“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”Albert Einstein
If, like so many of us, you’re feeling gob-smacked by recent events, you’re not alone. Whether suddenly without work, wondering if you’ll continue to have work, or confused in general about what the future holds, so many of us are so frozen with fear that we’re afraid to do anything.
Try to remember you’re not alone. The events of the past few months have been massively unsettling for every single human — and the situation goes far beyond a financial fix. But we’re in it together and as a group we can fix it together.
If you’re pent up in a small apartment or confined in a space that you’re not used to staying in 24/7, feelings of claustrophobia and anxiety may be running high.
All this fear and confusion can lead personal and professional paralysis.
But in this time of transition, you have countless strategies to transform your situation from obstacle to opportunity.
1) Listen to your heart and calm your mind. It’s paramount that you get off the “hamster wheel” of worry. Immersing yourself into a constant state of panic and fear will emotionally freeze you, making even the most mundane choices monumentally difficult. We become own worst enemies when this mindset takes over.
Take a moment to meditate on your situation. Even if you’re not big into the practice, this is a time when calming your mind and getting in touch with your true spirit is essential. Sit in a quiet spot and put on headphones or earbuds to help shut out distractions. Close your eyes and visualize a happy place. This could be a beach, a garden or even your own home. Calm the worried voice in your head and just dwell in that happy place for several minutes. Where does it take you? If you can’t seem to settle your mind, try a guided meditation available on apps like Calm (available on Apple App store and on Android). They offer many tools for helping you jump off the hamster wheel.
2) Let go of the past. This is especially hard if you really liked where your life was just a couple weeks ago. You may feel like the government, tourists, your neighbors, the economy, co-workers, customers, or even family members “just ruined everything”. Blaming others for a situation beyond anyone’s control will cause you to feel like you’ve been personally victimized, and further lead you to inaction. Change is inevitable — you know that. Usually it doesn’t happen so universally and so quickly, but you can always count on drastic change to disrupt things. Staying lodged in the past keeps us from moving forward. It’s important to be flexible and realize that strategizing for the future, both short and long term is our only option.
3) Surrender to your current situation. That word may seem daunting, and sound as though you’re giving up or losing power. But nothing could further from the truth. Surrendering is a positive step that will help stop the hamster wheel from spinning. Tell yourself “I am here, this is my situation” and make peace with it. Realize that your reaction to your current situation is the only thing you truly have control over. Stop fighting against and resisting circumstances that cannot be helped by your anger, sadness, or frustration.
4) Take care of your health. Having a couple drinks “to take the edge off” may seem like a solution, but alcohol and other drugs will just cloud your mind and largely make it impossible to navigate your way through difficult situations effectively. Focus instead on yoga, light weights, and walking/running/biking/hiking to relieve tension. Don’t gorge on comfort foods in an effort to tamp down your frustrated feelings. Mac and Cheese and chocolate cake are great for special days, but when they turn into a daily habit, they no longer comfort you. Instead you’ll be slowed down by a sluggish metabolism, sugar shock and other issues. Keep your body tuned up and ready for a challenge.
Get up everyday and get dressed. Make your bed, clean the house top to bottom, put order into everyday things. It will give you a much-needed sense of control.
5) Access your satisfaction with your career. While having your career threatened or being laid off altogether stinks, it could give you an opportunity to access how happy you were in that job or industry in the first place.
Think about what you’d like to be doing ideally. Put together a vision board of what your ultimate life would look like and see where it takes you. Be honest with yourself and answer whether you are (or were) just doing your job to pay the bills, or if there’s a pivot, or another profession altogether you’d rather be pursuing.
Do you dream of writing a bestselling book, starting your own jewelry line, or even opening your own retail store? Now’s a great time to get your true heart’s desire in line and move toward it.
I personally have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years — many of which possessed few qualifications, seed money, or skills to launch a company, but through sheer determination they made it work. If they can do it, just about anyone can do it.
6) Assess your assets. Whether you love your career as it is, or want to make a change, accessing what essential tools you already possess is essential. Write down or make a video recording listing all the great things you still have.
Do you have your health, creativity, youth and/or experience, great smile, good voice, writing skills, cute house, compassion for others, true kindness, the ability to forgive, a great dog, perseverance, or personal strength to draw on?
Those are huge things, far more important than money or physical items. Money comes and goes throughout the wheel of life — it’s just a made-up thing. The assets you have that are true and useful have much more to do with your character than your bank account. Believing you can do anything will get you much farther in this situation than millions of dollars in a savings account.
7) Research a new direction. Investigate what it’ll take to get you where you want to go. But be realistic in your range of dreams.
If you’d like to start a skincare company, research and plan how to realistically get there. Think through the parts of owning a skincare company that you might enjoy, and those you probably won’t. Remember lots of businesses and brands seem spectacular on the outside, but the true nitty gritty may not be something you’ll really enjoy over time.
For example, skincare is a wholly oversaturated industry, with thousands of redundant brands vying for customers. Think you can buy a few basic ingredients, mix them up in your kitchen, open a Shopify store, launch an Instagram account, and bam … success? That does sound fun — and to those not familiar with the industry, it may look like that that’s all it takes. But the reality is that building a selfcare brand has about 200 more steps, many of them requiring tasks you may find that you hate. Think of all the things that go into a successful company of any kind and imagine everything that can go wrong — going wrong. Then imagine yourself coping with those problems on a day to day basis. Is that something you’re willing to do?
Lots of people want to own restaurants, but they rarely consider the pitfalls. Cooking over a hot stove all day, rivals leaving fake Yelp reviews, cleaning and sanitizing constantly, supply chain issues, employees stealing and fighting — it’s not all 4 Star ratings and satisfied customers.
Talk to industry pros, read biographies, read business journals, listen to podcasts, intern at a company remotely to gain valuable insight.
You may find that what you really enjoy is designing eye catching labels and websites for beauty brands — but sitting for hours on end filling tiny bottles with face oil? Not so much. If that’s the case, you can create a beautiful niche graphic design business that you’ll love and ditch the part you don’t. If you’ve never run a business before, service-based niche companies are much easier to launch and manage than huge product-based brands.
If you didn’t have the pressure to pay bills, what would you do for free? Would it be your current job, or some other aspect of it?
8) Devise a plan for forward motion. Whether your path forward entails total change, a substantial pivot, or simply a recommitment to what you’re currently doing, you’ll need a plan in order to get unstuck.
When compiling lots of information, many writers use simple 5×7 cue cards to map out chapters and sections that will make up a book. They strategize how their manuscript will flow and outline each idea or point separately. Usually the cards are laid out on a table and moved around as needed. That way the writer can visualize how each chapter will fit within the construct of the overall story. It keeps authors on track and prevents them from drowning in unrelated detail as words flow through each paragraph.
When mapping out your future, imagine that you’re writing your own biography. Make an informal business or personal plan using cue cards or post-its.
Large 5×7 post-it notes are probably a bit more workable as you can put them up on a wall or white board and assign them to days of the week. Also the variation in color can be useful for organizing elements of your plan (ie: marketing tasks on pink, sourcing on yellow, ect).
9) Push through your comfort zone. Start small, but the keyword here is START. Put your toe in the water and see how easy it is for the ripples to move outward. It’s important to gain confidence as you navigate down your path, but don’t be cowed because something is difficult or pushes you past what you’ve experienced before in your professional life.
If you’re camera shy, it’s time to rip the band-aid off and get to it. Launch that website, practice with video and podcasting, write like gangbusters, take pictures — learn and grow. This is life handing you an opportunity and it’s time to get moving.
10) If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Most successful entrepreneurs, famous musicians, and just about any successful person you can name has had to grapple with multiple setbacks, failures, and what seemed like career ending situations.
Think of Michael Jordan not making his high school team; or Madonna, Lady Gaga, and The Beatles being rejected by record companies; Johnny Unitas being cut from the Steelers; JK Rolling, Dr. Seuss, and Agatha Christie being repeatedly rejected by publishers. Can you imagine the sports, music or literary world without these names in them?
Whatever you love, it’s going to take some time to bring it to fruition. Rejection is the line between success and failure. How you handle this one element of life will define your future. But the world needs your voice, contribution, and talents, and you must keep that in mind.