This Too Shall Pass: How to Face Tough Times

Experts are saying that we are going through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929. People are losing their savings, jobs, and sanity. Now, more than ever, we need to remind ourselves: This too shall pass.

1. You can’t take it with you

Most of us have either lost a lot of money, or know someone who has. It’s not very helpful telling someone whose hard-earned savings have been wiped out that “It’s only money.” Unless you have too much of it, money does matter.

What works for me is telling myself that at some point I am going to lose all the money I have. You can’t take it with you when you go. It’s just a matter of time. Whether you lose it all now or later, you’re going to lose it. You’ll have to come to terms with the loss anyway.

By the way, all this applies not just to money but to everything in life. No matter how much you love a person, at some point you will have to say goodbye. No matter how much you love your work, at some point you will have to let it go. This is not a tragedy. This is life. Accept it now, and the irrational fear of loss loses its grip on you.

2. Trust your creative mind

What really hurts is not losing the money or the relationship but the broken dreams. That early retirement may have to be postponed, the college education forgone, the vacations sacrificed.

We despair when we see no way out. When we can find an alternative, hope is restored. This is what you can work on. You cannot change what’s happening in the world, but you have control over how you think. And the mind can be trained to find alternatives.

3. Listen to fact, not opinion

I am mildly amused when I see the newspaper headlines everyday. One day the stockmarket “crashes”, a few days later it “soars”. Then it “tumbles”, and on it goes. It’s easy to get carried away by the hype, until you look at the numbers and realise that all this apparent acrobatics usually takes place within just a few percentage points.

Base your decisions on the facts and numbers, not the hype. Remember Rudyard Kipling’s advice to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.”

4. Zoom out

Try zooming out several times on this screen right now. You’ll soon be unable to read the text but you’ll still see the headings. When you zoom out, only a few things stand out clearly. It’s easier to focus on those few big things.

This works with your life too. Project yourself five, ten, fifty years into the future so that the present moment recedes further and further from view. A lot of what’s happening now will start to fade and you will see more clearly the big things that don’t change over time.

Read books like Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson or Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life to get a better perspective on the things that really matter in life.

5. Know that everything changes

The laws of physics dictate that matter is constantly changing form. Things cannot and therefore will not stay the same. Even the cells in your body are not the same ones you had a year ago. Whatever is happening now is not a static situation and will be different a year from now. Therefore, this too shall definitely pass.

In the financial world, either the market will right itself, or it will collapse and a new financial order will take over. Position yourself to succeed whichever happens. If the market recovers, you will have learnt an important lesson about economic cycles. If a new type of market emerges, learn as much about the new rules as you can to get a headstart in the game.

In your personal life, know that the turbulence in a relationship will not last forever. Either the relationship will end, or it will work out. Either way, make sure you emerge a better person. This “either/or” approach helps me to do the best thing in the long run.

This too shall pass, really

So when you face tough times, remember: This too shall pass. The sun will come up tomorrow, whether you want it to or not. And there is nothing you can do to hurry its rising. Just wait.

Just wait.

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