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by Pat Barone, CPCC, MCC
“America’s Weight Loss Catalyst”
Lots of changes are occurring in our country right now. Elections, financial institutions failing, the Dow plunging, mortgage loan crisis, home prices deflating…
What does it mean?
Is there more than one way to react to these events?
Fear might be the natural impulsive reaction when sudden change occurs, but it’s not the best reaction. In fact, fear is about the worst place to go at a time like this!
Fear is a powerful emotion and it shuts us down, cutting us off from opportunity and possibility. When we’re feeling fear, we rarely see things clearly or notice the good in our lives.
First, let’s define it:
F.E.A.R. = FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL
While some of us are in panic mode, about 80% of our economy is buzzing along just fine. In fact, I’ve heard from many people about how their financial situation has improved(!) because they were invested in other things than the stock market and they were aligned with many of the financial institutions that had insulated themselves against the kind of events that are happening.
If we look at the current economic situation as a shift in the way we view and handle money, it’s much more positive. For one thing, the situation we’re experiencing has been brewing quite a while. But it didn’t have our attention. Many of us were unaware of what was actually occurring. It’s a good thing it’s out in the open now – we have an opportunity to solve some problems as a result.
The other thing contributing to the fear right now is the elections – election years always promote fear. Both parties are promoting fear in their advertising campaigns and speeches. Shame on them!
Here’s what happens when we get into fear:
1. Constriction: Fear causes us to constrict, tighten up, look down or inward, huddle in, and try to suppress the fear. We aren’t looking forward, we’re looking inward. We also can’t see a bigger picture from a position of fear.
2. Blame/Shame: The next step is that we go to blame/shame. We might blame our politicians, bankers or government. Blaming ourselves is shame – we blame ourselves for the position we’re in. That just makes us a victim. The truth is, most of us who’ve been impacted negatively didn’t know what was sketchy about the stock market or mortgage world. We need to give ourselves a break for what we could not have foreseen.
3. Chemical Reactions: Fear sets off adrenaline and other chemical reactions in our bodies. Stress hormones flow into our blood and are circulated throughout our bodies.
4. Rash Decisions: We tend to make rash, poor or impulsive decisions when those stress hormones are at work. There was an article in a Portland, Oregon newspaper about a man who withdrew $60,000 from his bank account and put it in his mattress. Now, that’s not a smart move, it’s a fear move.
5. “Awful-izing” the Situation: I heard the following things in coffee shops this week:
“I’ll never be able to retire.”
“I can’t sell my house.
“It’s a disaster”
I call that awfulizing, when we jump to conclusions that we cannot possibly know will happen. None of us knows what the outcome will be – but if we’re busy projecting our fears around, we’re not going to be part of a solution.
The truth is we will retire. It might be on a different timeline than before, but “never” is a “jump to conclusion” term. I had two clients sell houses in the past week – clearly it’s a good time for buyers! This situation is only a disaster if we make it one.
What’s a better reaction than fear?
From a coaching perspective, we always want to be setting goals, being positive, forward-looking, and taking charge. There’s an old saying that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, and it’s true! “Getting going” is what it’s all about.
Some action steps to take:
1. Assess – Look at what’s really important to you – be clear about what money means to you and how important it is in YOUR life.
2. Quarantine Fear – Literally see yourself clearing fear from your thoughts. If you notice fears entering your thoughts, write them down on a piece of paper and systematically tear that paper up and throw it in the garbage. One of my clients created a “fear jar.” She took a large 5-gallon plastic water container and, every time she felt fear entering her mind, she wrote it down, crumpled it up and put it in the container. She was amazed how quickly it grew! It was confirmation of how much she had been living in fear in her life.
3. Go on the Offensive
a. Educate yourself – what can you learn that would be helpful to you right now?
b. Find your values.
c. Change the way you handle money.
d. Formulate a positive plan of action. This might include a part-time holiday job or changing the way you celebrate the holidays this year. Use your creativity to find new ways to make and save money.
e. Re-prioritize – Focus on the positives and be grateful for every single thing you have in your life. Chances are, if you take inventory, you’ll find that people, nature, beauty, health and love are all abundant in your life. Aren’t these things more important than money?
4. Spend Differently – Make thoughtful, considerate decisions, purchases and investments. Get thorough facts and advice. Ask knowledgeable friends and associates for feedback. If you don’t have someone knowledgeable in your life, get professional help. The money you spend will come back to you with wiser decisions.
What we’re really talking about is choosing a positive reaction. Fear doesn’t serve you well in tough money times, or at any difficult time in your life.
Realizing that you are making a choice about how to think is actually empowering. It reaffirms that you are in charge of your decisions, your attitude and your life!