Tuesday, September 27 , 2016, 1:54 pm | Fair 85º

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Susan Ann Darley: Austerity — Tough Word, Tough Sell, Tough Reality

When I think of the word austerity, terms such as restriction, severe, rigid and enforced thrift come to mind. It hasn’t worked so well, so far in countries where government spending and social programs have been slashed. Greece has been pushed to the brink by its austerity measures. Britain’s economy has stalled under austerity, and it has negatively affected business and consumer confidence.

According to The New York Times, on March 1 Americans will begin to feel the affects of austerity if the sequester takes place cutting around $85 billion from discretionary spending over the next seven months while costing the economy more than 1 million jobs over the next two years.

There’s no doubt we are facing an extremely baffling conundrum. What, when, where to cut? What, when, where to spend? These are the million-dollar questions facing us as our $16.5 trillion national debt soars further out of control.

We condemn Washington for being divided while they continually lament the worn-out refrain of “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Yet neither spending cuts nor reckless free spending in Washington will change a thing until the population — rich, middle class and poor — change their habit patterns with money.

The simple reality is that we’re not going back to “the way it was” before 2008. Period. A monumental shift occurred, not only in the United States but globally. This was a necessary shift that accelerated our conscious awareness of personal fiscal responsibility — in some. Others are still asleep, and waking up can be oh so painful.

As Washington casts blame on each other for our current monetary mess, we cast the blame on government. The hard truth is in the looking glass. We are a reflection of each other. Ouch. Wouldn’t it be less painful to keep up the mud-slinging to cover up our own faults? Explain that face-saving strategy to your kids in 10 to 20 years.

We are in an incredibly challenging time. Balancing the budget will happen when we have the willingness to balance our lives, bank accounts and behaviors. Not an easy task, but critical times call for critical measures. Be done with the blame game. Look at your own life

National change begins at the level of the individual — ground level. You don’t build a house starting with the roof. You create a foundation and build from there — one nail at a time, one brick at a time. You have a plan and you follow it knowing what the next step is. If you jump ahead to step 214 when you’re on step 4, you have a disaster on your hands. And by the way, once it’s built, just how many sets of dishes do you need from Target?

Overindulgence has become the American way of life. Instead of constantly clamoring for more, we need to begin to take care of what we have. Quality should be the gold standard for everything we produce — products, towns, infrastructures, education, the arts, environments. This is possible only when we become wise stewards of our finances and quit wasting time, energy and money foolishly.

Above all, quality of character should be nurtured in every single person. We came here with innate worth, and we will leave with it. Nothing is sadder than a person who never discovers theirs. What does this have to do with finances? Everything. When you know your worth as an individual you can overcome any difficult circumstance.

We are capable of moving forward, reducing the debt and taking good care of ourselves and others. The key to progressive change is to 1) not resist it and 2) to approach it with the utmost care for all involved. If we carelessly slash spending, it will have as negative effect on us as our careless spending has.

The truth is we have to change. Do it differently. We know it, and it terrifies us. We cling to our dependencies, whether they be our personal frivolous toys or benefits from social programs. It’s critical that we discern the difference between quality and folly. Even when we do, the tough reality is that we still have to cut back.

However, a crisis always exists pregnant with opportunity. Our fiscal crisis can be seen as devastation and lack, or a redirecting of our energy and focus — opening the door for new and innovative cost-effective measures that meet our personal and collective needs.

The word austerity and its negative connotations should be thrown out the window. Gratitude needs to replace it. And the toughest truth facing us right now is that if we truly want to make it a better world for our kids, we need to grow up first and fast.

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach and business writer who works with entrepreneurs and artists from all disciplines to build, manage and market their careers. Click here for more information, or contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 805.845.3036. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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