Upsides to the Current Downturn:
Finding Hope, Simplicity and Fulfillment in Challenging Times

(with Barbara Taylor, B.A., MMFT)

Who among us hasn’t been shaken up to some degree by the current economic and financial upheaval? The list seems endless: mortgage meltdowns, the housing and credit crisis, bank closings, job cuts and unemployment rates, the rising cost of gas and groceries, loss of savings and investments, and the grim realization that North America’s current plight pales in comparison to many other locations in the world.

We could easily become gripped with fear, anxiety and/or depression over the formidable challenges we face these days in our personal and work lives. But what if Thomas Moore, psychotherapist and author of several books including Care of the Soul, is right? What if our most soulful times are those when we are “out of balance”, shaken out of our usual day-to-day patterns and the sleepy reverie they induce? It is at times like these that we are brought back to basics, including a fresh and searching look at what really matters to us and what brings meaning to our lives.

In my work as a personal and executive coach, I’ve been observing a curious thing lately. Despite hardship, fear and worry about the future, a significant number of people report that their lives have actually improved as a result of the financial and economic challenges they are currently facing.

Many tell me that they have been spending more quality time with family and friends rather than their usual modes of entertainment, which were often costly. Others comment on the satisfaction they are getting from reflecting on and shifting some of their core values, lifestyles, and spending habits. A few describe what I would call resilience, an awareness that they are becoming wiser and more adaptable through the choices they are making to re-prioritize key aspects of their lives. And, many are surprised and humbled by their actions to reach out and help others who are in worse shape, even as their own personal finances are diminishing.

It occurred to me that these individuals were coming to terms with a new sense of what true wealth, in humanistic terms, might be all about. They were finding, each in their own way, an upside to the downturn in their lives. They were, without exception, excited about and grateful for what they were learning about themselves. They were turning adversity into opportunity.

From these conversations, I distilled five core aspects or activities that were instrumental in leading to the experience of these upsides:

• Finding resilience and maintaining optimism
• Spending less, spending wisely and enjoying more
• Taking stock and clearing out the clutter to make room for the things that matter most
• Discovering and following passions that cost little or no money
• Giving back and making a difference in others’ lives

While we cannot control what life brings to our door, nor even the full extent of the consequences of our actions, we are completely free to choose our response to the current situation at hand, personally and collectively.

If living beyond our means – something we’ve become pretty good at in the past few decades – is leading us headlong into an unsustainable future and the destruction of the environment, then perhaps it’s time to figure out how we can live with contentment below our means!

If we truly do believe that the best things in life are not things, then what better time than now for each of us to reduce the time spent ruminating about the past and worrying about the future, so that we can return to the present moment, where true change is possible?

In the words of Albert Einstein, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. There is a golden opportunity surrounding us right now to reflect upon the positive and redeeming aspects of the current state of affairs we’re in. The seemingly small changes we make in our thoughts and attitudes and actions can have powerful effects on our quality of life, our future, and the futures of our children and grandchildren.

The people I’ve been talking with, who are making these inspiring discoveries, are ordinary people like you and me. In taking time to reflect and seek out new ways to simplify their lives, they are not only experiencing fulfillment but as well a whole new level of engagement with being alive. By finding and cultivating “upsides to the downturn”, they are discovering that life is bringing out the best in them.

Steve Goldberg believes that a balanced and meaningful life combines the cultivation of personal health and well being with contributions to making the world a better place for all of us. Steve has worked as a personal, career, and executive coach for the past 30 years in more than 20 countries.

He is currently helping himself and others find “upsides to the downturn” in his work in the US and Canada while working on a book entitled: Upside to the Downturn: Finding Hope, Simplicity and Fulfillment in Challenging Times©.

Steve is the founder of 2nd Half Matters, an organization dedicated to developing potential and purpose in the second half of life. Visit his blog at and website at

Author's Bio: 

Steve Goldberg

Steve Goldberg brings 30+ years of experience in executive-personal coaching and leadership-organizational development to his work with executive leaders, teams and organizations in the corporate, governmental and non-profit sectors. Steve’s practice now primarily focuses on working with successful leaders and couples, who are in career transition and/or entering into the second half of their lives. As part of his services, he offers personal retreat experiences from his island home in British Columbia, Canada and winter home in South Florida.
Steve lives and models the belief that our second half can be our best half. It’s a time of potentially harnessing personal energy-life experience and engaging our bodies, hearts, minds & spirits in wise, curious and magnificent ways that may not have been possible earlier in life. He believes in balancing the living of a healthy, wealthy fulfilling life with contribution to making the world a better place than we found it.
Steve has worked around the globe in over 20 countries, in coaching and organizational effectiveness assignments with Fortune 50 corporations, UN organizations and major international governmental bodies. This includes extensive assignments with ATT, Accenture, Leo Burnett, Ford Motor Company, US Postal Service, World Health Organization, UNESCO, International Red Cross, the Canadian International Development Agency and United States Agency for International Development.
Steve holds a Masters Degree from Harvard University, specializing in organizational and human development. He also is a certified mediator-negotiator. Steve’s post-graduate work includes a degree in adult development and counseling, with a focus on life long learning and transition-career coaching.