Times are tough all over…according to some.
Driving the four blocks from my home to a local restaurant to meet a friend, I noted three store fronts had sprouted new "Out of Business" signs. They seemed so out of place surrounded by what appeared to be thriving businesses and heavy foot and vehicular traffic.
Along the way I passed at least a dozen busy restaurants but when I arrived at my destination, sadly, I saw this restaurant had precious few customers – even at the height of lunch hour. The waitresses were sitting at table reading the newspaper and discussing how bad business is. I found that interesting, but left it for another day. I was here to meet a friend.
In the course of our meeting, I learned that she is currently looking for employment. She, like so many others I talk with of late, is having considerable difficulty. In the course of our conversation, we talked about the difficulties boomers and seniors are having finding work and the current pervasive disillusionment with the economy. Many industries are still cutting budgets and staff to the bone. It certainly looks like there will continue to be a shortage of opportunity for her and many other seasoned workers pursuing professional careers. It was a fairly discouraging conversation.
Then our conversation turned to our pets. My friend, owns a dog. She told me she signed up for classes in dog training. She admitted that the cost is a luxury she can ill afford on her limited budget. But she said, "I've always wanted to learn how to train dogs and never had the time or the opportunity to do it. I know if I don't do it now I may never do it." She understands this course probably won't make her "an expert" in the field. She doesn't know if the classes might qualify her to do that kind of work. That just doesn't matter. She's embarking on a new exciting adventure that came her way at a time when she has some time The prospects of doing something she's always wanted to do.
What was it that made the difference between the stores that had closed and their neighbors who are thriving? What explains the single restaurant that had few lunchtime customers while their neighbors were busy? And what was it about my friend who, frankly, was radiant in the face of economic stability?
No doubt, there are reasonable explanations for how one individual or company can thrive in the same environment where a neighbor dies a sure death.
But there's a single take away here that I do believe can dramatically affect those of us who find ourselves in challenging circumstances – particularly those who find themselves facing the stark reality of being at loose ends and looking "retirement" in the face. It's a lesson I learned some time ago and just took for granted: Perception is everything.
Yes, times are tough. Life may seem more than a little unfair. But, sometimes being faced with time on your hands and a sense of instability can be a very, very good thing, indeed…
Being unable to find work and failure to attract much-needed business are not necessarily the end of the world. Unless we allow ourselves to think that they are. The lack of work (or customers) could be a wake-up call warning that something just isn't right – or it could be a gift. That extra uncommitted time could be exactly the breathing room needed to refocus and grow. Either way, approaching the experience with an open mind and the question "What else is out there that I've been missing?" can open a door we didn't even know existed and unearth a pathway to pursuit of dreams that have been set aside for another day.