It’s inevitable that, at some point in your life, you’ll face uncertainty. You will experience a period when you don’t just don’t know…what the results of your efforts will be, where your next paycheck will come from, if your relationship will last, where you will go next, or if you or your loved ones will survive. You will have no way to predict the future. It will appear impossible to gain clarity on what’s coming next.
Uncertainty is a fact of life. As such, you have to learn to deal with it. Even better, learn to find certainty despite the uncertainty. If you can do that, you will thrive rather than survive in uncertain times.
The Year of Uncertainty
As I write this, much of the world is dealing with uncertainty in one form or another. Even as some countries open businesses, we remain amid a global pandemic that has deeply shaken our previous level of certainty and security. We really don’t know what the rest of this year will bring.
Many things in my life feel uncertain. I’m planning to launch a new program; I have no idea whether, in this economic environment, anyone will choose to invest in it. My husband, the primary breadwinner in the family, is between consulting gigs; he has no way of knowing when companies will begin looking for an interim CFO again. My daughter has just graduated grad school as a theatrical props artisan; the theater industry has shut down and may not open again until 2021. She has no idea how she will make a living until then—or even how many theaters will survive to have job openings. My son is a ballet dancer in Germany; his season was canceled, and he isn’t sure if or when the next season will begin. My mother turned 96 while we were all sheltering at home; I have no idea if I will get to see her this year…or ever again.
Learn to Live with Uncertainty
None of us can predict the future. It’s impossible to know what will happen to the economy, if our loved ones will remain healthy and alive, if we will have a job or a business a month from now, when we can start making future plans, when we can see friends, or if we will be able to return to a semblance of normal soon. Uncertainty is part and parcel of the Covid-19 pandemic.
If this situation has taught us anything, it’s that we need to learn how to deal and live with uncertainty. It has also demonstrated the need to learn to thrive in uncertain times.
How do you do that? The following six strategies are certain (excuse the pun) to help. Let’s look at each one.
Since Covid-19 began to wreak havoc in the United States, I’ve often told my daughter, “You just can’t know. Therefore, all you can do is accept whatever is in this moment, and be present to and grateful for that.”
As Ram Dass would say, “All you can do is be here now.” Learn to be okay in and to focus on what is certain in each moment. In fact, the only moment you ever have any certainty on is this moment. So be present to that.
I realize being present can feel hard when your mind wants to train itself on the future. In fact, your mind strives for certainty about the future when there is a lack of it. Yet, you never truly know what’s coming next. Anything—even the most certain thing—can change in an instant.
As long as you’re thinking about the future or the past, you’re not in the present moment. To gain certainty, frequently ask yourself, “Where am I right now?” “How am I feeling right now?” “What am I experiencing with my senses right now.”
That present-moment focus helps you focus on the now. As a result, you’ll feel more secure and confident.
The more you fight against the fact that life feels uncertain, the more unhappy, stressed, and fearful you’ll become. Frequently, remind yourself that uncertainty is natural and that it’s fine not to know.
Yes, it can feel tough to accept that you simply cannot know something with certainty at this moment. So, challenge yourself differently—challenge yourself not to push against uncertainty. Allow uncertainty to be part of your life without judgment or dislike.
Tell yourself, “Right now, things are uncertain, and there’s nothing I can do about that. So, I’m going to allow myself to be okay with the uncertainty…at least for right now.” Come back to that affirmation as often as necessary to feel calmer and more centered.
Identify Areas of Certainty
Direct your mind away from uncertainty and toward certainty. Think about the things you know for sure. You can even use Oprah’s statement: What I know for sure is…”
Make a list of the things you are sure about. For instance, are you safe right now? Do you have food in the refrigerator—and how long will that food last? Are you healthy? Do you have money in the bank—and is it enough to pay bills for three or six months? Where are you and with whom? Do you know that you love your children, spouse, or parents? Are you sure that the sun will come out tomorrow and the sun will set today? Are you sure that the flowers are going to bloom? Do you know that you have the skills to get a job when this is over? Are you confident that you’ve done everything you can to be prepared for whatever the future brings?
Your answers to these types of questions will help you focus on certainty. With your mind trained on “what you know for sure,” your level of uncertainty will decrease. As it does, you’ll feel calmer and more confident.
Look for Options, Opportunities, and Possibilities
If you’re going to let your mind focus on the future, direct it to consider options, opportunities, and possibilities. You will, of course, be playing in the realm of uncertainty, but trying to develop a future plan can provide a higher degree of certainty and confidence.
Again, use powerful questions. Ask yourself, “What options will I have now or in the future?” “What opportunities does this situation provide?” “What possibilities can I imagine?” Use your answers as the foundation for developing a strategy.
You might, for instance, brainstorm how you will respond to businesses opening. Perhaps the fact that your industry is totally closed right now will provide an opportunity in six months. What might that be, and how would you put yourself in an excellent position to take advantage of it? What could you do now to prepare?
You might want to have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Each one offers a strategy for an option, opportunity, or possibility you’ve identified.
To remain in the moment rather than the future, think about the options, opportunities, and possibilities available right now. This positive line of thinking can provide a much higher degree of certainty.
Manage Your Focus
For most people, their focus on an uncertain future sends them into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions. They feel increasingly more depressed, anxious, and fearful. That’s what happens if you don’t manage your mind.
When faced with uncertainty, your mind will automatically focus on negative “what if” thoughts about the future. It won’t consider the positive potentialities.
That’s why you must manage your attention. Don’t allow yourself to think constantly about how horrible things could be in the future. Instead, force yourself to think about this moment or positive options, opportunities, or possibilities for the future.
To accomplish this, you may have to stop listening to the news or to the naysayers. Instead, visualize your desired future.
From a Law of Attraction standpoint, times of uncertainty are powerful opportunities to focus on what you want (rather than on what you don’t want). Spend lots of time dreaming and feeling good about what you could create in the future.
Focus your attention on gratitude. Feel grateful for people who will shop for you, so you are less exposed to Covid-19; your family, who are with you or reach out to you daily; the first responders risking their lives; a few minutes of laughter; and Spring and the blooming flowers. Appreciate anything and everything.
Gratitude grounds you in the present and the things about which you feel certain. Plus, the positive energy of gratitude makes helps you feel better about life—even you are experiencing a high degree of uncertainty.
Take Inspired Action
When you feel uncertain, get clarity on your purpose. What do you think you are meant to do in this lifetime?
Maybe your purpose is to care for or support your family. Perhaps it’s to be of service. Or you might feel you are supposed to be a healer, writer, or coach, and to positively impact people in that way.
If you don’t possess a sense of calling or mission, you can choose your purpose.
Now, identify your passion. What are you excited about or so interested in that you can’t stop talking about the topic?
Combine that passion with your purpose. When you do, you’ll feel inspired.
Inspiration leads to greater certainty about the next best action steps to take. You become motivated to take what I call “inspired action.”
Give yourself certainty by taking inspired action. Act boldly as a way to move forward courageously despite uncertainty.
Thrive During Uncertain Times
I know living with uncertainty can feel challenging. I struggle with it, too. I’m a huge planner and fixer and always want to find solutions…some way to move forward even if I’m not certain.
That can leave me running in circles and feeling super frustrated and anxious. So, I try to avoid that scenario. Instead, I practice staying present, accepting uncertainty, acknowledge certainty, looking for options, opportunities, and possibilities, managing my focus, and taking inspired action.
What I know for sure is that these six strategies help me, and they help my clients, friends, and family, too. So, instead of feeling challenged by uncertainty, challenge yourself to put them to use now—during the Covid-19 pandemic and any time you are faced with uncertainty. Learn to use them, and, instead of struggling with uncertainty, you’ll move forward with courage and confidence. You’ll thrive during uncertain times.
How do you find certainty in uncertain times? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this with someone who feels afraid.
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