"The more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure I will feel,
because uncertainty is my path to freedom." - Deepak Chopra
As much as we might try to avoid uncertainty, we know deep down that it is an impossible task. We have seen that the fortunes of the rich can be lost overnight and that health and strength will only last for so long. Whilst bricks and mortar are stronger and more permanent than straw, we also know they are no more eternal than ourselves.
Let’s acknowledge too, that we view the uncertainties of our life through the lens of the larger global situation, characterised by volatile political situations, simmering social unrest, unconventional administrations, and increasingly frequent natural disasters. (Not to mention that we are hurtling through the void of space on a huge stone into unknown reaches of the Universe at 1.3 million miles per hour!)
Yet, if uncertainty and change are rules within the game of life, we need to engage with both with skill if we want to remain positive, productive, and happy whilst the dice roll.
There are two key skills here: Self-Leadership and Self-Compassion. Let’s give those a brush-up.
Start with a Positive Attitude
Remind yourself that your track record for getting through tough days is 100% to date - you will also get through this one.
Acceptance of change and the uncertain future is the first step. Resistance to the inevitable sets you up to waste your energy and directs you towards unhappiness and resentment. Your own acceptance of the shifting sands will have its own rhythm so be gentle with yourself as you adjust, and notice if you are sinking into denial or resistance.
Change is a vital part of the natural cycle of creation and dissolution – everything in our world belongs to this death-birth cycle. When larger changes are afoot, become curious about the bigger picture and take some quiet time to sit with these questions:
What am I ready to let go of?
What am I being called into?
Who am I becoming?
Work Within Your Sphere of Influence
Make a list of factors in your sphere of influence and those out of your control.
Consider what you can do to:
Increase your sphere of influence,
Make the most of the influence you already have.
One practical way to do this is to start reaching out to your established network and growing new connections through social and business events, or digitally via LinkedIN.
Invest in Your Skills
Uncertainty and change at work will sometimes precede a shift in job or role for you. So, update your c.v. pro-actively to highlight your current skills and experience. If there are training and development opportunities at work, take advantage of them now.
Be Mindful of News Consumption
Research has shown strong links between news consumption and increased stress and anxiety so if you are going through a tough period personally or professionally, consider how you would like to stay informed. Choose your sources carefully and don’t be afraid of trying a news-fast for 7 days to see how that affects your overall sense of wellbeing.
Take it One Step at a Time
You don’t need to know how everything will play out. The only thing to focus on is this question: What is my next right move? Everything else will flow forward from that clarity.
Trust Your Gut
Gut instinct is a time-honoured method of survival and decision making. Whilst, your intuitive knowing can be hi-jacked by assumptions and emotional biases, if you are able to filter those out and listen quietly to your own inner-guidance, your gut will validate your next right move.
Invest in Your Anchors
Even when there is a lot of change in certain aspects of your life, there will be others that have not shifted. These might be your family, your hobbies, your exercise routine, etc. Focus energy on the things that are remaining the same to give you a sense of grounding, calm, and continuity.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool of embodiment, self-compassion, and stress resilience. The human brain is optimised to experience change and uncertainty as threat, leading the brain to abandon its higher thought-processing and shift into instinctive survival mode. Following simple practices and learning how to navigate the complexities of over-thinking, anxious thoughts, and the negativity bias will, in time, allow you to navigate uncertainty with style.
Invest in Relaxation Practices
If Mindfulness is not your cup of tea, make sure that you are offering yourself sufficient restorative activities in your day and week. Now might be a good time to take that walk in the park, book that massage, give yoga a try, or gift yourself an early night.
When everything is in a state of flux, it is important to slow down decision making so that you can be sure you are responding as your best self and not just reacting impulsively in the moment. At the very least sleep on it. There is always tomorrow.
Help & Support Others
One of the best ways to increase our own mood, happiness, and sense of purpose is to reach out and support others. Start the conversation and see where you can be of service.
Befriend The Inner Critic
We all have to some degree an active inner critic commentating on our efforts through life. One of the key skills of self-compassion and mindfulness is to learn how to accept that voice whilst also balancing it with a kinder internal dialogue.
Notice if Your Coping is Healthy
Sometimes in periods of stress and anxiety we turn to substances that numb the intensity of our feelings. Keep an eye on your alcohol intake and use of other substances. If you feel like these are getting out of balance, seek professional help early.
Feel the Feelings
Contrary to the hype, your feelings are not bigger than you. Find some time and private space to really drop into the felt experience of your ever-changing emotional world. Move lingering or challenging emotions into expression by talking with a friend, or doodling what you feel each morning. If it feels like too much, seek support.
Talk About It
Seek support and information from those you trust. Many have a tendency to isolate themselves when stressed. If that is you, break the pattern and reach out to others. There is also a moment in life when we will all benefit from speaking to a professional. Take recommendations and find a coach, therapist, or counsellor that you resonate with. Strengthen your support team.
Not everyone likes affirmations but if this one resonates with you, try reading it to yourself each morning, or create your own:
Just for today I will practice acceptance and embrace uncertainty.
Enjoy the ride, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
By Neil Seligman
*International Mindfulness Advocate and Conscious Visionary, Neil Seligman @neil.seligman is dedicated to sharing the power of mindfulness globally, transforming lives, and inspiring excellence in all aspects of human endeavour. He is the Founder of The Conscious Professional, the Author of 100 Mindfulness Meditations, and the Originator of Soul Portrait Photography.