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Keeping Perspective Amid Trying Times

Have you lost a job? Are you fearful of losing a job? Have you been asked to take a pay cut?

If so, my heart goes out to you. I can only imagine the uncertainty and stress that you likely feel.

But, if you are reading this, I imagine that you want to do more than just “survive” through this period, you want to make sure you respond to your situation in a way that you come out of this Covid-19 ordeal better positions for success in the long run.

The difference between just “surviving” and “thriving” amid difficultly comes down to one factor: your mindsets.

I know this on two levels.

First, because I am a mindset expert, and I have learned that how we choose to see the world shapes how effectively we think, learn, and behave.

Second, I believe Viktor Frankl, the Austrian and Jewish psychiatrist, who survived four concentration camps, and later wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. I believe that if someone can survive the horrors of a concentration camp and still say the following, that regardless of the condition we find ourselves in, we can say the same:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

In fact, we can learn a lot from Viktor Frankl.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he reports that only 1 in 28 people put into concentration camps ended up surviving. With his perspective as a psychiatrist and at times serving as a health worker in the camps, he suggests that those who were most likely to survive the horrors of concentration camps were those that found meaning in their suffering and difficult times.

What this means is that when we are going through a challenging time, we do not ask, “Why is this happening to me?”

Instead, we ask:

  • “What is the meaning of this?”
  • “What can I learn from this?”
  • “What can I do or create at this time that will bring greater meaning to others?”

Frankl found that those who were able to find a meaning for themselves that involved investing in themselves for the betterment of others and the betterment of others’ future were the ones who made it through their ordeals in the most healthy and productive way.

Frankl himself seemed to have found a meaning for himself while in the camps, which is demonstrated in the following story that he tells in Man’s Search for Meaning:

“It had been a bad day…. On the evening of this day…we lay in our earthen huts—in a very low mood…. God knows, I was not in the mood to give psychological explanations or to preach any sermons—to offer my comrades a kind of medical care of their souls. I was cold and hungry, irritable and tired, but I had to make the effort and use this unique opportunity. Encouragement was now more necessary than ever… I said that each of us had to ask himself what irreplaceable losses he had suffered up to then. I speculated that for most of them these losses had really been few. Whoever was still alive had reason for hope. Health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune, position in society—all these were things that could be achieved again or restored. After all, we still had all our bones intact. Whatever we had gone through could still be an asset to us in the future. And I quoted from Nietzsche: “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker.” (That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.)…

Then I spoke of the many opportunities of giving life a meaning. I told my comrades (who lay motionless, although occasionally a sigh could be heard) that human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death. I asked the poor creatures who listened to me attentively in the darkness of the hut to face up to the seriousness of our position. They must not lose hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and its meaning.”

So, if you have lost a job, I believe that Frankl would encourage you to ask yourself what opportunity this now provides for you to help others or create something that will enhance others’ lives and yours in the process.

If you are afraid that you will lose a job, perhaps you need to start thinking now, how can you pivot or reposition yourself to be able to better add value to others’ lives.

And, if you have been asked to take a pay cut, perhaps you can see how your sacrifice is a service to the greater good of others.

Now, this won’t be natural or easy. It will require intention and purpose. But, isn’t intention and purpose necessary for having a positive influence on others and creating success for ourselves?

My hope is that you can make the most of your current situation. Doing so will require being intentional about your mindsets. And, I hope that you make the efforts to come out of the Covid-19 ordeal better than when you went into it.

If you would like to learn more about the mindsets necessary for success, check out my book, Success Mindsets: Your Keys to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work, & Leadership (Morgan James Publishers). It is the most comprehensive and research-backed mindset book to date.

Written by Ryan Gottfredson. Have you read?
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Ryan Gottfredson, PhD.
Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D. is a mental success coach and cutting-edge leadership consultant, trainer, and researcher. He helps improve organizations, leaders, teams, and employees improve their decision making, effectiveness, agility, and culture through a focus on mindsets. Ryan is currently a leadership and management professor at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton (CSUF). He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources from Indiana University, and a B.A. from Brigham Young University. Ryan Gottfredson is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Instagram or connect on LinkedIn.