My client called me the other night with a remarkable Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the economy. I, too, like to do The Work on institutions—things (society, my body, my job, the weather, war, New York) as opposed to sentient beings (my upstairs neighbor, the governor of California, my father, the cat). We react to all outside sources that aren't doing what we want in the same way we react to people who aren't doing what we want. The outcome of doing this inner work is also the same: we get a printout of our current thinking, and a roadmap to alternate routes.
An economic recession lasts as long as it does; my stressful thinking about recession may last forever if I don't meet it with understanding. My thinking—not the unemployment statistics or the California state budget deficit—is what kicks me out of paradise. Jobs come and go; our thinking goes right after them. Markets fluctuate; our minds fluctuate right along with them. We watch our stocks rise; our happiness rises with them, temporarily. We watch them go down, and down we go. The experts say the future is bleak, and we believe them. Yesterday, an article in the New York Times said there will be employment growth this spring. Now I have a bad economy, but I have hope. And none of it means anything; it's all in my head.
No one can accurately predict what's going to happen in any given economy, in part because we simply don't have all the information, and in larger part because we are not in control of all of the factors. You can follow your broker's advice, or your brother's...take a second job...cut back on luxuries, or on what you used to consider necessities...sell your house now...sell your house later...file for bankruptcy...raise your fees...lower your fees...and there are no guarantees.
But what you can do, with an excellent return, is question your stressful beliefs about what is happening in the economy, in your working life, and in your life in general. "Reality is always kinder than the story we tell about it," says Byron Katie. My client discovered this when he examined thoughts about losing his job and being unable to pay rent, when in fact he has a job and had just closed some deals.
What is the worst that could happen if you lost everything? If you question your fears, you may come to see that the worst that could happen is already happening, in your mind...and, as you may have noticed, body follows mind. If I think, "What's the use?" I won't market my services. If I live in the future of lack, I'm already lacking and failing to notice I have everything I need in this moment.
Not long after the dot-com bust 10 years ago, I watched the financial expert Suze Orman help a woman who had lost nearly everything to strategize about her future. Because of bad advice, the woman had cashed in her pension when she lost her job, instead of rolling it over into an IRA. Now she had no job, and her net worth went from five digits to just $900. Orman told her, "Don't look at what you had; look at what you have. $900 is a lot of money; what can you do with it now?" I don't know about the woman on TV, but I know that advice was for me: don't look at what you had; look at what you have. When I'm in my "stuff," I forget about what's available here, now.
What is the best that could happen if you lost everything? You could get a fresh start, as a couple of friends of mine did when they walked away from their mortgages. You could find a whole new career and discover skills you didn't know you had; that's exciting. (It's happened to me several times in my 53 years, and I seem to be okay.) You get to bust your old paradigms and test new, more fun ones that might work better than the "tried and true" which turned out to be not so true. You get to see what you are really made of, put your creativity and smarts to the test. You even get to let people help you! As you continue to inquire, your mind opens and you see that there are infinite possibilities in what I like to call "a parallel universe of peace."
The root word of recession is "recess." Remember how we loved recess at school? What would keep us from loving it now?
The economy is bad...who would you be in this economy without that thought?