7 Ideas about travelling hopefully through the economic downturn
The news is all thoroughly glum isn’t it. Every day there seems to be yet another story of economic doom and gloom and global break-down. So I thought I would share with you some of the things we could try to remember in these challenging times:
1. Focus on the positive. The one thing we do have control of is our mental and emotional approach to how we manage the situation. I am not suggesting that the situation is not serious: I am sure that it is. But we can either allow our thoughts to increase our sense of anxiety such as “I can’t stand this situation: it is ghastly and it is just going to get worse” or we can develop thoughts such as “this is a very challenging situation but I can manage it step by step and remain optimistic” so as to generate a feeling of calm and confidence. When we are stressed we are stupid and make stupid decisions: and we can’t afford to make bad decisions at this time so take a deep breath and decide to feel in control.
2. Focus on what we can control: decide what we can change and what we can’t. We are living through unprecedented times: no expert – politician or economist – actually knows what the solutions are so the important thing is for us to focus on those aspects of our life that we can control and not spend too much time worrying about what we can’t. What can we do? Perhaps we can watch our cash flow, save money, invest it carefully, put our all into the work we are doing, seek new career avenues and opportunities. Perhaps we can nurture the relationships and support systems we have and support those whom we love and with whom we live and work. In essence, travel hopefully and make every day as enjoyable as it can be. Each decision we make becomes more important and will take more consideration so as to ensure that we taking action where we can and accepting what we can’t change.
3. Focus on personal values. We need to flex to the changing circumstances of the economic world but the focus that can keep us sane is holding on to our personal principles and values. Doing this is not always easy but virtually always raises self-esteem and is more likely to set you on the right pathway for your own unique destiny rather than following the crowd. Groupthink can lead to panic and to not thinking wisely (look at what has just been happening when people all over the world got swept up on a wave of economic practice that was not sustainable). The pull of the crowd is strong and it takes courage to stand alone but ultimately in my experience it leads us towards those people who share our values and can support our aspirations.
4. Get real. Work with facts and evidence, not with supposition and imagining what might happen – because it may never happen. If we buy into all the fear that the media and governments are setting up we could waste several months if not years of our lives living in fear, to no good avail. Unprecedented times mean that forthcoming events are unpredictable so we may simply not have the mental models available to imagine what they might look like – and you never know, things could turn out to be better than we imagine!
5. Look for the opportunities. In every downturn there is opportunity. I have lived through three major periods of economic difficulty – the 1970s (when we had a 3-day week, power cuts to offices, rubbish uncollected in the streets), the 1980s and Black Monday, and the recession of the 1990s – when I set up Positiveworks. They don’t last forever and there are always those who prosper despite them. We can either button down the hatches and decide that everything is going to be ghastly or we can choose to travel wisely and hopefully and look for new opportunities, new ways of working, new ways of living. There are 2 books out that might be of interest to you: one called When Markets Collide – Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change. You can check it out on http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/article4968973.ece . The other is The Tiger That Isn’t: Seeing Through a World of Numbers. You can check this one out in an article in The Times entitled ‘Crash! Boom! Disaster! That’s enough crazy talk’ see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4981188.ece
6. Be discerning. The media has decided long ago that it is only bad news that sells newspapers – so that is what they focus on. They seldom tell us of all the many good things that are going on in the world. Comment always comes with an agenda too: so listen carefully to who is doing the reporting – and why. We might remind ourselves as we read or listen to the news that what is actually happening is as much about what is not reported as about what is.
7. Get creative. If the old world has gone let’s consider the shape of the new world in a proactive way: it takes the sum of our individual efforts to make change a positive experience. Each one of us has more creativity and innovation within us than we might be aware of – it is time for us to get fired up about how to make this period of global downturn a time when we shift our thinking and approach to deciding what kind of new world we want to build. If we focus on negativity and fear this is what we will shape; if we focus on constructive optimism and innovation we may be able to shape something new and exciting that is grounded in wise principles and a sense of inclusion that could benefit us all. This is our challenge: let’s rise to it!
What new world do you want to create and what action might you take to create it?