6 Ways to Squeeze Opportunity (and Purpose) out of a Nasty Economy

Written by Scott December 8, 2010

Written by Scott Dinsmore – Follow me on Twitter.

Create Opportunity

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”

– Saul David Alinsky

Average Read Time: 5.3 Minutes

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Begin today’s post:

Two years ago I launched a business. It was a value investment fund and it was January 2009. I don’t think I need to remind anyone what was going on in the economy, let alone the stock market around then.

Stress and fear became a very real part of my life. A daily part. I had two options: Run for the hills (which is what most people were doing) or stay the course.

In a bad economy things can feel hopeless. It’s easy to adopt the “it’s out of my control attitude” and give up. Whether you lost your job, took a pay cut, saw your investments plummet or witnessed the same happen to others, it’s enough to let stress take over.

Realize stress is an emotion. And emotions are within our control.

The easy thing to notice is this economy has caused hardships in a big way. But that thinking doesn’t help a thing, especially the anxiety.

What’s required is a change in outlook. With this you can see just as many new opportunities hiding behind the hardship. Things that were not available when life was rosy a few years ago.

Over the past two years I developed practices that created this shift. Since we aren’t quite out of the woods, it’s crucial to keep them close in mind. Use the below anytime things start to look grim.

6 Ways to Kill Stress and Create Opportunity from Brutal Circumstances.

1. Keep the long-term vision. When things are bad short-term, we have a tendency to project them out as if it will be like this forever. That’s not the case. History is full of tough times, but it’s full of even more prosperous times. The challenging times are what require your vision. Get crystal clear about your vision for your business or your life. Replay this in your mind over and over when things are at their darkest.

Everything you start should begin with a very confident understanding of the final outcome. When the stock market was crashing, we didn’t consider anything but moving forward because we knew the results that were possible for the ones who stayed the course. A tough economy didn’t change a thing about our 30-year vision.

2. Notice the opportunity. Bad events have a way of blinding us to the opportunities they allow. If your hours got cut then perhaps it means you should be spending more time with your family. If you lost your job, then finally you have a reason to find something more on purpose. You can’t find a job, then it might be time to hang your own shingle. If you got a severance, then you’re getting paid to do it anyway. Pretty sweet gig if you ask me!

For me a huge opportunity was having so many bargain investments available from the start of our career. That situation isn’t likely to appear for years to come, if ever.

3. Cut back & simplify. A lot of the stress comes from fear of not having enough. I like to call it The Curse of Too Much. We can remedy that by spending less or earning more. Most of us feel we could stand to simplify our lives and consume a bit less. A nasty economy forces this. Get excited about the idea of saving money and cutting down clutter. My wife and I recently re-looked at our budget and cut out about 20% of some nonsense spending. It feels awesome.

Find tools to help you get going and make it fun. Mint.com is an empowering place to start. Learn about negotiating and deal making so you can stop paying full price. Let saving money be a new hobby of yours. Do you really need a $500 car payment, a housekeeper or to eat lunch and dinner out as often as you do? I took it a step further and moved back in with my parents for a few months (if you’re wondering, Yes, it was humbling)–do what works for you and don’t rule anything out.

Learn to enjoy walking, cooking and having less. You’ll realize you never needed all the excess in the first place. For a kick start check out The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life or The Art of Being Minimalist.

4. Get creative with your income. Find new entertaining ways to make some money. While you’re simplifying, get rid of the crap you don’t use. You’ll be surprised how much of it someone will buy on Craig’s List or eBay (I just sold a broken couch for $80-there’s someone out there who has a use for what you’ve got).

Spend more time thinking through dream jobs you’ve always had on your mind but felt limited to pursue. Perhaps that’s teaching, writing or working at your favorite wine or olive oil shop.  While full time jobs are harder to find, some sweet part-time gigs have been forgotten. Check out part-time job boards. Again, Craig’s List is a great place to start.

These don’t have to become huge careers, so don’t over think it. But then again they might. Now’s your chance to work that job you’ve always liked to do if you had the time. I call them Passion Pursuits. For me these past two years have been the perfect opportunity to develop my writing and online business. What muse gets you fired up?

For some kick-ass purpose and passion guidance check out The Beginner’s Guide to Being Congruent and the even more in-depth Reclaim Your Dreams.

5. Give back. Just because your situation seems tough, don’t lose site of the life picture. The world does not revolve around you. Realize there are always people who need more help. Find them. Offer your unique strengths up when they are most needed. Give your money, time, knowledge or advice in a way that will have an impact. Your perspective will change in an instant, as will the lives of those you touch. I assure you things will come back around. Life is never too difficult to give a little of yourself. My writing and Personal Freedom Coaching has been an amazing outlet for this. Find yours.

6. Budget happiness. Happiness is always available but we must create room for it. It deserves a budget like anything else. We quickly forget that the majority of our happiness has nothing to do with the economy. It’s the intangibles that make life rich. Dinner with friends, time with family or a glass of wine with your husband or wife. A gorgeous sunset or a hike in your favorite park.

These things cost nothing. They never did. Yet they provide the biggest return. Constantly remember the things money can’t buy. Make time for them. Budget time every day. One ritual for me is a killer workout with my buddies and a walk along the water with my wife. If one or both of those happen, the day is a victory. The Beginner’s Guide to Simple Daily Happiness and 20 Presence Hacks will get your started with a few simple ideas.

You are not your situation. This is always your opportunity.

Your life is not the economy or your job (or lack there of). While those things are important, they are not what ultimately matter.

Stress can disappear as fast as it came, if we know what’s behind it.

We are in direct control of the experiences that truly create happiness. They might have gone unnoticed, forever, if these “bad” things hadn’t happened.

Two years ago, when presented with the choice of running for the hills or staying the course, I took the latter. It has made all difference not only for my business and my investors, but I now have the start to a thriving writing and coaching business that continues to help those who need it most. This would not have existed otherwise.

The above practices require nothing more than a shift in perspective. They’re more available now than ever. Don’t waste them.

Stress is an option. Not a requirement.

What opportunities might you be missing?

Opportunity In Action: As a special bonus I am posting an interview next week with a fellow freedom fighter and adventurer Tyler Tervooren, who used being fired as an opportunity to pursue his passions through Advanced Riskology. This will kick off the Life On Your Terms Interview Series where every couple weeks I’ll showcase a new person living the dream – with the goal of showing you how to do the same.

What opportunities have you found in this economy (or any brutal situation)? Please share even just one sentence in the comments section because the conversation helps us all.

Do you know someone who could really benefit from this article? Please Tweet,  Facebook or email it to them. It could make all the difference.

By the way, a few things I’ve mentioned are products that have been big time game changers for me. The cost is no different for you, but if you decide to pick one up, you’ll be supporting my freedom fighting work at ReadingForYourSuccess.

Other Resources to Help You Along the Way:

Creating Space for Your Monster Ideas

The Beginner’s Guide to Being Congruent

The End of Paying Full Price: 7 Quick Tools for Getting a Better Deal

Finding Freedom in Discomfort: A Life-Changing Practice

The Curse of Too Much: Why Most People Never Live Their Dreams and What to Do About It

The Beginner’s Guide to Simple Daily Happiness

Reclaim Your Dreams

Photo courtesy of spettacolopuro
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