Focus on Your Relationships Instead of the Present Economy
As the threat of COVID-19 continues to negatively affect our lives, we will find it hard at times not to fall into despair. This is particularly true financially for those of us who have lost jobs. Even those of us who continue to work, we may have uncertainty about how long that will last. Will the continued impact on the economy lead to future layoffs? When we focus on questions like these, they can have a negative impact on our emotions that will also tend to impact how we relate to those close to us.
Alcoholics Anonymous gives us a prayer that is applicable to all of us during these times: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
These words may seem more like a pipe dream than wisdom when we are stuck at home without any way of changing our circumstances. Especially those of us who are unable to change our financial situation. Doesn’t the present economy dictate that our future is bleak no matter what we do.
A New Point Of View
Well, it may not be possible to change our circumstances, but it may be possible to change our mindset. That is, we can adjust the economy that we operate under from the world’s financial economy to a different economy. By doing this we can change what we mean by “making a living”. This will not only help us gain a different view of our circumstances but will help us redefine ourselves in ways that have a positive impact on our self-image.
For example, a biblical figure Paul, who was involved in establishing many new churches during the first century, made money by making tents. However, he identified himself as an “Apostle of Christ”. That is, what he did for a living was plant churches. What he did to make money was make tents. He measured success by the strength of these churches and the relationships established with them, not how much money he made making tents. We, too, can differentiate what we do for a “living” from what we do to make money.
So, let’s compare society’s financial economy from this new “internal” economy. In society’s economy, we get an education in order to have a good career that will produce a good income. We work hard in that career seeking advancement and, hopefully, regular raises in income. We do this for the betterment of our family’s financial situation, affording them a nice house to live in, good meals on the table, memorable family vacations and a good education for our children. Eventually, we hope to retire comfortably and enjoy the “finer” things in life.
But does this economy produce happiness? I had someone who I counsel share a problem during a session. He admitted that his anxiety was increasing because his boss was retiring. My client felt it would be expected that he would take his place as the head of his division. He was terribly afraid that this new position would put more demands on his time and take away from his family life.
I asked him if his company would respond negatively toward him if he didn’t seek the position or declined it if offered to him. He said that they would probably just pick someone else. When I asked why he would pursue this position when he doesn’t want it and there would be no repercussions for not seeking it. He said, “Because advancement is what you’re supposed to do.”
Investing In Relationships
Our experience of peace and joy may have a lot to do with how we define advancement. What if we develop an internal economy in which we seek to develop skills that help us obtain what is truly important to us. Then we need to accurately define what is truly important to us, such as people rather than things. Supporting, caring relationships have a much higher probability of giving us happiness and joy than job titles or “climbing the corporate ladder”. Why not develop a personal economy where we strive to develop communication and other social skills that solidify meaningful and supportive relationships?
What if my client decides not to pursue his supervisor’s position? Rather he remains content in his current position but then cultivates his relationships with his wife and children. As these relationships develop and strengthen, he then feels a greater joy that comes from interacting with his family. The resulting sense of happiness and peace will give him a far more significant sense of success than any job promotion would.
So, while we are home either sheltering in place or exercising social distancing, even if our financial futures are in question, let’s develop an economy that is based on relationships, not finances. We can do this by focusing our attention on those in our household who are sheltering in place with us, sharing meals together and going on walks together. We can also focus our attention toward family and friends that are not sheltering in our location by reaching out via phone, email, text, Facetime or other methods available to us.
Investment in this economy will bring us a much greater return than an investment in society’s financial economy. And this economy will continue to be strong, if we choose to invest in it, even as the pandemic continues. It will have a greater, positive impact on our mental health as well.