I came into the first recession unequipped to run a business. As a newly departed HR leader, I was comfortable telling you what you’re doing wrong but not entirely proficient at applying those same principles to my professional life.

Not much has changed since then, but I know this: we’re in the early stages of an economic crisis, and nobody knows anything right now. 

There are one or two people who have a clear head in a time of crisis (and it’s not Elon Musk). The rest of us? We’re fools. That’s because tomorrow is always uncertain. Even hearty businesses and their storied leaders are fighting hard to preserve their financial reserves. When Harvard asks for a handout, desperate to protect their future, what hope is there for you and me?

But maybe there’s another way to look at this recession. Perhaps this uncertainty will force us to reconnect to our long-forgotten priorities and mobilize us to take immediate action. Forget about the quarantine, flattening the curve, and delayed unemployment checks for a second.

  • • Did you want to be a middle-aged lady who settled for mediocre TV and wine on the sofa after a day of meetings on Zoom, or did you dream of a different life? 
  • • When you were slogging your way through part-time jobs in college, did you do it to take on all that consumer debt? 
  • • Were you the first person in your family to go to college so you could work hard, get married to someone who doesn’t show up for you, and continuously fight with your kids? 

Life takes unexpected turns, and adulthood is beset with tough choices. The only thing I did right during the last recession? I began the hard work of restructuring my life to align with my values. It’s a never-ending journey. Even when I get it wrong, which is often, I’m still moving forward. Looking at my core values led me out of a job (and life) that I hated and into a more honest position where I sleep better at night.

The current recession demonstrates how we are all victims of hucksters, hawkers and bureaucrats with broken moral compasses who prioritized their physical and financial wellbeing over the health and safety of others. But we’re not sacrificial lambs. If politicians and businesses can put themselves first, so can we.

It’s not a privilege to prioritize your emotional and financial health. It’s an imperative. Companies know it. Leaders know it. They don’t want you to know it, though. Later this week, I’ll share a simple exercise to help us identify what matters in our lives and how to put ourselves first in a healthy, non-toxic way. 

I’m also talking about these topics in my weekly newsletter, where I’m also telling you one video to help you think about your week ahead. You can sign up here, or share this blog post with a friend who might need some help. We’re all in this together, except for the people who got us into this situation in the first place. But if we do the hard work of reconnecting to our values, those people won’t be in positions of power for much longer.