we learn to become wiser, stronger, more courageous and resilient, and perhaps for the first time in our lives understand the true meaning of "less is more." – that, in fact, this crisis can be a blessing in disguise.