Four Ways To Plan A Bright Future Right Now
This post was originally published in Forbes Magazine on April 16, 2020. You can read the post on Forbes website here. Laura Maloney is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.
Between rising unemployment and social isolation due to COVID-19, the world is certainly in the midst of a crisis. But while crises can yield negative outcomes, they can also present new opportunities.
A crisis, defined, is simply “a radical change of status in a person’s life.” Crises can feel absolutely devastating when you’re in the thick of things. Those who have recently lost their jobs are undoubtedly feeling a host of distressing emotions. But even a crisis that completely knocks us off our feet is an opportunity to reroot ourselves.
Here are a few steps you can take to find your footing after this or essentially any crisis.
Accept what is.
The Buddhist notion that “suffering equals pain times resistance” is helpful to remember in times of crisis. It’s important to know that we can experience the pain of losing our jobs and various facets of our social lives, but we suffer when we resist what is.
One common way people resist their external reality is by resisting their internal emotions. If we attach judgment to certain emotions, we may suppress those we deem inappropriate, impractical, or even destructive. Emotions provide feedback; they cannot be right or wrong. Like the external stimuli that give rise to our internal emotions, they simply are.
Circumstantial problems are solvable. But when we beat ourselves up for our emotions on top of the pain life throws at us, we can become trapped in a maze of psychological chaos that is much more difficult to escape. The Buddhists explain this phenomenon in terms of two darts: when life throws one dart at us, we can accept what is or punish ourselves more by inflicting the suffering of a second dart.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
Pay attention to the emotions you’re feeling without judging them or wishing them away. Notice where any emotion you might be feeling – fear, sadness, anger – may be lodged in your body – your throat, your chest, your stomach – and how you might release it in a physical but nondestructive way.
Some people may seek to regulate emotions through exercise, like running or cycling. Others may need to pound a pillow, while yet others might only be able to curl up in bed and cry. However you release your emotions should be exactly what feels right to you. Finding a way to release an emotion is one way to help it dissipate. Dancing (whether it’s furious or fun) to your favorite tunes in the comfort of home during quarantine is a great way to release pent up energy.
When we’re worried about how we’ll keep a roof over our head and food on the table, processing emotions might seem like a costly waste of time. But if we don’t release our emotions, we allow them to strongarm us, making it much more difficult – if not impossible – to act rationally. Ultimately, emotional release clears the way for practical and purposeful action.
Plan for short-term essentials.
If you’ve recently lost your job and you don’t have a financial safety net for the immediate future, you need to map out a plan for how you will meet your essential needs. Remember that your short-term plan does not have to be your long-term plan, but it may be the means by which you achieve your future goals.
When devising a short-term survival strategy, reduce or eliminate non-essential expenses and lean on your community and support network as much as possible. Across the country, people are giving and receiving essential services to help each other out.
Animals can be a huge comfort during a crisis. If you’re able to, consider supporting your local animal shelter or wildlife conservation organization during this time. Volunteering to foster shelter animals is a great way to save lives while easing the pain of social distancing. Allowing animals to support you, even if that’s simply by watching gorillas in nature, can lend peace and tranquility to your new routine.
Starting from square one or ground zero means we have the opportunity to completely restructure our lives. Take a few minutes each day during this time to start reflecting on what’s most important to you, which will ultimately pave the way for crafting a personal mission statement that can guide and shape your long-term goals.
Writing a personal mission statement is a great way to get clear about what you want to contribute to the world. During this process, you might even feel a sense of freedom or relief. Because the stress people experience in their jobs often stems from a misalignment with their core values, establishing what matters most to you is a golden opportunity to optimize your future professional satisfaction.
Find value in your talents.
If you are confronting job loss, take out a piece of paper and draw a Venn diagram. In one circle, write, “What am I best at doing?” In the second circle, write, “What does the world need?” And in the third circle, write, “What I can get paid doing?”
Note your answers next to each circle. Sometimes we can’t fully appreciate our talents – precisely because we take them for granted. Take this time to ask your friends and colleagues, “What am I good at?” The answer may surprise you.
Reflect on your answers and note where there is overlap in the three circles. Because your sweet spot is unique and nuanced, it might not be immediately obvious. But if you commit to spending time at this intersection, you’ll gain clarity while you wait for the dust to settle.
Ultimately, setbacks do not have to destroy or define us. But they can give us space to define ourselves. Likewise, a crisis isn’t an endpoint; it’s a turning point – a chance to examine your assumptions and the freedom to find who you truly are.