A company president once told me this: “you know, Stephen, common sense is not all that common.” He was right and if you look around you’ll see a lot that qualifies as not such good sense. Especially at this time of bank failures, rising unemployment and surging national debt. We have some serious economic challenges going on.
The world isn’t ending, however, and the sky is not falling. Here’s a not so secret secret. Individual drama, that is, where you are personally and what you have going on individually, if not addressed and if not ‘kept up on your screen’ where you can work it daily and observe its impact on your attitudes or moods will without doubt amplify how you relate to local and national news.
Why is this important? Because what’s needed in times of challenge is an attitude best described as sobriety. We’re not talking drugs and alcohol here but, drugs and alcohol even in small amounts do not help you in creating and living in an attitude of sobriety. What it takes to prosper, to maintain a positive bearing in all you do, to take on each challenge with energy and attentiveness, to be fully awake – is a consistent grounding in reality. In other words, sobriety.
We ask these questions: What’s real? What’s most important? What needs to happen for us to address this challenge with our full intelligence and resources?
Within marriage, the necessary occurring of challenges shapes how we ‘do’ love. In good marriages common sense is evident everywhere. Here’s how it might look: a challenge surfaces, you articulate it. Not a nightly news version, but a sober statement of what the challenge is about. No alteration. No downsizing. No cheerleading. Just the facts, ma’am.
Articulation is followed by cutting the challenge up in bite size chunks. There’s no way you can address a challenge unless you can see both the big picture as well as its component parts. This gives you the opportunity to focus on one aspect of the challenge at a time. List the pieces of the puzzle and start with the easiest (and therefore least onerous) thing to do. This is called prioritizing.
We teach couples to transform the constricted energy that comes from anxiety that originates in fear to ‘moving’ energy that comes from seeing a pathway through the challenge. This is called hope.
Hope is positive energy. Hope generates ideas, new energy, fearlessness. But we’re not talking cheerleading type hope. We mean to encourage a sober hope born of looking fear in the eye, of spelling out what needs to happen and of creating a pathway that leads towards fully addressing the current challenge. Hope in this sense is based in common sense.
So what might you do with the fear of loss of income? First, spell it out. Even if you know the parameters, sit down together and write it all out – your absolute monthly expenses (home, food, insurance, utilities) and your discretionary monthlies (car payment, entertainment, cable tv etc). Car payment? Yes, take a look at what would be involved with downsizing your current modes of transportation.
Next, look at the several ‘bottom lines’ you’ve just created. Remember, fear grows as information is suppressed. Put it all on the table. Now, brainstorm possible alternative sources of income, creditors to contact, possible sources of loans. Consider financial counseling offered by a local non profit or government agency.
We’re not suggesting this is simple or a cure all. Common sense, however, in the service of facing your own challenges head on, relieves much of the aggregated anxiety that challenges bring your way. The philosopher Goethe said it this way: “whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
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