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Lessons for Surviving in Hard Times

Our current financial crisis is frightening.  Most of us have never seen things this bad before.  Any problems that existed before the crisis are intensified now.  The loss of a job or savings can feel like the final straw.  I have empathy, because I too feel the crisis.  But this is not the worst time I’ve ever gone through.

Before I became a psychotherapist thirty-nine years ago, I helped run my family’s construction business in New Jersey.  We were successful until we ran into difficulties with unions and organized crime.  They wanted control of our business and properties and we fought against them.  They were very powerful and there was no real help to be had.  We lost our business, our homes – eventually, we lost everything.  It was a very traumatic time in my life.

But it was also the time when I began to discover the direction for my life.  The discovery came about through my crisis and loss.  I realized that other things besides financial survival were important to me, such as caring for my employees and their troubles.  Even though I was young, my loyal employees loved me and trusted me.  Despite my very best efforts, my family, my employees – and I – all ultimately experienced a tremendous financial loss in our lives.

But out of that loss came much that I’m living out to this day.  It was the beginning of a complete change of life.  It left its scars, but at the same time it led me to a path I’m grateful to be on.  I’m fulfilled by the work I do.  Because of my experience, I’m able to help people today and offer them encouragement, hope and relief from their pain in ways I could never have dreamed of then.

I hope the following lessons from my experience of financial loss will encourage you.  These principles – and taking life one day at a time – have been of great value to me.

  1. Refuse to Take On the Spirit of Fear
    Don’t allow the spirit of fear, which is present on a massive level, to overpower you.  Try instead to rise above it.
  2. Deal With Reality
    Face reality; don’t bury your head in the sand.  Look at the hard facts of your financial situation, as painful and traumatic as they may be.
  3. – But Recognize that Facts Aren’t the Complete Reality
    Don’t let facts determine whether you’re happy or sad, fulfilled or miserable.  Acknowledge the value of non-tangibles, like health and family.
  4. Don’t Let Your Emotions Dictate Your Perspective
    Don’t let your emotions and history determine your outlook and future.  Don’t fixate on what’s been taken away or lost.  Be aware of it and then shift your perspective as quickly as you can. 
  5. Appreciate What You Have
    Embrace the things that really matter, like family and friends.  Recognize and appreciate the ways your life has been rich and full.
  6.  Examine Your Spiritual Life
    Where are you spiritually?  Is this an area you’ve neglected, or that you’ve used as an escape?  Seek spiritual guidance, and aim to trust in God’s provision while taking responsibility to do your part.
  7. Reach Out to Others
    You are not alone.  Many people are experiencing what you are, and far worse.  Be charitable because so many are in need.  If you can’t give monetarily, give of your time and yourself.
  8. Look for Opportunities
    Is this the time to develop a different career, to improve your relationships, or to grow in new ways?  What about your life needs to change?
  9. Find Help
    Examine your emotional life.  If wounds from your past are distorting your life now with fear, this is a good time to get professional help.  There’s help out there for you. 
  10. Don’t Give Up
    Hang in there.  Don’t let your finances determine your future.  There’s far more to life than that.  Through all that we are experiencing, I believe something will come out of this for good.