Uncertainty is the only certainty you can hold on to at the moment

Our need for certainty

As I write this from my place in Torquay I feel blessed I have a sanctuary in which to take time out and learn, reflect and do things that I have been skilfully avoiding. There are no excuses for not cleaning up the garage! What I have observed, as I take some time out, is how much people are needing and even demanding certainty now. I have even noticed it in myself when the Government announced financial support for small businesses. I went straight to needing to know whether my business is eligible and needing to chat to my accountant as soon as possible. I have since stepped back and empathised with what he must be going through and simply flicked him a note saying it would be great to have a chat by the end of April. If that ends up being in May that’s ok as well.

It’s understandable to feel a little anxious, our brains are wired for certainty. I am on Twitter and the need for certainty plays out in partisanship. It doesn’t matter what Scott Morrison (Australian Prime Minister) or Daniel Andrews (Victorian Premier) do and say, the views are often partisan oriented. Holding onto one’s ideology tightly is just another way of feeding our need for certainty.

We love to feed our need for certainty

We would love to know how long exactly we will be in social isolation for, when can we go back to work, when will the footy start again, can I visit this person, can I go for a drive, can I visit my parents, what constitutes a gathering, can I sit in the park by myself, when will there be a vaccine etc. The need for certainty is insatiable. I get it, people want to do the right thing, but we are also filling a need for certainty. When we don’t have that sense of certainty it can provoke anxiety and stress in us and we can head to a pretty primitive place. Yes, hoarders, I am looking at you!

A Developmental Experience 

We all have our ways of coping during these challenging times and we should be kind to ourselves but at the same time, imagine, that this might be the universes way of giving us a developmental experience around embracing uncertainty, where we are all thrown ‘in the deep end’ and have to learn to survive and thrive. I think there is a common view that the world won’t be the same when we transition out of this phase. Uncertainty and ambiguity will be more pronounced moving forward.

So what if we were to look at this time as a way of embracing uncertainty, to know we don’t have all the answers, to know that we may make some errors, to practice self compassion and to use it as an opportunity to be more present and to grow. Essentially developing a positive relationship with uncertainty. I am not suggesting this is easy. For many of us the need for certainty and control has helped us survive for years. Uncertainty is a scary place!

So what can you do to build a positive relationship with uncertainty.

The first is to acknowledge and own the fact that you are in a place of uncertainty. Observe how you feel with compassion and non judgement.

Engage with simple rules. Simple rules provide a powerful weapon against the complexity and uncertainty that threaten to overwhelm individuals, organisations, and society as a whole. One simple rule that is powerful in self isolation is to assume you have Covid 19 and let that dictate the way you behave. A simple rule, when facing uncertainty, might be journaling how you feel. It might be stepping back and waiting rather than moving to action.

Understand that during times of uncertainty that things are never as bad as they seem. Our brains are very good at looking for data that align with how we are feeling. If we see a situation as negative then we are more than likely going to seek out data that confirms that negative narrative in our head. Try and see what might be positive in a situation. I could focus on the loss of revenue during this time of self isolation or I could see it as an opportunity to learn, connect, collaborate and develop IP.

Adopt multiple interpretations. Similar to the third point, when we experience uncertainty it is easy to go to a singular interpretation of what is happening and act accordingly. Try to have 3 – 4 different interpretations of what you are seeing. This will allow you to stay open to what might be rather than rushing in to a place of certainty.

Feel free to comment on how you and developing a positive relationship with uncertainty during these challenging times.

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