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Weathering the Storm of Unemployment

19Jun 2009

Recently, the reality of people losing their jobs has been hitting quite close to home. Living in the city where most aircraft are built in the U.S., and the struggles aircraft manufacturers are experiencing have made knowing individuals who have been laid off from work a personal experience.  And the secondary job losses are significant as well — suppliers to the aircraft manufacturers, graphic designers, retail sales, professionals in the real estate arena — all are experiencing the effects.

I am reticent to personally give advice to individuals who are walking on paths I have not had to walk yet. However, I did find the following ideas in some recent articles, and thought they might be of some help.

Given the current financial crisis, Psychology Today decided to interview a number of successful professionals and find out the role that “failure” played in their personal and professional development. Here are a few of the comments and findings:

  • There is a difference between failures and Failure, just like the difference that exists between financial diminshment and bankruptcy, and marital strife / divorce.
  • Failure hurts but can pay off in the form of learning, growth, and wisdom.  Some psychologists … go even further, arguing that adversity, setbacks, and even trauma actually may be necessary for people to be happy, successful and fulfilled.
  • J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books experienced a series of failures including a broken marriage, and poverty that bordered on homelessness. She states: “Failure stripped away everything inessential. It taught me things about myself I could have learned no other way.”
  • Paul MacCready, Jr., a famous aeronautical engineer who won the Kremer Prize for the world’s first human-powered airplane, depended on failure to help him succeed. He designed his airplane to crash well, so that it would protect the pilot and the plane could be quickly repaired, so he could learn quickly from his failures.
  • The difference between people who come out of failure successfully and those who do not seems to be related to the degree of ‘rumination’ that is allowed to continue. “Failing better” is related to three aspects: controlling our emotions, adjusting our thinking, and recalibrating our beliefs about ourselves and what we can do in the world.
  • Many argue that failure is necessary for growth. So protecting ourselves (or our children) from failure limits our exposure to growth opportunities. Conversely, too much failure can discourage and lead to one’s spirit being crushed — to the point of giving up. How much failure is too much? Two really helpful answers (being sarcastic): “It depends” (on the stage of life and unique characteristics of the individual; and “We don’t really know.”

From a companion article, here are “Nine ways to fail better” by Bruce Grierson.

  1. Lighten up — have a sense of humor.
  2. Join the club — commiserate with others in similar situations.
  3. Feel guilt, not shame — learn from your mistakes,but don’t accept the belief that “I am a failure”.
  4. Cultivate optimism — put yor negative thoughts on trial and rebut them; they often are not based in reality.
  5. Ask not what the world can do for you . . . — you now have the opportunity to do something different with your life.
  6. Scale down your expectations for yourself — repeatedly failing to meet your expectations for yourself may indicate you need to re-evaluate realistic expectations for yourself.
  7. Keep a journal, learn from what you are thinking and feeling, and use those lessons to take action.
  8. Don’t blame yourself — blaming yourself for the bad things that happen to you (i.e. attributing all cause to yourself) is an error in thinking that causes people to become stuck, rather than to become stuck, rather than moving forward.
  9. Act! — failure provides an opportunity to do something different, but only if you act on the opportunity.

I hope some of these thoughts may be helpful to you — or forward them to a friend or family member you know who finds themselves in this difficult situation.


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