The financial challenges of today are hitting almost everyone. With real estate values in freefall; losses in career and job opportunities for people at all levels of education; and debt at all-time highs, the dour news is relentless and the concerns are very real.
When it comes down to it, though, we can either duck for cover and hope for the best, or we can face these challenges head on, giving ourselves a chance to not only survive these hard times, but turn what seems like a futile situation into opportunities for growth and success.
In order to thrive — not just survive — in this environment, you can't just think positively. You've got to see things as they are. Our economy and our world are going through a transition. How do we protect ourselves or even flourish in this economy?
Recognize the season A lot of people do the right thing at the wrong time. They invest in real estate or the stock market just as it's topping out. If you plant in the summer instead of the spring, you're not going to reap in the fall. Know what season you're in.
No doubt, we are heading into an economic winter if we’re not already there. But many people have moved into houses with no down payment, and took on mortgages they really couldn’t afford. Now the pendulum is swinging back with tighter credit; fewer people qualify for or can buy homes; and the price of real estate has dropped.
When in winter, you must pay extra attention to your resources. Is this a good time to take on more debt? Would it be more prudent to cut down on expenses while having something set aside for future growth? In the scarcity of winter, we naturally recognize what we need most, then prepare for what spring will bloom.
Every season has challenges, but every season also has opportunities. By recognizing the season, you'll be able to take advantage while other people are fearful.
Take advantage of maximum pessimism
The late Sir John Templeton, one of the most successful investors of all time, took the concept of “buy low, sell high” to a new level with the idea of “maximum pessimism.”
He began his investing career during the turmoil of the 1930s, focusing his investments on nations, industries and companies hitting rock bottom, or “points of maximum pessimism,” as he put it. “Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria. The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy, and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell,” he once stated.
Look for opportunities that no one else is thinking about due to fear and pessimism. Educating yourself is the key. Model what works, not what everyone else is doing now.
Master your emotions The media tends to focus on the worst aspects of our economic downturn, feeding a climate of fear. In turn, people may not even look for opportunities to make gains. They're afraid to pull the trigger, take a risk, or they’re afraid to do anything at all.
There are two choices in life when it comes to facing uncertainty: fear or faith. They're fundamentally the same thing — a product of our imagination. No one knows what the future holds, but the difference between fear and faith is that fear is imagination undirected. It grows like destructive wildfire, devastating our emotions and oppressing our sense of well-being. Faith is imagination directed. We have the choice to create a vision and move toward it confidently, ready to accept whatever the outcome will be.
Mastering your fear doesn't mean that it never shows up. It just means that you take control of it rather than it takes control of you. So when everyone else is running, you'll be ready to see the possible advantages to what others only see as a bleak situation.
Get outside of yourselfWhen you're fearful, you're focused on yourself and your expectations. We all have expectations of how life should be, how our finances should be, or about where we should be at this stage of our life or career.
The people who succeed, though, have something or someone outside of themselves they want to serve: a family member, a friend, or society at large. They're not only focused on what they can get, but also on what they can give. Ironically, when they give, it comes back to them tenfold in fulfillment.
We live in the society that, for the last 50 years or so, has had a consistent upside. There have been downtimes, recessions and challenges, but culturally we haven't all simultaneously experienced an economic winter at the ultimate level like the Great Generation has. It is a function of the cyclical nature of all living things — including societies and markets — that there eventually comes a sustained downturn.
But remember — seasons don't last forever. Day always follows night, spring always follows winter, and most of us underestimate how strong we really are. Take challenges head on. Don't kid yourself with “thinking positive.” We all need to face the facts of these challenging times, but we also have a choice to empower ourselves in the face of whatever obstacles come our way.
We can help in that process by providing education, cutting-edge tools and emotional momentum to take action in spite of fear and uncertainty.
Anthony Robbins is an authority on the psychology of leadership, negotiations, organizational turnaround and peak performance. He has been a personal adviser to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the United States Army and Marines and Grammy-award winning musicians. For more information on strategies to thrive even in harsh economic times, visit or .