by: Julia Fabris McBride
In the first months of the current economic crisis, I felt pretty removed from the situation. It was something I read about in the New York Times and heard way too much about on Marketplace.
In the last few weeks, however, the reality of economic depression has moved closer and closer to home, as media clichés about Wall Street vs. Main Street give way to kitchen table conversations about deferred dreams and hard decisions.
Stories from home and around
A friend learns that the fabulous contract he’d been promised has been eliminated. He’s at the top of the list to get hired if things get better, but nobody is holding their breath.
A nonprofit executive who is one of my coaching clients faces the reality of a budget deficit. She and her board make hard decisions about eliminating programs, slowing down progress toward the vision, hardest of all, cutting staff.
A nonprofit board here in Kansas prepares itself to make a decision between reducing distributions of either food, clothing or shelter.
I reconnect with a childhood friend on Facebook, learning that she is jobless for the first time since junior high school. Another Facebook friend begins to despair as the business to which he’s dedicated his adult life to flounders on the brink of failure.
Closest of all … My 71 year old mother looks at her 401(k) report and decides to keep working for at least another year.
Pause before you bounce
Roget’s Thesaurus equates “resilience” with flexibility, bounce, ductility, elasticity, give, malleability, plasticity, pliability, spring, springiness, and suppleness.
But it may not be possible, or even wise, to spring right back to action after a major setback. Maybe true resilience requires pausing long enough to get used to the new reality.
In that pause, you have opportunity to connect with the courage of your convictions.
Heart and Spirit
At its most basic – courage means listening to your heart and responding with purposeful action that is in alignment with your core values: Whether it’s easy or not. Whether you are successful or not. Whether it’s what you want to do or not. Whether you are humiliated or applauded.
Courage means listening to your heart and standing up for what you believe in again, and again, and again.
Courage may not be as flashy as you think.
You may have a grand vision about what it means to live by your core values, a beautiful picture of how you will be the change you want to see in the world.
But sometimes courage means being practical. Accepting reality. Cutting programs so that the organization can survive. Letting staff go and concentrating more on banking the fires than fanning them.
Sometimes courage means going to work each day for a boss you dislike, so that you can hang onto a job you hate, in order to feed and clothe the people you love more than anything else in the world.
When times get tough, do what you can and ignore what you can’t.
As times get tougher, resilient people are finding ways to stay optimistic as they tap into the courage of their conviction that life is good:
The friend who lost the fabulous contract gets enough web design work to keep body and soul together while using his free time to get in tip-top physical shape.
The nonprofit exec helps her team to mourn the losses, but they also start to see budget cuts as an opportunity to refocus on the work with individual artists that is at the core of their mission.
Rather than cut distributions of either food, clothing or shelter, the Kansas nonprofit aligns itself with a local service organization and continues to meet the growing needs of its constituents.
The Facebook friend whose business is floundering continues to take time to walk his dog each morning, go hiking with his son, and meet regularly at the gym for workouts with a small group of friends. He resists the pull to punish himself by putting in more and more time at the office.
And my mother goes out to meet the bus as usual each morning. The only change of routine she reports is that when the mail comes with reports from her 401(K) she puts those envelopes straight into the shredder, unopened and unread.
She does what she can and ignores what she can’t.