Predictable Advice for Unpredictable Times

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Mar 07, 2009

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." 
Viktor Frankl

We live in unpredictable times. From all directions we are bombarded with the unexpected. Whether it is a US Airways plane landing in the Hudson River or a terrorist attack at a fancy hotel in India, we never know what will come next. And, in times like these, that kind of unpredictability can unnerve even the calmest person. 

Perhaps the most volatile unpredictability is in the present world of finance. We hear report and report of billions and even trillions of dollars being leveraged to turn the tide of economic disaster. Unfortunately, this crisis is not just on the national or international stage. We just heard some sad news from two of our dearest friends who retired a few years ago. They worked hard all their lives and accrued a modest savings which in recent times dwindled by $250,000. 

How should we respond in times like these? Dr. David Weiman, President of Weiman Consulting, has some wise words which can help all of us who are facing tough times. Dr. Weiman, a management psychologist and adjunct professor of psychology at Widener University, recently shared some outstanding insights at a Phoenixville Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast. 

The title of his presentation was Grab a Shovel (and 3 other things you can do) to Conquer Worry and Drive Success in Tough Times. As he began he reminded everyone that "events in the world - both good and bad - are constantly swirling around us. They always have. And they always will." But there is a place where we can find great peace and stability, i.e. "It's inside you." 

"You have many resources at your disposal - your core values, your work ethic, your decision-making skills and your ability to take action...All of your knowledge is available right at your fingertips, whenever you need it, quickly and easily." 

Dr. Weiman went on to share three ideas "for mastering the current challenges." 

  1. Reduce your daily news intake. "If the headlines make you anxious or depressed, spend less time reading or watching the news." He quoted Dr. Andrew Weil who suggests a "news fast"...a day or more when you skip your newspaper, CNN, and any other sources of news. Dr. Weiman added, "Get the minimum amount of news you feel you need to be informed. And don't be surprised if it's not much."
  2. Focus on what you can control. Stephen Covey's concept of "Circle of Influence" can provide enormous help. Dr. Weiman explained Covey's "Circle" as "...containing those things you can actually do something about." He suggested we make a list of all the things we are concerned about and prioritize them, starting with concerns that, if you were to resolve them, would have the most significant positive impact on you or your business. Separate the things you can do something about from those you can"t. And, those you can't do anything about, set them aside. Focus on what you can control.
  3. Take Action. "Action is the antidote for anxiety. It channels your concerns into proactive steps that manifest your great ideas." Dr. Weiman paraphrased Colin Powell's words, "Optimistic action is a force multiplier."
As Viktor Frankl said in his book Man's Search for Meaning, "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." 

What predictable advice for unpredictable times. As Dr. Weiman said, "The suggestions above are for strengthening yourself from the inside out. You can strengthen the inside of your organization, as well." 

Thank you, Dr. Weiman, for your helpful ideas. If you would like to connect with him, you may want to check out his website at 

Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to