These are challenging times, and it is difficult to find a silver lining to some of the darker clouds visible to everyone. As election-year rhetoric morphs from harsh to rancorous, the economy of recession continues to take its toll. All of us know lots of people who have lost their jobs. Who will be next to suffer?

One of the interesting fact that some of us have forgotten is that crisis times have often been the stimulus for creative new beginnings. Notable successes have been generated from the ashes of previous economic downturns.

A little perspective from history might encourage you. Walt Disney lost an acting job as a movie extra and started his famous cartoon company in a garage during the recession of 1923-1924. William Hewlett and David Packard teamed up in Silicon Valley in 1938 during the Great Depression. And Bill Gates dropped out of college to launch Microsoft during the downturn of a recession in 1975.

Crisis does seem to spawn an entrepreneurial culture. When the sun is shining, most people are content to let the boat sail under its own power — and to sun on the deck. When the clouds roll in and the boat begins to toss violently on the sea, creative people are encouraged to take risks and to chart new courses.

What about you? Do you see yourself as a thermometer or a thermostat in these tough times? Thermometers do nothing more than reflect their environments. Thermostats change their environments!

It is time to decide about your future.
If you have had a bad year, have been laid off, or exist in a generally horrible environment, you have a choice. You can be a victim and whine about your fate. Or you can do some serious introspection, set some positive goals for making things better, and start moving ahead.

In the business world, laid-off and unfulfilled workers have changed the world by being bold in hard times. The same thing is true in other settings as well. Individuals, families, and churches who sense that something is wrong always have choices. The single most important choice is between passivity, grumbling, and dejection on the one hand and exploration, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm for a new challenge on the other.

Now that you have seen the newscasts and figured out that times really are tough, it is time to decide about your future. Make responsible choices on the basis of your passions, values, and priorities and not your gloomy circumstance. With the strength of God to help you, you can move from being a melancholy thermometer to become a difference-making thermostat in your world. You can chart a new course and set sail to a brighter destination.