The new employment numbers are out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and at 9.8 percent, we lost more jobs in November than we gained. We aren't in another recession, but we have a long way to go before we're all the way out of the Great Recession.
Fortunately, crystal balls don't work, so we don't really know if we're talking another year or a generation till we're back to some kind of normal, and at this point, both scenarios are a possibility.
News like that has left a lot of people awake at night, staring at the ceiling, doing the math over and over again in their heads. The big question is always how long the family can survive, if any one of the underpinnings like a job or the savings is lost, or if an unforeseen illness or even the furnace breaking down suddenly happens.
That constant hum of thinking will drive you crazy, guaranteed, and the idea of living even another year with the whirring and figuring and stress is too much. Time for a different strategy.
First, stop watching the business channels. It doesn't even matter if you're the CEO of a major company, because there have always been people who got rich in hard economic times and were actually happy living a wel- balanced life where they ate with their families and took a walk occasionally. It wasn't the stock market or the employment figures or any pundit's quick take that had absolutely anything to do with the peaceful and abundant life they had managed to create.
The secret of their success is no secret. They believed they would succeed and that, therefore, solutions existed. Not one magic solution that would take them from start to finish, but a solution for the day they were in that might take some work on their part. That was enough for them.
They were happy with not knowing if something was guaranteed to work and were willing to go forward with what was available.
There was a lot less useless mind-chatter and more small steps being taken that add up over even a short amount of time.
So, the second step is to get your attention off of the future and stay in today. Do the next right step and let that be enough. This method takes some faith in something bigger than ourselves that things will work out.
For everyone who isn't rooted in faith, keep in mind that every time you assert that the future looks bleak and here's how things can go wrong, you're utilizing the exact same method only in reverse. Your faith is just as powerful, but for your demise.
The third step, which can be the most important, has to do with where we put our belief in what we're doing in the first place.
Successful people with balanced lives also start out each day believing they have something to offer that someone wants to buy, whether it is a service, a skill or a bauble. The optimism in that approach makes it easier for them to ask questions, make adjustments and do the next right thing because their basic belief that they are building on top of is that things will work out.
My good friend, Jerry Alli, who sells insurance, believes he is providing a blessing and once ran a 10K with my son where he met someone running next to him and had a new client the time the short race was finished. All of his clients, including me, see him as a friend.
Successful people's focus is on succeeding, not failing, and so when they see the next step they take it. They ask positive, trusted advisors who have solutions and don't survey their friends for what might go wrong. That practice is a waste of time, and often means you're doing nothing waiting for a guarantee.
That's not coming, ever.
While going down this road, life is going to continue to happen and the furnace will go out on a cold day or a child will be throwing up just as you need to go out the door to a big presentation. But instead of worrying about that now, let it wait till it's actually happening and look for solutions on that day.
For now, work on the projects right in front of you, take the small steps that you can and let the rest go. Then believe in the possibilities, and when you wake up in the middle of the night, practice picturing a good day in the life of you and your family with the same determination you used to worry. Hold tight to that better image and build from there instead.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Her latest book is the memoir, "A Place to Call Home." www.MarthaRa.