‘R’ Words…or How to Redefine the Recession

I’ve recently read a surprising number of newsletters and blogs which have used the phrase “the ‘R’ word” to refer to economic recession. Now these aren’t coy writers I’m talking about; they’re highly respected, powerful coaches who inspire and lead many others. I don’t know why they use the phrase, but it got me thinking about what recession means to the coaching world and also set me off on a journey exploring ‘R’ words.

Real estate, reaction, response, re-positioning and relief…

I live in a tourist area where many local newly-weds can’t afford to buy homes because of inflated house prices. In other parts of the country, families are faced with the prospect of downsizing or negative equity because of the post-boom drop in property prices. I’ve seen how distressing this can be, so it’s not a topic I’m being dismissive of or disrespectful about. I’d like to share a story with you about one of the best coaches I’ve ever known.

He started to feel the waves of worry over the US sub-prime mortgage situation last year; his wife works in real estate and they have a young family. His initial reaction was to increase his networking and marketing until the pace became almost hysterical and frenetic. Then, after an aha phase, he responded from his heart by putting the theory of ‘letting go’ into practice. He focused on the abundance he already had – his family, friends, training, experience, wisdom and qualifications – and acknowledged that they weren’t going to evaporate if he didn’t fill his coaching practice immediately. Instead, he started applying for other jobs to supplement his coaching income, even though he already had more clients than most coaches I know. The job offers came flowing in. He  accepted one that allowed him to work from home and the relief was almost tangible, like a breeze of fresh air blowing through his life, bringing with it financial security and a continuation of the family dynamics and routine he’d worked so hard to build. And then – no surprise to those of us who believe in the law of attraction – the clients came pouring in too. Eleven new clients in two weeks.

Redundancy, re-evaluation, readiness, relocation and resourcefulness…

My husband works in the Scottish branch of an international company and we’ve been affected by the global crisis too.  Every October for the last three years, his bosses have announced that hundreds of people in the company are to be made redundant. The list of those about to lose their jobs  isn’t released until December.  It’s become harder for me every year to celebrate Christmas in the carefree way we used to. It’s become increasingly painful for my husband to lose colleagues at a time when workmates all over the world are celebrating the holiday season with office parties and frivolity. But as we’ve narrowly ‘escaped’ for three years in a row, we’ve been given a great gift – the chance to re-evaluate what’s most important to us in a deeply authentic way.

We have to ask ourselves what we’d really like to do with our skills and talents and which risks we’re ready and willing to take, seeing as our children are thriving at school. If we were to move anywhere in the world for work, where would we go? What would we do? Why would we choose to stay here in Scotland? My dad is 84 but has another daughter and grandsons here. Heart-searching talks, provocative conversations. Despite my heart-wrenching wanderlust, we always end up feeling that we’re here in Scotland because we want to be. We’re always left knowing what we’re willing to fight to keep.

Not moving house also makes us more resourceful with what we have. Downsizing our consumption, expenditure and stuff is a pleasure for us, a solution, not a form of imposed deprivation. It makes us feel prepared for anything, like we’d be ready to move if we had to. It makes us feel ‘clean and clear’ while we choose to stay. Most of what we own is useful, beautiful or treasured.

Relishing, ritual and religion …

I’ve also coped with looming redundancy and the threat of ‘forced’ relocation by strengthening my love of ritual. It can be a powerful glue in every relationship, religion and society. My daughter laughingly told her Religious and Moral Education teacher at school that her mum steals the best bits of every religion she comes across!

We love creating our own rituals too. On Mother’s Day, I never expect presents, flowers or chocolates. My kids volunteer to be ‘servants’ for a day and keep the home running while I stay in my bedroom and read a book from cover to cover – a rare and cherished treat. They make me cards and create ‘cheques’ promising to pay me in love, respect, tidied rooms and fewer tweenage tantrums! I laminate those and use them as bookmarks.

We also make homemade cards, sweets, presents and crackers at Christmas and have created fun-filled, friend and family rituals throughout December. It gives us all so much more to look forward to than shop-bought gifts.

It was my mum who instilled in me a love of details and ritual, and although we didn’t have much money when I was growing up, we grew up rich because of her.

I’m sharing this with you now because if you’re anxious about your future or your finances, this is the time to start being open to creative ideas to reduce your consumption and expenditure. You’ve time to design cards, make personalised bookmarks, write books of gratitude and ‘love memories’ for your loved ones, compile photo albums of treasured memories, and create works of art from digital photos. You’ve time to plan home baked gifts and to research unusual charities to donate to instead of sending gifts…You can give away heirlooms now and register the recipient’s pleasure rather than wait to die to do it. You can have clothes swap evenings with friends, bake and take to the homeless, give away the contents of your attic or garage to folk who need it.

I’m having a meltdown at the moment, trying to decide how to redesign my kitchen to get a bigger table in. As I hear of the tragedy unfolding in Burma, it puts my dilemma into proportion. By not buying meat, wine or treats for a just a week, I can send a Burma emergency relief fund enough for mosquito nets, water purification tablets or plastic sheeting for shelter. Doing without pizza or a bottle of Chilean red isn’t going to kill me.

Remembering, regret and reaching out…

My mum died a few weeks before Mother’s Day, while I was expecting my son. She’d gone into hospital to have an aneurism removed and never spoke again. Complications meant she had to be ventilated through her windpipe, even though she was fully conscious. She spent her last weeks on a gurney in intensive care, awake but hooked up to dialysis and a ventilator, defying all the odds. The day before she died, she was restless, hardly lucid and spent the whole day trying to point to her left wrist with her wrinkled, right hand. Everyone speculated; was she experiencing pain down her arms? Was she wondering where her watch had gone? She mouthed the words “I love you son” to my husband before she drifted off and we were asked to leave. That night, she developed an infection and didn’t regain consciousness. My dad was asked for permission to switch off the machines. The next day, I watched her slowly slip away. When the LED displays finally all reached zero, I looked up to the ceiling and said “I’m sorry.” So much I hadn’t said when she was alive. So many memories I’ve relished since.

I reckon she was pointing to where her watch had been, telling us it was time, telling us not to waste it.

Don’t let regret be one of your ‘R’ words. As folk who are involved in the coaching world, the recession is a chance for us to reach out, to inspire, to share our skills and our wisdom and to make a difference. It’s not all about marketing and money.

A few of my favourite ‘R’words… why don’t you make a list of your own or get your clients to make one as an attitudinal antidote to ‘R’ word anxiety!

rose scented laundry,
relishing truth,
rugs on real wood floors,
reaching out and really enjoying people,
rainbows (my mum sends them),
rock pools,
rusty-red painted wood,
rose flavoured Turkish delight sweets,
retsina and red wine,
rustling olive groves,
rustic tables (laid with blue and checked tablecloths, bread, olives and salads)