When it comes to business and economy, bad news is pouring like rain; go to any news website or social bookmarking website and you will find scores of links telling you what a mess we’re in. Businesses are crumbling, banks are failing, real estate is dissolving, and a new study has revealed that 80% Americans are stressed due to the prevalent economic conditions (Source). So when it seems the skies are falling, I know it may feel like rubbing salt over the wound if I tell you such conditions can be used to your benefit.
I’m not saying take financial, emotional or physical advantage of your family members, friends, colleagues, or neighbors. Whether we like them or not, adversities are like vaccinations that make us stronger as individuals, as a society and as a civilization. It is through hardships that we become more perceptive towards human values, towards togetherness and towards the beautiful world around us. Whenever we have grown as people it has been through hardship. Unfortunately the law of survival of the fittest manifests most prolifically during such times; some people survive and come through victorious and some don’t (the recent family-suicide-cum-murder).
So what makes you victorious, what differentiates you from those who succumbed to the pressure and couldn’t make it? You are victorious when you can use even adversity to your advantage. Here are a few things to consider:
Connect With Your Loved Ones
When work is less all of a sudden you get ample time to connect, with yourself, and your loved ones. This may seem esoteric when you are worried about paying the bills at the end of the month but worrying and causing distress is not going to solve your problem. In order to confront the adversity you need to be fit, both emotionally and physically.
A few days ago my wife read in a Harvard Business School article that families come closer during economic hardships. This is not a selfish act because this is what families are for. You are worried about your deteriorating finances because of your family. For example, if I am alone I wouldn’t mind sleeping on a park bench but to think like that about my child is a nightmare. So when finances are tight it becomes the business of the entire family. Take into confidence your children, your spouse, even your parents and brothers and sisters. Never, ever withdraw into a mental cocoon because this can be disastrous. There is nothing to feel ashamed of because you are not directly responsible for the current economic mess. Yes, you are responsible about how you tackle the situation.
Talking and brainstorming somehow always seems to work and new ideas crop up out of nowhere. Spending time with kids is always relaxing and it energizes your spirits and helps you refocus. Having long walks with your partner or spouse lets you bond and see the warmth of the relationship that you might have been ignoring while living in the fast lane of commerce.
You can also organize neighborhood gatherings and outings that don’t cost much. Share your resources as much as you can whether it is food, lodging, transport, money, or love. Strike up new friendships. If people stand for each other no hardship can be daunting enough.
Connect With Yourself
Have you been ignoring yourself due to work pressure? When we are busy conducting business and earning money we often begin to ignore our physical and intellectual health. During the downturn you can spend the time giving some good exercise to your body and your brain. Read books that you have been thinking of reading for years. Acquire some new skills. Go for long walks and do some exercise to make your body flexible and muscles stronger. Start eating food that doesn’t cost much and that is good for your brain and your body (surprisingly healthy food is always cheaper compared to unhealthy food).
Rethink Your Priorities
A sudden halt in our day-to-day life gives us a chance to look at our priorities from a new angle. What is really important in your life? Your lifestyle, your loved ones or your values? If you are distressed because you won’t be able to afford the lifestyle you have had so far then you surely need to re-evaluate your priorities. Do you really need such a big house in such an expensive neighborhood? Does your child really need to go to that Ivy League college? Do you want to drive that cool vehicle for the purpose of transporting yourself and your family or to show off? Does it really matter if you can no longer afford that expensive liquor and food? Once your priorities are clear you will be surprised to know that things are not as bad as they had seemed a few hours ago.
Consider Alternative Careers
Haven’t you been always thinking of starting out your own pursuits and work for yourself rather than under someone else? Maybe this is the right time to give it a try. Fine, you may not have the required money, but doing something is always better than doing nothing as long as that something is not destructive. You can even collaborate with a few like-minded people, pool up resources, exchange skills and talents and be as creative as you feel like.
Expand Your Market
If you are a freelancer this is definitely the right time to expand your market and explore other regions of the world. Don’t restrict yourself to one country even if it is your own country. In case you are promoting your business through your website then you can focus your efforts towards optimizing your website so that it begins to get traffic from varied resources. If your current traffic is not generating enough business for you then you should start exploring other traffic sources. This will also help you when the hard times are over.
Do Something Socially or Religiously Relevant
Doing something for others without expecting any return always brings you peace and contentment. Cater to your spiritual side – visit your local place of worship and touch base with the supreme one. Refresh the fact that this world is merely an infinitesimally tiny dot in the infinity of the universe. You may feel humbled and peaceful.
Similarly visit your local non-profit organization engaged in helping underprivileged communities. You will discover how bravely people face their day-to-day struggles like not having enough food to eat, not having warm clothes for winter and not having a roof over their heads. You will suddenly discover how small your problems and challenges are. You may decide that they are in fact totally insignificant.
Develop a Habit of Saving
I know saving is the last thing that comes to your mind when you are running out of money but believe me this is the right time to start saving. Although you must be regretting the days when you could have saved but you didn’t, it hardly matters now because nothing can be done about the time that has gone by. What matters is what can be done rather than what could have been done. Even if you can spare a few dollars, save them somewhere.
The things mentioned above may not immediately solve your financial problems but they will certainly go a long way in keeping you strong emotionally and mentally and make you tough to handle tougher situations.
Do you have any advice for using the economic downturn to your advantage? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.