Five Ways to Create Certainty in Uncertain Times
By Martin McPhilimey
This COVID period has taught us that many people in today’s world are not as resilient as they’d hope. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a challenging situation. While we are still in the early recovery days, you can see from the prevalence of anxiety that there’s cause for concern regarding the future of mental health. The media doesn’t help; however, there has been a change in energy despite not watching any mainstream news. There’s much uncertainty in the world right now, and for many, the future is bleak and rightly so because it’s only natural to fear the unknown.
There is, however, also opportunity in uncertainty. Still, while you live in fear and anxiety, you will never be open to receiving the signs of future prospects because risk perception is heightened. Therefore many will rule out their chances of success or happiness without even considering its potentiality.
In my opinion, and many people alike, the ones most at risk of stress and anxiety are those trying to figure out their future. Meaning the kids who are finishing school and attempting to start up their careers, or the people who have lost their jobs because technology has taken their position or their skills have become invalid in today’s society. We can all agree that choosing a career at just 16-18 years old is already challenging, and change at the age of 50 with the idea of starting a new job is daunting. Imagine trying to do that during a period where so many jobs are lost, businesses are being destroyed, and the world is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up with the evolution.
This article might not reach those teenagers, I hope it does, providing some valuable insights. Still, it may get to parents, partners, teachers, or mentors who could support such individuals, or perhaps you, the reader, even needs this information yourself because of your own battles. So, due to my current thought train and empathy towards people currently making life-changing decisions, I have put together five ways to create certainty in uncertain times to use these practices in your life despite not knowing future outcomes.
Being truthful with yourself can hurt. It’s much easier to blame the environment or the situation to resolve your inner tension so that you can sit back and not have to do the hard work or feel further concern, but that will not create certainty. For example, over the past 18 months, many people in business would have backed off and decided to shut down as it’s easy enough to blame the government, policies, or the virus itself for restrictions or lockdowns. Another way to fall into the trap of being a victim is to sit in hope and just watch as things unfold. This inaction is taking the path of least resistance, and that doesn’t put you in a position of power, especially if those around you are choosing to take action to put themselves in a pole position.
Asking yourself a simple question such as,
“what things are in my control that will help me continue to move forward?”
That’s a great place to start.
When Coronavirus first hit and we had a short lockdown here in Perth, it looked bleak for the company I worked for. The CEO was in a panic state. However, I could ask myself questions such as ‘what can we do to keep cash flow moving through the company’ to keep it open and possibly alive. Within 24 hours, I had written a proposal to turn a medical diagnostic company into a mobile medical diagnostics company. Within a few days, we continued to serve our patients as the rules stated that we could no longer see patients face-to-face. That meant we could turn the service into a click and collect and use online video and phone to talk the patients through our sleep studies and therapy options. A spur of creative genius.
By asking myself that question allowed us to take back some control. By embracing change rather than hiding from it, we were able to take responsibility for the situation and, as a collective, continue running a business putting us in a prime position for growth, leading to us coming out in front of the first corner when our competitors decided to re-open.
Shift Your Focus
Uncertainty leads to anxiety, and thus fear becomes a distraction. When things happen out of your control, i.e. someone else’s actions or a sudden dramatic event, the instinctual action is to try and control the situation or circumstances. Unfortunately, this is often an impossible illusion leading to a heightened stress state and inability to think clearly.
The consumption by fear takes up all focus, creating the perception of uncertainty. However, in such times it’s important to remember that you can shift your focus. For instance, you can move your thoughts, emotions and feelings as long as you can focus on self-love.
A friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend, and he came to me for support. What was evident through our conversation was the fact that his focus was on trying to get her back or change her mind, a power-play saw during breakups. In doing this, he was anxious due to holding onto certain beliefs, creating uncertainty about whether his partner would be a part of his life or not, which ultimately led to sabotaging behaviours through frustration and anger stemming from lack of control.
When I asked him where his focus is placed, he soon realised that all his attention is on her rather than himself, which often can lead to negative masculine behaviours such as those described above. Therefore we put some plans in place for him to focus on the things that he loves for himself.
Shifting focus onto what you genuinely love is a powerful way to create certainty in life because it gives control of your own positive emotion and leaves you feeling empowered and confident rather than stressed and anxious.
Create A Vision
One of the issues that lead to uncertainty when something unexpected happens is not having a large enough personal vision. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people in employment to put all their eggs all in one basket by leading a life based on someone else’s goals making it challenging to meander through life when things change.
Visualisation is powerful because it opens up your mind to receive direction information. There’s a famous parable in the bible that says;
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
In a spiritual sense, this means sitting in prayer and asking for what you want, and eventually, it will be given to you. I don’t mean you can sit there with your eyes close and ask for a million dollars, and it will turn up on the doorstep. But, more so, being able to visualise clearly in your mind’s eye what you want so you are open to receiving the opportunities to move forward towards your vision as they appear.
In a biological and psychological sense, there’s science behind this concept. There is a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or RAS for short. The role of the RAS is to filter perception, so you see more of that which you value. For example, have you ever purchased a car or an item of clothing and then suddenly noticed it’s everywhere. That’s not because everyone else has gone out and bought it; it’s simply now more valuable to your RAS and feeds into your conscious awareness.
You see, we can only hold and observe a limited amount of information, hence why most phone numbers are no more than seven digits long. However, if you are not clear on what you want, how will you ever be aware of the information or opportunities that will move you towards your vision? You won’t, and hence you will continue to live in uncertainty.
I can give you a fantastic example of how visualisation practices have changed my life. About a year ago, I completed a vision board. I put the words “My life of freedom” in a bubble in the centre of a piece of A3 paper and started to mind map what my life would look like if I were to live in a manner that genuinely makes me feel free from burdens. I delved into business, hobbies, and family topics and went into specifics of the values, personality, and desires that my future partner would hold. Six months later, I met a girl I thought was fantastic, but we were only friends because I was not ready for a relationship. After that, the dynamic started to change; upon reflection of my vision, she fit 8 out of 9 characteristics I had written down. However, If I wasn’t clear about who I wanted in my life, I may still be uncertain or naïve to each relationship opportunity that came up.
Once you know what you want, you are then able to take up the opportunities that move you towards it, leading to further positive emotion creating certainty because just like, Paulo Coelho states in his book The Alchemist
“When you truly want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
Adopt a Routine
A common issue with unexpected problems is that it can wipe out almost all structures and routines. Innately humans are lazy creatures; practically all of our energy goes towards actions that will help us survive and procreate. We need to cover basic human needs before we can think about moving towards our potential. Therefore the nervous system likes to create repetitive habits and behaviours to be more efficient, to save time and energy, giving us a greater chance of getting our biological needs met.
If all of a sudden you’ve lost your job and no longer hold onto the routine of waking up and going to sleep at a regular time, or if you go about your day with no prior planning, it’s going to lead to further uncertainty. As a result, leaving you with very little energy because your mind constantly has to make conscious decisions on what’s happening next. In such situations, it’s all so easy to lay around, relinquish control and shut down. However, that’s not going to be helpful physically, emotionally or spiritually.
Routine and rituals have played a considerable role in the development of humanity for thousands of years. Even in times of uncertainty if you can create a morning routine, a schedule to fit your day, and a bedtime routine. Little by little, you begin to develop some forward movement. Stacking habits alongside each other builds momentum, and it soon becomes a clear path to your vision. Then, you can demolish uncertainty with the proper rituals. You make order amongst the chaos, which the Taoist philosophers once said is the pathway to giving life meaning.
The key to continual motivation is to reward the progress you’ve already made. It also solidifies certainty in your actions because you can see how far you have come. Finally, it’s a means to self validate and provide yourself with the confidence of being on the right track.
“Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today.”
With uncertainty, it can become easy to be envious of others who have what you crave, often a need to feel safe. However, as mentioned previously, this is putting the focus in the wrong place. When you are lost or trapped in an emotional fog, it can be challenging to focus on your own achievements. But by setting SMART goals, tracking your progress, and celebrating your successes, no matter how big or small, you can bring a sense of structure and certainty to an otherwise chaotic time and start building something new.
Creating the life you want in uncertain times is about being open to what ‘is’ rather than what ‘could be.’ It’s about being present in the moment and creating a vision in the mind’s eyes. It’s a creative, intuitive state of being able to love and nurture yourself and others around you by asking yourself what you truly want, sitting with it, seeing it, feeling it, and enjoying the playful dance of a turbulent yet energetic flow. This chaotic but beautiful state allows you to connect with others and connect with your higher self, who can shape the dots to help you cement certainty into your life.
Uncertain times, no matter how devastating they feel in the moment, do not have to define your life. You still get to make decisions and have a choice in your actions. By following these tips, you can truly take back the power no matter how lost you may feel. At any given moment, you can tap into the creative genius and become the rightful owner of your certainty and an alchemist of your destiny.