Take a step back and tune out the sensational soundbites, skip over the titillating headlines and we come face-to-face with our personal realities. The border crisis, national debt bomb and other high profile issues command large amounts of our attention, which is understandable. However, the greatest threats to our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness are the personal crises we create. Let me be clear, truly horrendous things happen to people and I’m in no way engaging in victim-blaming. The simple fact of the matter is that our lives are the sum of the decisions we make and our personal choices.
We often think that we need a crystal ball or precognitive powers to see the future with a high degree of accuracy. It follows, if such was possible, we’d make better- different decisions to ensure an outcome more to our liking. As it happens, such clarity is at our disposal, although many of us don’t readily recognize this pre-crisis. We’ve all heard stories about people who experience headaches and dizziness for months and hesitate to make a doctor’s appointment only to find out that it’s something far more significant with no easy fix. Mysterious lumps, aches, pains, rashes, and general discomfort suddenly appear at random and go unaddressed. They never go away but don’t get any worse, either.
In this post, I’m going to talk about four of the most common situations we face in life and offer some suggestions on how to navigate them. The goal is to avoid them when you can and mitigate the effects when you can’t.
Personal crises and local disasters are what impact and shape our daily lives, so these are what we must prepare for. Businesses fail unexpectedly but behind the failures are usually significant poor decisions, missed key opportunities, and in some cases, criminal conduct. The mechanics of our lives are no different. Few personal crises are as significant as the sudden loss of a job. Regardless of whether it’s a termination, a layoff, or the business goes bankrupt, the result is the same: your life is potentially upended. You must scramble to find something quickly to keep the lights on and a roof over your head.
It’s difficult to know the extent to which the writing is on the wall for the rank-and-file employees who count on their paychecks to simply stay afloat. In the absence of timely and factual information from senior leadership, gossip and rumors is all there is. Suffice it to say, watching your livelihood and retirement funds turn to dust through no fault of their own surely ranks as one of the most sickening and fear-inducing moments in life. Increasingly, those earning six-figure salaries are living paycheck-to-paycheck and lack the means to cover a small financial emergency. Work is one of the most important relationships in our lives, easily on par with family and friends. Aside from the obvious paycheck, work involves so much more. At times, our very identity is defined by being a doctor, an actor, or a coach. Assuredly, the healthiest leans through which to view ourselves but it’s quite normal, nonetheless.
The key to finding a better job is to do so when you have a good one. This might seem counterintuitive, but it reduces the chances of you settling for something out of desperation. It also gives you a position of strength from which to bargain or hold out for what you really want in a new position. Of course, expending this type of energy is a challenge, especially when things are going well, or you’re consumed by simply making it through another day.
Ask yourself, is business as good or bad as senior management claims? Is what’s going on internally aligning with the larger industry trends? Are key people leaving or selling large amounts of stock? Are the corporate purse strings tighter than usual? Are there layoffs, wage freezes or moratoriums on hiring? Is new business coming in or has the well largely run dry? This could all mean nothing or spell serious trouble. So, what do you do?
1. As best you can, keep your finger the pulse of the organization and have an exit strategy. Know when it’s time to go.
2. Work on your network. If you don’t have one, start building one. It’s as simple as exchanging business cards at a conference or introducing yourself to someone you don’t know at a meeting, or talking to someone from a different department in the hall or elevator.
3. Regularly update your resume and keep your skills sharp. Complete an unfinished degree or add a professional certification to your skill set.
4. If you need a side hustle for the additional income, start one. Do your research and identify those that work to your strengths and life situation.
Serious Illness/ Catastrophic Injury
Many of us have had brushes with an illness or catastrophic injury of some sort. Injuries, illness, and infections don’t need grand invitations to wreak havoc on our lives. A little inattention here and procrastination there goes a long way to watching our waistlines expand, blood pressure increase, and cholesterol levels become problematic. Intentionally reckless and irresponsible behavior is often its own reward.
The adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day is tiresome but true. Aside from setting realistic goals, nothing worthwhile happens overnight. Rapid weight loss, aside from being unhealthy, is an absolute set up to regain the lost pounds and pack on a few more.
1.Nothing gets better by waiting. Make an appointment with your doctor and discuss new or phantom aches and pains.
2. Be sure to note changes to your diet, physical activity, sleep patterns, stress levels, and so on. Have you been avoiding anyone, avoiding making a particular decision, or simply feeling not yourself lately? Discuss this with your doctor.
3. Ease back into physical activity. Yoga or simple stretching is an excellent way to reap lots of benefits with minimal risk of injury.
4. There’s no need to rush out and join the most expensive health club or buy thousands of dollars of equipment to fill the empty corner in the basement. Start with daily walks or a bike ride around the neighborhood or local park.
5. Know your limits. Going from couch potato to elite athlete in a single weekend never ends well.
Losing a home, be it an apartment or your dream house is devastating. The very real loss of your personal security and stability compounds the situation and makes recovery that much more difficult. While everyone’s situation is different, the road to homelessness is a slow-moving train, and you see it coming.
As with your health and other critical relationships, delaying acting can be devastating and hugely costly. This goes without saying; critically examine your finances before you make a purchasing decision. If the numbers don’t add up, don’t be ashamed or afraid to delay your dream of homeownership. While taking on a second or third job can address the issue of a down payment, this situation isn’t sustainable over the long term. If the mortgage leaves you with very little left over, you might be better served by waiting.
Set realistic and clear goals so you’re not simply working yourself into an early grave. Your quality-of-life matters and the ability to take vacations, celebrate birthdays and holidays are important. Equally, responsibly enjoying the fruits of your hard work and careful planning is worthy of recognition and reward.
1. Do you really need the McMansion? Don’t be afraid to downsize as a means of saving money and enhancing your financial stability.
2. Mortgage loan officers and realtors have their own agendas, i.e., getting paid. Don’t get so caught up in the emotions of buying a home that you fail to see the bigger picture.
3. Banks don’t want the house back, but won’t allow you to live there for free, either. Reach out to them as soon as you identify that you need help.
4. Make a great deal of noise if you feel you’re being ignored or taken advantage of.
5. As always, reach out to your network of family and friends for help, if this is an option.
I’ve never been a fan of recreational drug use and I’m a very light social drinker. Dozens of states have decriminalized marijuana use, with some making it legal for recreational use. It’s a moot issue for me as the circumstances of my life don’t allow for that form of relaxation and many others are in a similar situation. I regularly caution against excessive social media consumption. Additionally, the media, mainstream and conservative alike, rarely talk about anything positive or healthy. Nor do they offer viable solutions to complex and decades-old problems. The hyper stimulation and constant bombardment of gloom and doom is anxiety-inducing. Spend as little time as possible on this merry-go-round.
For some, adulting is hard and there are no easy answers to questions about family; career; money; religious and cultural considerations; the conversations you constantly have with yourself, and a plethora of other issues. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
1. Focus only on your own behavior and take ownership of what you can control.
2. Do the best you can to set aside a few minutes for yourself. No kids. No significant other. No TV. No phones. No tablets. Sit quietly with a clear mind and do absolutely nothing.
3. Don’t be afraid to get professional help if you need it. Sometimes, having a neutral third-party to talk to is hugely helpful.
4. If you require medication to correct a chemical imbalance to regulate your mood, take your meds!
5. Along the same lines, avoid self-medicating with alcohol and street drugs. The benefits are only temporary and you’re simply kicking the can down the road. Get professional help if you need it.
6. Find something that brings you joy, whether it’s prayer, meditation, or a walk in the woods. Set aside this time on your daily calendar and make this an unbreakable routine.
If you haven’t done so, read the posts How I Got Ready, Easing the Pinch and By the Numbers. Not only do I unpack these very topics, but I also lay out specifics as to how you can prepare yourself for such emergencies. Aside from your personal readiness and resiliency, you have the strength of your network. Family and friends are essential in normal times and even more so in times of crisis. Aside from a couch on which to sleep or a hot meal, a shoulder to lean on and a nonjudgmental ear go a long way to helping us through a crisis. Above all, be intentional and make careful plans. As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and tips on this topic below.