Although I hate to acknowledge it, many glum and dejected folks have crossed my threshold this holiday season. Most maintain a brave front, going through the motions of holiday rituals. But beneath the veneer these people seem to have lost a sense of hope about the future. Here are some of the reasons for their sadness and fear as another new year begins:
The economy continues at a slow trickle.
Companies and divisions of companies continue to close.
Employees are either being laid off or relegated to part-time positions due to the cost and uncertainties of health care.
Unemployed folks of all ages are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs in the fields for which they've been educated or were previously employed.
Real-estate values have fallen leaving many in foreclosure, short-sale or bankruptcy.
The past year's news has been filled with many natural and man-made disasters, not the least of which was the Sandy Hook tragedy. Worldwide conflict and controversy are rampant.
History is replete, however, with examples of unexpected solutions coming to the fore when all hope appeared lost. One such example was the rise to power of Winston Churchill, whose determination to "never, never, never quit" helped him create possibilities where none seemed to exist. Giving in to the fear of taking a risk just wasn't an option.
Similarly, in the moment when our fear of dire circumstances outweighs our fear of taking a risk, an opportunity exists. In other words, desperate times can lead to desperate measures, which in turn can result in solutions we otherwise wouldn't have come up with. If you're feeling hopeless about 2014 here are some ways to discover opportunity in the face of difficulty:
Change your victim mindset: Rather than focusing on what appears to be a hopeless situation, recall times when you've discovered solutions to untenable situations. If it's difficult to recall these times, read about others who've overcome insurmountable obstacles.
Calm your mind: It's nearly impossible to think clearly when you're frozen with fear. There are many ways to lessen your angst including exercise, calming music, meditation, yoga or prayer. Your calamity provides an opportunity to experiment and find the one that works best for you.
Swallow your pride: During the hard times we often feel embarrassed about our circumstances. Remember that others will be less likely to judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves. So why suffer in silence? Seek the support of friends and loved ones. And find a professional who can guide you through your difficulty, such a financial advisor, Realtor or doctor, to name a few.
Kindle your creativity: Instead of waiting for inspiration to find you, develop it within yourself by using a few simple tactics. You can write about your problems. The act of doing so may bring new ideas to the fore that lurk just beneath your conscious awareness. Or take a break from worrying about your issues. Doing this may seem unproductive, but applying your energies to another endeavor -- especially a fun one -- allows the creative brain to noodle over the problem while you're otherwise engaged. Lastly, consider how someone you admire, dead or alive, might tackle what you're dealing with. Surprisingly this simple approach may reap otherwise untapped ideas.
Take action: In times of trouble, inaction can be our worst enemy. If you've come up with a potential solution to your worries, stop obsessing and start acting. If you don't yet have a solution, taking any kind of positive action will likely make your feel more in control, be it scrubbing the floor, chopping wood or volunteering at the local soup kitchen.