You've had a rough time. Your finances are suffering and the world seems to be falling apart. You're in dark days.
You might be going through a divorce or just been through one. Perhaps someone close to you has had a medical scare or has died. You might have been laid off or had your own medical emergency.
Whatever the reason, you're in dark days. At some point in that process, you'll have a window of opportunity to take action. Will you choose to reach for hope, or wish for better days?
Reaching for hope requires action. You need to actively seek the road out. You'll need to have energy to even believe that solution is possible.
This article is about what steps you can take to help you seek the answers and build the energy to create the new beginning that's possible. Sometimes you need to jump off the cliff and build the wings on the way down because you just can't see the completed path in full. That's okay.
If you just do the next right thing, you will eventually get to the solution. You may not see the starting line you've left nor the finish line that you're approaching, but you'll get there. Your job is to determine what the next right thing is.
Here are some guidelines to help you be prepared for and identify the next steps for you:
1. "The facts, ma'am, just the facts." That's a line I remember from an old TV show called Dragnet, and applies to this situation. Take the time to write down the facts about what is going on. How much do you have in your bank accounts? How much do you have in savings? How much debt do you have? How much does your lifestyle cost? What financial items are coming up in the near future? Get the facts down on paper, without judgment. You are defining your starting point.
2. Exploring your starting point. Now that you've defined your starting point, you want to find out as much as possible about your options. When are bills due? Which have some leeway and which don't? Have you called about hardship programs or possibilities? Which items have the worst consequences if you don't pay them? You're exploring what's possible in the starting point. This gives you the chance to develop a game plan for next steps based on this information.
3. Get your team behind you. You want to involve the people who are affected by this situation. Call a family meeting, not to spread fear, but to talk about the situation dispassionately and get everyone's ideas about potential solutions. Not only will people feel heard, but you'll also be talking about the elephant in the living room and get their buy-in regarding any changes you might put in place.
4. Shame is your enemy. It is very common for people to feel shame about a downturn in finances. Shame can be debilitating, keeping you from taking action and talking with others about how it's affecting you. Things happen, situations change, and the mark of your resilience is how you adapt to them. Look at how you're reacting and take pride in the movement that you see. Take your focus off the shame and back onto the road out. If the shame is overpowering, then consider writing a letter to Shame, where you talk about your former relationship and how you're choosing to break it, with particular emphasis on the person you'll be without Shame as a partner. If you continue to be paralyzed by shame, then talk with a therapist or lay counselor about the situation so you can get support.
5. There are experts out there. You don't have to do this alone. There are people out there that can help. My clients have used the services of organizers, therapists, financial advisors, bookkeepers, 12-Step programs, and friends, just to name a few. You can organize your own group of people who are all working to change something in their lives, and hold each other accountable for completing self-assigned tasks between meetings. There is a place out there for you to reach for and receive information, guidance and help in staying on task.
6. Take your eyes off the closed door. Rehearsing the problem will only keep you mired. Focus your energy on the next right step and trust that you did the best you could at the time. The "what if" or "why didn't I only... " game is deadly and keeps you stuck.
7. Keep supportive people around you. This isn't the time to share your life with the friend or family member that always finds fault with you. Choose the people in your life who fill you with energy, not drain you. This is a time for you to receive grace, as you've given grace to others when they've been in dark days.
I've heard people say that courage is about having fear but taking action anyway. I believe that resilience comes from the kind of courage that clearly defines the situation and takes the next right step regardless of shame or fear.
We are remarkably resilient as human beings. But sometimes we give up right before the miracle happens. If you need help to develop a game plan, or keep on with your solution, or to envision the hope that it can be different, find an expert that you can rely on.
We all have dark days. The difference is how readily you decide to look for the light switch. You have it in you to recover and thrive. I know you do.