Life’s tough right now! The economy is very rocky, people are losing jobs, companies are closing, people can’t pay their mortgages or they move in order to live somewhere that is less expensive. It even impacts the kids when there are a variety of cuts for the classroom budgets and it’s harder to get student loans to attend college. But why is it that some people come through all of this “on their feet” and others launch into a very difficult downward spiral?
Well, attitude can play a big part in all of this. If you’re one of those people who is more “empowered”, you’re more likely to be able to work out some more positive solution to your problems. However, if you always feel stuck, powerless, or a victim, you will very likely have a much harder time of it.
What does “empowerment” mean? The saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” sums it up. This means that when something negative comes your way, you focus on some sort of plan to work through the problem. For example, if you were facing job loss, you’d start looking for another job even before your first job was over. But, perhaps even more importantly, you’d start to look at a variety of ways to make money. These might include some sort of self-employed business, reducing expenses, selling some assets, changing living arrangements, etc..
The opposite of “empowerment” is “powerless”, meaning looking ahead and only seeing a looming disaster that you can’t stop or control. In the same impending job loss scenario, the person becomes panic stricken, so anxious they can’t sleep, they feel stuck and don’t know what to do. They feel emotionally quite small or young and wish someone would come rescue them, like their parents did when they were young. But sadly, this rescue rarely happens. Certainly there are exceptions to these scenarios but, in general, these are happening everyday for a multitude of people.
So what’s the solution? It’s to take charge of your life in a variety of ways. It’s a different way of looking at your situation than before. Consider the following two examples. One, your doctor tells you that you have high cholesterol and need to take a pill, perhaps for the rest of your life, to control it. You say OK and, thus, have given up your power. The other approach is to refuse the pill and ask what can be done to reduce your cholesterol without medication. You could also look on the Internet to learn more about controlling cholesterol. In a second example, an elderly person starts to feel unsteady on their feet and becomes worried they might fall. They cut back on their walking and sit more, perhaps giving up some of the activities they used to enjoy. They become depressed and physically weak and end up falling anyway. Instead, when they notice they’re becoming unsteady, they could begin some sort of very basic exercise routine, such as standing in place, doing seated muscle strengthening exercises, going for gradually longer walks each day, etc. Of course, they should consult their doctor before beginning any more rigorous exercise and may want to consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer about the proper exercise routine for them so as not to injure themselves with the wrong type of exercise. The point is to take charge of your life to move it in the direction you want it to go.
To apply this attitude change to our difficult economy, start to think of what can be done to slow the outflow of money needlessly. This could include, cutting back on electricity use, conserving water, using coupons at the grocery store, doing more entertaining at home such as hosting a pot luck, or even taking up pursuits like sewing or knitting to save money on clothing. It could even mean moving to a smaller house or apartment, getting a smaller more efficient car, or taking public transportation and either selling your car or leaving it at home. It’s opening up your thinking to the bigger picture of “having more money” to pay for your monthly expenses rather than simply “having a job” to pay those expenses. You thus have a much wider range of ways to make that money.
Don’t try to do everything on your own!! Talk to your spouse/partner, family, co-workers, friends, therapist, clergy, or anyone else who may be able to give you a different approach. The whole idea here is that by interacting with someone else about a problem, they may have information that you don’t have and it will help you solve the problem. They may be able to give you job leads, discuss a career change, help you tap into some extra money, as well as simply being emotionally supportive of your situation. Don’t underestimate the value of that support!!
In the case of a job search, after you’ve exhausted, for the time being, any job prospects in your chosen field at your similar job level, expand your search to include jobs that may pay less or be in a different field or only be part-time. The positives are that you have income, you may be able to receive healthcare benefits with this new job, you’re making new contacts, and it always seems easier to find a job when you’re already working.
Moreover, think of the wide variety of jobs you could do on your own while you’re trying to get a full-time position. What are your skills? Do you have some general skills so that you could be a handyman, gardener, house-sitter, manage an elderly person’s finances, provide help to the elderly, take in washing, house cleaning, window cleaning, cook meals, etc.? Or do you have more specialized skills that might enable you to be a tutor, fitness trainer, massage therapist, specialty chef, etc.? All of these ideas, even if not in your usual field of work, are ways to bring in extra income. Check them out!!
How you view and how you approach problem solving is key. Despite all the gloom and doom that’s in the news right now, you can have a chance to move forward in your life. It’s looking at your life as an opportunity for personal growth and achievement by becoming the “empowered” person you’ve always wanted or needed to be but never quite got there. Use these techniques and be the example to your family and friends. Share with them how to successfully handle stress and move forward in a brand new way.
Written by: Dr. Craig Peterson, PhD
Dr. Peterson is a Board Certified Psychologist who make makes house calls in the Glendale/Burbank/Pasadena areas.