This time of year it is easy to get caught up in the problems that the country is going through. But, often, it is only a matter of perspective -- times like these lay the foundation for vastly improved futures for those who take advantage of the unique opportunities that emerge during disruptive periods. As a rule, we simply don't like a lot of change but we still have to adapt to the changing world. Not changing isn't an option; it is my experience that those who embrace this change and use times like this to rethink their lives end up better for the practice.
Today is the day before Thanksgiving here in the U.S., a time when we are supposed to stop, reflect, and be thankful for what we have. It is a chance to challenge our perspective and take a moment to look at our family and friends and realize that some of what is most precious only we, through our actions, can put at risk.
The Chance to Make History
A lot of people have trouble getting through the holidays. This year and next, I expect a large number will be either without jobs or under threat of layoff. But this generally suggests we are measuring our own value by what we do, not who we are. That should be a wake-up call that priorities need to be adjusted. Just think, there will be programs starting shortly that will provide jobs for millions. Some of these programs will build monuments to the future that will outlast and be more satisfying than anything those who build them might have done had they remained with their prior positions.
In the U.S., our infrastructure is slowly decaying, and those who will shortly be tasked with fixing it will help assure the future for those who come after them. Their children and grandchildren will have opportunities that they would have otherwise not had if this work wasn't done. It will assure the future of the nation. Because you can see the result, it's very satisfying and comparatively low-pressure work. While those who go down this path may not make as much money, they will likely end up with stronger families and a greater sense of self worth. In the end, in terms of real personal value, many will find their lives vastly more meaningful than ever.
Opportunity to Simplify
As our incomes went up, a lot of us bought bigger houses and more stuff to fill these houses. We continually complicated our lives with the need to manage the financing and maintenance of all of this mostly unneeded stuff. Often, we feel we are in competition with our siblings, our neighbors, our coworkers. We put steadily increasing stress on ourselves as we strive for more income to pay for more stuff, instead of stopping to take stock of what we already have and get a sense for what might be enough.
A lot of us can look back at a former job where we were happier and much more content -- but, because we were in a career race, we moved right through it. Now we wonder if our best times are behind us. Today is a good time to stop and consider whether we really needed the jet skis, boat, third or fourth car, motorcycle, extra kitchen and that huge house with all the unoccupied rooms.
Use this time to stop and think about where you'd like to be and what you'd like to be doing.
Layoffs Can Be Good
A lot of us are in jobs where we are unhappy but feel we can't afford to make a change. Layoffs force us to change, but if we don't take some time to think about what we really want to do, we'll simply find ourselves back in a similar job, often at a lower salary, and even less happy. This is a great time to take a look at what you enjoy doing and see if you can plan a way to get to a job where you are doing more things you enjoy. I'm fortunate enough to have gone through that process myself a few years back. The end result is that I'm vastly happier.
For me, it took being kicked in the butt because the fear of being unemployed kept me from taking the risks I should have taken. One thing, though: The job market is only going to get tighter and layoffs are expected to increase. Generally, you are more attractive as a potential employee while you still have a job. You may want to start working on making a move before the actual layoff event. Over the years, I've received resumes from folks who have been laid off weeks after jobs they might have enjoyed were filled by less-qualified candidates.
Use these times to reassess your career, think about what is truly important to you and what you enjoy, and put in place a plan to get someplace where you can maximize that.
There is a lot to be thankful for this year. What I don't think many will realize for several years is that the problems and pain that most of us will be experiencing will lead to vastly happier lives. If folks work towards this result, there is a higher probability that more will find themselves in a happier place, even before the economy recovers. It is my hope that you and yours are among those folks.