When you’re in the middle of money crisis it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On one side you see mounting credit card debt or student loans, on the other you see an income stream that’s stuck at not enough. In front of you is a long, dark tunnel with no end in sight. Is there any wonder that money is one of the greatest sources of stress in our lives? Money issues feel like an endless battle that you just can’t win.
Let go of blame and shame. Our society is good at making you feel like a good-for-nothing if you don’t have your financial house in perfect order. And, at the same time, it’s great at contributing to your problems. Can’t afford that now? No problem—buy it on credit. Used up your credit line? No problem—we’ll raise it. Can’t pay your bills? Shame on you—you should have known better! Finding yourself in a financial crisis doesn’t make you a bad person—just a frustrated, stressed person. And your stress and frustration only gets worse when you’re fighting hard to believe in yourself. Give it up—money problems have nothing to do with who you really are at your core.
But there is hope and light at the end of your tunnel. Here are some ideas to help you find it:
Hold your assumptions lightly. Stress and frustration stays alive when you assume you know how this is going to turn out—that there’s only one way it’s going to end—and it isn’t good. Whether you think it’ll be pain, suffering, or bankruptcy—you can’t really be sure. But believing you know the outcome will almost guarantee it. Why not be prepared to be amazed. Be open to new approaches. Be ready for solutions in places you never imagined. When you hang on tightly to what you know is going to happen, you’re like a clenched fist with no chance of catching something new and different. Open your fist and be ready to receive.
Share with others. You may feel like you’re the only one with money problems—you’re not. But not talking about it makes you feel like you are. Unfortunately, we don’t like to talk money and we’ve never been trained how to do it. Maybe money talk was part of your childhood but it was laced with whispers or politeness or shoulds or shouts. No matter what your experience was, talking about money doesn’t come easily. But being silent about what’s really going on or how problems are affecting you just isolates you and magnifies your problems. Sharing brings new perspective, potential solutions and halves the burdens. Take advantage of the old saying, “two heads are better than one”.
Focus on just the next step. Faced with money problems everyone wants to solve them NOW! But your crisis didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to be solved overnight. Thinking of all the things that need to be cleaned up just makes that tunnel darker and endless. But, if you work on just the next step, your journey lightens immediately. Moving from one next step to another, you gather new information and adjust your process. You’re fluid and flexible as you move toward the ultimate goal.
Chart your course. To stay confident and optimistic, keep track of where you’ve been and where you’re going. The money problems you carry in your mind have a way of getting bigger and bigger—ready to attack at any moment. That’s when you beat yourself up and say “it’s never going to change!” Keep a simple chart of where you’ve been and where you’re going so you have tangible evidence to prove things are changing—you are on a new course. With a simple tally of credit card debt updated monthly or your savings account balance, you can say, “Stick a sock in it—things are better!”
Lift your head and look for opportunities. All of these steps help you lift your head for a new perspective. When you stay focused only on your problems that’s all you see. Head down (or in the sand) it’s impossible to see any opportunities for change—you just keep bumping into the same old problems. But with your head up, you see what’s ahead and plan for their arrival. You’re open and aware of any and all opportunities coming your way. You’re confident and optimistic and analyze which is the best for you. You are free to make choices.
When written in Chinese the word “crisis” is made up of two characters: one for danger and the other for opportunity. Don’t waste your time focusing on danger—use this crisis to see the opportunity ahead. When you do, the light at the end of the tunnel won’t be a distant future; it will be with you every step of the way.