Thursday, November 06, 2008

CLUES A Global Almond Effect

CLUES Put your money under the bed

A few weeks ago I was in Brussels. Walking to a restaurant to have dinner about 7.30pm one evening, I noticed an unusually large number of people at a Dexia Bank cashpoint (ATM) queuing to withdraw money.

I remembered that it had been reported, earlier in the day, that Dexia was in trouble. It was a striking example that the global financial crisis had hit. I was instantly reminded of events I had read about where people had made a run on the banks to withdraw their funds to protect them but I never honestly though I would see that in October 2008 in the city of the European Union headquarters.

Panic spreads quickly

In a matter of months, or was it weeks, major economies of the world crashed. Banks collapsed, companies folded, stock markets took the concept of roller coasters to a new dimension, and people became scared – for their jobs, for their homes, for their lifestyle, for their futures.
Potential retirees have watched the value of their superannuation funds plummet and are now revisiting their retirement plans. Those who have retired are watching the value of their assets declining and wished they had more in cash.
Many businesses started to experience bad debts, decreased orders and supplies. Some are starting to contemplate closures and foreclosures.

A Global Almond Effect(R)

Never have so many banks got into so much trouble taking the rest of the world with them. Their excesses and recklessness have caused havoc.

Fear, uncertainty and anxiety are rampant. Humiliated CEOs and many senior executives have been and will be sacked as taxpayers have to bail out financial institutions, providing guarantees to save businesses and to stop people putting their money under their beds!

If we ever imagined a global example of The Almond Effect® – this is it. As the full extent of this crisis is revealed and when history reflects on it and its aftermath, we will see decisions and actions driven by recklessness, fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

Amygdalas – unable to perceive the difference between real and psychological threat – will cause, and have caused people to act rashly, unmediated by their pre-frontal cortexes; i.e. without thinking.

Stay in control

This is one of those times when we have to be really clear about what is going on in our own heads and stay in control. While Governments try to sort out this mess, the most important thing that we can do is remain calm.
Yes it will be tough. Our brains hate uncertainty. We pass most of our days, weeks and years in routine and predictability – responding to patterns that our brains have been laid down over time to enable us to get on with our lives without needing to continuously create new pathways.

Too much change – even welcome change – can place significant demands on our working memories resulting in tiredness, anxiety and an inability to think straight. Add the stress caused as the adrenaline flows when our amygdalas respond to the media bombardment of gloom and doom and heartbreak – no wonder there are reported increases in calls for help to corporate employee assistance programs.

Nothing to fear but fear itself

Roosevelt said: we have nothing to fear but fear itself. So put the STAR model into action immediately.

Stop. Try to notice when you are getting caught up and impacted by the headlines, the TV and radio reports and the worrying talk of others. When you catch yourself, take a deep breath and notice what is happening to you.

Think: how much of it is directly impacting on you. How much is your life going to change? The magnitude of this crisis is in the order of (though of course, different from) September 11 - and just like then, the world will change.
But at the time of 9/11 when lives were lost and the laws of 'war' were rewritten, people worried that it would be impossible for the world to ever be 'normal' again. Yet normalcy did return. Think about that. Take the time to consider and plan for the future to the extent that you need to make changes.

Act: Then act according to your plan and stay the course. Constantly monitor what is happening to you and to the people you care about.

Don’t get caught up in the emotional contagion of others. If you see friends, family and colleagues getting upset, explain to them what is happening in their brains and The Almond Effect® and share the STAR model.

Rewire: If you’ve been through other demanding events, review how you got through them and see what you can apply to this situation.

Cliché time: the sun will rise tomorrow and Australia will win the Rugby world Cup again one day

OK – I’m ever the optimist! But do keep things in perspective. It was only a few weeks ago that climate change was the most important item on the global agenda. I have a feeling it’s slipped!

Remember some of the other occasions in your lives when you thought it couldn’t get any tougher. You came through. We’ll all come through this one. Interestingly it might just be easier for those of us who have lived through these sorts of events before. It will be tougher for the younger people who have never experienced depressions, recessions and horrendous interest rates – their neurons will have to make some new pathways!

It’s not going to be easy as we see jobs slashed and home values fall. But, as longtime readers of CLUES, you have the skills to manage your emotional responses at this time. It won’t fix the situation but at least you’ll be making some calm, rational decisions about the way forward.

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