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Rebuilding After Difficult Times

By Tim Ursiny, Ph.D.

Many people have had finances devastated, real estate values drop, job challenges and other difficulties in the recession that businesses have recently experienced. That said, many signs are now pointing to the end of the recession and owners and managers must turn your attention to rebuilding lives and finances. While rebuilding may be difficult it is also doable if you follow two main steps in the process:

1) Let go of the past

2) Develop a captivating plan

Within each of the steps there can be a few common blocks, as well as a practical tactic for breaking free of these challenges.

Let go of the past

Main challenge = Accepting the losses: Many business people have difficulties rebuilding because they refuse to accept the losses. It is like someone who has lost a loved one that refuses to grieve at the funeral. They do not want to accept the loss. While this tendency is completely understandable it will also keep you stuck. Individuals who do not grieve do not move on in life. And while some people grieve with tears and others with anger, it is important for all of us to vent out our hurts, disappointments and losses.

What keeps us stuck” Two main tendencies that can keep people stuck are:

1) Staring at the rear view mirror – Glancing in the rear view mirror in your car alerts you to dangers behind and can help navigate the road successfully. However, if you were to only stare in the rear view mirror you would crash your car. It is like that in looking in your past. It is good to glance at the past and to learn from it. However, when an individual gets locked in the past they usually crash their current and future life.

2) Blame – Blame has a short-term purpose of protecting one’s self-esteem. When you can blame someone else for your difficulties it temporarily makes you feel good about yourself. Blame also has another less obvious purpose, which is why the media moves to blame someone so quickly even in a natural disaster situation. When someone else can be blamed for something that goes on in the world it gives the illusion of control. Sleep comes easier because it is now believed the world is much more predicable than it really is. Unfortunately, blame rarely serves and distracts from learning all you can learn about yourself when going through tough times.

Breaking free: One great way to mourn the past is to write a venting letter. This letter can be directed to someone or can even be written to God (note that many of the Psalms in the Christian Bible are venting letters). In this letter let all of your emotions out. Don’t worry about it being pretty or logical, but rather make sure that it expresses how you feel at the most primal level. Write until you have nothing else left (and do not do this in an email form, you could be venting to your boss and accidentally send it out)! When you are done, read the letter aloud a few times with passion. Then burn it or tear it up as a symbolic act of letting it go! If done from the heart this is a very effective way to release the past.

Develop a captivating plan

Main challenge = Overcoming hesitancy: Letting go of the past is not enough, as you must also create the future. When it is time to begin again, many people are hesitant due to two fears that can keep them stuck.

What keeps us stuck

  • Fear of failure – It is absolutely normal to be concerned about failing as you try to rebuild. Few enjoy failure and some avoid it at all costs! Fear of failure is one of the most self-limiting tendencies and must be overcome in order to create a successful and prosperous new life.

  • Fear of success – While fear of failure is often obvious, fear of success can be subconscious and less apparent. Many people fear success because of their perceptions of what comes with success including greater responsibility, less life balance, higher expectations and even the fear that once they get it they may lose it. Therefore, some individuals sabotage their success to guarantee that they will not have to deal with these issues.

Breaking free: As simplistic as it sounds there are only two main ways to deal with fear and that is to dip or to dive. When someone is getting into a cold swimming pool they have two choices. Some people are divers; they get on the diving board, jump up and down a few times and then dive into the water. They experience a rush of pain, but then they get use to the water quickly. Others are dippers. They stick a toe in, then the feet, then up to the knees, (wait a little) and then slowly ease in. This approach takes longer than diving in, but is less painful. Neither is right or wrong because both swimmers are getting into the water. So if you are a diver, then acknowledge your fear and just “do it”. Keep doing it until you are no longer afraid. If, in contrast, you are a dipper then break down your rebuilding task into ten steps. Arrange them in the order of the steps you fear the least to the steps you fear the most. Then one by one (starting with what you fear the least) tackle your rebuilding tasks until you build the confidence to take on the next task.

Rebuilding is difficult. It takes letting go of the things that you have known and taking the risk of failing or succeeding. However, when we rebuild we build our insights, confidence and tenacity and these are things that will aid us for the rest of our life.

Read other articles and learn more about Tim Ursiny, Ph.D.

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