STRATEGY #10 TO SURVIVE A DOWN ECONOMY
By Kevin M
When careers and money become questionable foundations in our lives, what’s left? It’s often only in bad economies that we even entertain the question.
In 10 Ways To Survive a Down Economy (published on Christianpf.com June 1) we listed ten strategies to help us deal with the bad economy. Our topic for today, the final strategy, Strategy #10:
Seek fulfillment beyond your work. In a world where careers are no longer either peaceful or progressive, self actualizing through your work may not be the path it’s been in the past. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to find fulfillment outside of work. Take more active roles in regard to your health, family, faith and community.
When times are good, and jobs, money and credit are plentiful, there’s a tendency for us to become self-contained. We self-actualize through our work, and surround ourselves with the things that prosperity enables us to afford. But when the foundations of that life are shaken or even dismantled, where do we turn to find comfort, platforms from which to rebuild and a sense of self-worth?
The word has an almost negative connotation, but during prosperous times when work is plentiful, it’s easy to define ourselves principally by the work we do. But is that who truly who we are on the inside? And if our work has been downgraded, or is completely gone, then who are we? Now is a good opportunity to spend some alone time, purposely visiting (or revisiting) the question, who am I and what do I stand for?
When we’re on the fast track at work, a certain go-along-to-get-along mindset tends to seep into our lives. Things are going well with work, we’re making money—and all of that is good—so we need to put this or that aspect of our lives on the back burner for later. But maybe now IS later!
Spend some quiet time thinking, or talking with family and friends about the type of person you are, what you may be suited for, and to consider and discuss some plans you may have been nursing but never had the time to act on.
Men are especially guilty of putting excessive time into our careers, and claiming to be doing it for our families. While this is necessary to a very large degree, we sometimes pursue career success in the name of our families without ever stopping to see what it is that our families want.
Recessions are a good time to take this issue up with our families. Hard times inadvertently help us to find more time to be with our families. If you’ve lost your job or your business has failed, one silver lining is that you’ll have more time to spend with your family. Take advantage of this. Find out what it is they want from you, have some fun and build some memories. A period of unemployment may be a financial negative, but it may also be a time to bond with family in a way that will strengthen the family unit and build cherished memories that will last a lifetime.
How many of us have neighbors we don’t even know? That’s a sad statement on our times, but also fairly typical as we increasingly immerse ourselves in electronic media such as wide screen TVs, computer games, cell phones, I-pods and the computer on which you’re reading this post. There’s real utility in expanding our networks of contacts beyond our immediate communities via those media, but we shouldn’t use those networks as a virtual replacement for those of the flesh and blood variety either.
We may not think of it in this way, but the physical communities we live in are our most basic networks. While were searching the World Wide Web for networks around the globe, one already exists right outside the front door. When we’re consumed with work and looking to expand virtual connections, there’s often little time left for involving ourselves with the people and circumstances in our most immediate environments.
People who are physically present are also in the best position to provide direct help. Watching each others kids, running errands for one another or helping with a major repair project on the house or car when we can’t afford to pay an outsider, are examples of things we can’t get from the worldwide web. Never are we more dependent (and interdependent) on the people around us than when we’re experiencing a crisis.
But community is something which must be developed and practiced on an ongoing basis, and in order to have a network of willing helpers, or even just people to be with us to listen during times of trouble, we first need to be willing participants in that community. If you suddenly find yourself with more time on your hands due to job loss or reduction in hours, or even just a fear of what the future may hold, seek greater involvement in your local community. One of the very best ways to find helpers in that community is to become a helper yourself. We can all help one another in so many capacities, and that’s the basis of any successful network.
It’s become common these days to dismiss faith in a higher power as “old world”—something people believed back when no one knew any better. Against the backdrop of science, technology, all encompassing careers and an admittedly very impressive entertainment establishment, it’s easy for faith to seem irrelevant. But humanity has practiced religion from its very beginnings, well into the last century and still in many quarters all over the world today, so we can’t be quick to discount it’s relevance.
When a job loss or some other disaster befalls us, God can suddenly seem closer to us, in much the same way that we can never realize how many stars there are in the night sky until we find ourselves in a place without civilizations lights. Absent our usual props, we can become more open to the possibility of a higher power and the implications that it carries for our lives.
Being a person of faith, I’m biased here. But one of the most liberating things I’ve come to learn in my own faith journey is that it isn’t all about me, and it isn’t all about here, and it isn’t all about now. The world, the future of civilization and even my very life don’t depend on my plans and endeavors working out the way I expect them to. And you know what? It’s OK. A higher power will reset the pins even if I somehow knock them all down, and life will go on. Even if things look dark right now, at some point they’ll get a lot better.
Seek out faith, or reacquaint yourself with it if you grew up with it and fell away. Few endeavors in life can provide the comfort and sense of self-worth in the face of catastrophe that a solid faith walk can.
Health and fitness
Often when we’re in career high gear, and up to our necks in tasks, agendas and phone calls, a few things slip past us. A big one is health. Let’s face it, taking care of ourselves takes time, time to prepare healthier meals and to exercise. When our schedules are packed, it’s easy to let these efforts slide. With the slowing of the business treadmill, there may be more time to devote to taking care of our bodies.
Ultimately this is a good thing. Though we don’t normally think of health and fitness in financial terms, in fact they carry a huge impact. If we can work to improve our health, many other plusses will come our way. Better health equals more energy, self confidence and a better outlook on life. All of these are assets in what ever we plan to do in life, including getting back on the career and business treadmill. We can prepare our bodies now for the next shift in the economy, which ever way it goes.
I’m not deep into politics, but we all do our share of complaining about the political system. In truth few of us ever get truly involved. There are issues all around that disturb each of us, and we can get involved in the political process as a way of making things better. I’m not talking about pushing for a change in national political agenda, but there’s plenty that can be done at the local level where our voices can be heard. And sometimes movements get started at the local level then go national. When work is all consuming, there may not be time to get involved, but in the current slowdown, that time may be available.
Consider getting involved in charitable work as well. We may not have money to give to help others, but we all have our time and effort. Just like with faith, working to help with activities that are completely beyond our own lives helps us to realize that everything in our lives doesn’t and shouldn’t revolve solely around us.
Bonus points: involving ourselves in political or charitable activities may not provide us with a job or income, but either could put us in contact with people or circumstances that can.
I saved this one for last not only because it’s the most fun, but also because it may also be the most productive. Most of us have hobbies – activities or interests usually having nothing to do with our career paths. But what ever we may work at as a career, it’s our hobbies which often define our passions. And it’s from those passions that future directions, including careers, can be found.
If you’ve recently lost your job, feel certain you will or have hit a ceiling above which you don’t expect to rise anytime soon, now may be an excellent time to look to the future in the things that you like to do. You spent years of your life working at something you may not like much (or might even hate); if that’s come to an end, maybe it’s time to look closely at doing what you love. Inventory your list of hobbies, interests and passions, and consider if there may be a future career lurking somewhere in there, even if only as a side business. If we can work at something we feel passionately about, our careers may not feel so much like work. Many people begin new careers and businesses doing just that.
If it seems as if career and finances have taken a turn for the worse, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at these “softer sides” of life for answers.