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NLP Coach Richard Yates offers advice on how adopting the right attitude can help you deal with redundancy.

At an eighteenth birthday party before Christmas, I was talking to someone who had retired at the age of 53; he put forward the view that the world of work and opportunity for 'the young’ today was so uncertain, so difficult that he 'despaired for them'.

He was clearly comfortable with his vision and banged on, and on. I interrupted, gently, to suggest that maybe he had a view of the world through his own eyes, fashioned by the values and beliefs of his generation, by his own experience of his working life, and that the 'young' of today had very different views. Surely the opportunities today that are open to those who want to take them are wonderful?

To him, the challenge was to join a company that could offer career progression through a hierarchical structure, reward, job security and the company pension, pewter tankard or gold watch and society's gratitude at the end; his parents wanted this and, therefore, so did he.

Fear of the Unknown

Today we live in an increasingly international community that can offer a whole range of acceptable options that were not available when my companion was young. This world is a very different world, a world that those in middle age can find bewildering and frightening; it depends on your viewpoint, but I get incensed by the very negative attitude of some, such as my companion, and the effect that is communicated to the young.

I get incensed by the very negative attitude of some…and the effect that is communicated to the young.

What has this got to do with those who read this column, those who have just been made redundant? It is about attitudes.

Despite the growing understanding in the community that redundancy is something that has become an acceptable fact of life; to the individual redundancy, or the threat of it, still represents a fearful experience.

Earlier this year, one of my clients, an intelligent mature individual, would not show his face outside his house during working hours, even to walk the dog, because "people will know I am redundant". It is a fear, a fear of the unknown, a fear of having to prove one's abilities and one's worth, a fear of having to sell oneself.

The British tradition is to understate everything, certainly not to follow our American cousins who are often perceived as pushy, even rude, by the way they confidently say how good they are. Another client can still remember his father, on receiving the news his son had won a choral scholarship to Cambridge, saying, "Don't let it go to your head my son" - and since then his son has never said how good he was at using his skills.

Expanding our Horizons

Numerous authors have quoted the story of the frog which, gradually warmed in a beaker of water, died as the water boiled; if it had been put straight into hot water, it would have jumped out.

Gradual change will eventually kill; for us humans it is not a physical death, but a mental one - we become 'brain dead'. Employers expect people to be alive, or at least appear alive, to be passionate about what they do and what they are good at; yet how often are individuals advised that the word 'passion' is not very English - "You can't say that"!!

To change we need to be open-minded, to be passionate about what we do; to be able to expand the horizon beyond that which we perceive as possible, for "a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight".

"A horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight"

A former client in his early fifties wrote: "The past six months have not been an easy ride, but it has been interesting, educational and quite revealing about me as a person...It won't be forgotten, neither will I be so unprepared in the future should a similar 'career change opportunity' occur again".

It appears to me that far too many people express negative feelings about life; in some way we are conditioned to by simply listening to the news!! People talk in terms of problems, not issues and solutions, use 'can't' and 'won't' more often than 'can ' and 'will'.

I used to think that the opposite of negative was, simply, positive but now accept that those who think in this way resist and get bored by people who constantly say, "think positively". I now understand that a realisation of how destructive negative thoughts can be is in itself beneficial.

To quote Patanjali in Yoga Sutras:

"Negative feelings...are damaging to life, whether we act upon them ourselves, or cause or condone them in others. They are born of greed, anger or delusion, and may be slight, moderate, or intense. Their fruit is endless ignorance and suffering. To remember this is to cultivate the opposite".

Making Choices, Seizing Moments

We all have choices in life and the choices faced by those made redundant need to be carefully examined, with the stretching of horizons and the adoption of the right attitude. Then you can go and market yourself with enthusiasm and passion, focused on where you will gain satisfaction, share values and where you can best contribute your skills and experience.

In answer to the question "What do you want to do?” do not answer what someone did recently, "I thought I would be suited for a general management position".

"What sector; industrial or service?" I asked.

"Any"...Kiss of death...

Clearly, they had not focused on what might excite them, where their interests lay and where they could create the enthusiasm. It's actually common sense, but when you have been made redundant it often needs career counselling to bring these thoughts to the surface.

I remember a scene in a film. An old lady sat under the shade of a tree, chatting to her grand-daughter.

"I have always thought of myself as seventeen until the other morning, when I looked in the bathroom mirror, and saw the wizened, wrinkled face of an 86-year-old. Where did my life go, I asked myself?"

She turned to the girl; "Seize the moment, my child".

The opportunities created by being forced to adopt the right attitude are as endless for the middle-aged redundant individual as they are for the youth of today.

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