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This is Only a Test – 4 Ways to Prepare for Difficult Times

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: Yasin Hassan

I didn’t fail the test.  I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.

— Benjamin Franklin

Things are getting better.  Unemployment is moving down.  Hiring is up.  People are finding better jobs and taking the risk of moving from one job to another.  A year ago, that just wasn’t considered wise.

Nationally, we seem more hopeful.  Yet, we’re always concerned that things will suddenly go bad and we’ll be in trouble again.

Many years ago, we – the U.S. – had an emergency warning system to notify everyone of national emergencies.  It was designed and created to respond to the possibility of nuclear attack.

Thank heavens, it was never needed or used for a real nuclear attack emergency, but it was tested regularly over radio and television.  When a test was being conducted, a man’s voice announced, “This is a test.  For the next 30/60 seconds, this station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast system.  This is only a test.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life notified us that ‘This is a test’?  And it would only add to the wonderfulness, if life also told us that the test would last for the ‘next 2 years’ or whatever timeframe that would be affected.  If we knew how long, it would be easier to mark the time and have faith that “this too shall pass”.

But, as I’m sure you’re all aware, life doesn’t warn us nor give us a timeframe.  It just delivers the test – which for all intents and purposes looks like the “new normal”.  A new normal that we don’t like one little bit.

Riding the Waves

Since my father got sick in 2009, the family business has been “tested” and as a result, so have all of us in the family.  What we’ve learned is that it only took one person with a vision and a willingness to work hard plus friends who demonstrated their belief in us in real ways, to pass this test.  And while we haven’t made it all the way through, our odds of success have moved from 20/80 to 80/20.

Once we passed the tipping point, we found that the momentum shifted from being against us to being with us.  Bad things still happen and we have to figure out how to respond, but there’s a sense of hope where there was only desperation before.

Momentum is the key.  When we’re moving towards a goal and making progress, our momentum continues to grow.  But, when we encounter obstacle after obstacle, the obstacles drag on our energy and we lose some of that momentum.

If things get difficult enough, we can slow down or even stop.  In really discouraging times, sometimes we reverse momentum, going back to where we came from in an effort to protect ourselves.  When that happens, it becomes really difficult to ramp up and get moving again.

We need to be ready to move forward when better circumstances appear.  That’s what resilience is all about.

Preparing for the Lean Times

As evolving creatures, we are physically ready for the famine.  As a matter of fact, that is the primary problem many of us face in controlling our weight.  We’ve plenty of fat stored up for the famine, but the famine never arrives.

We need to take the lessons that nature teaches about surviving the famine and spread them throughout our lives.  Nature anticipates the bad times and stores up the reserves to make it through to the next good harvest.  We just need to apply this basic technique to areas other than food.

How might we do that?  In today’s environment, survival means more than foraging for food.  It means developing a set of practices that prepare us to survive when things get tough.  Here are 4 practices that help you prepare for tomorrow’s challenges:

  1. Start a list of what you do control.  As you think about it, you’ll be amazed at what is actually under your control.  Continue to update the list as ideas occur to you.
  2. Establish a financial plan of action.  What was the worst part of the 2008 crash?  What can you do to reduce that affect in future downturns?  What do you wish you had prepared for?  Get prepared now – not in a panic but in an organized and structured way.  Uncertainty is scary.  Do what you can to remove the uncertainty in your financial future.
  3. Read widely.  In volatile times, every talking head has an opinion – or at least a list of “lions and tigers and bears” – oh, my!  Figure out what the issues are.  Educate yourself.  If you understand what is going on around you today, you have a much better chance of noticing changes as they occur.  This increases your options in the new environment and you can take appropriate action.
  4. Stay in touch with friends, family, and co-workers (current and past).  The more people you know and connect with, the more opportunities (of all sorts) will appear.  Not all of the opportunities that appear will appeal to you, but eventually, you’ll find the one that does.

Purposeful action increases the feeling of control.  There are so many things that we can control.  Why worry about the other stuff?

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