By: Kate Patulski
Regardless of your age, you’ve probably had your share of uncertainty in your life and, since you are reading this, you’ve made it through those times.
Uncertainty is a fact of life. We live in a world that is constantly changing. There is no escaping the feeling of uncertainty. How you move through uncertain times, however, is completely within your control. How you do it will have a significant impact on your overall health, well-being, and life experience.
I remember the financial crisis well over a decade ago and the resulting global economic downturn. We had two children in college, another in private school, and we were just starting a new business venture. The effect of a sizable net worth loss and the uncertainty as to where the world was going was overwhelming. It was a bath we couldn’t afford to soak in too long. The fact that we were parents and coaches meant people would depend on us to pull them through their own uncertainty. People needed us more than ever. Thankfully, we had learned a lot about dealing with uncertainty during 9/11. We took what we learned during that time and leaned on every tool we had to help us feel more certain, positioning us to lead others.
By training and development, I would say I work from a mindset of abundance and optimism, looking past the event currently creating the uncertainty. This approach reduces the fear response of the brain so often associated with uncertainty. When you face uncertain times and give your attention to the uncertainty of the situation, it’s not unusual that your amygdala floods with cortisol, creating a state known as brain hijack. In this state, thinking becomes illogical, driving irrational behaviors. It is the results of the decisions made and supporting actions during this time that can have a significant negative impact on your future. Learning to self-regulate keeps your brain in a healthy state, which positions you to create more certainty. This sense of certainty is what will allow you to make better decisions for yourself, your family, and your business and move through our ever-changing world feeling more in control and empowered.
Here are some tools/strategies you can use to keep your brain in a healthy state and feel more certain and confident as you move through uncertain times:
Meditation has been shown to dramatically reduce the stress response of the brain and lower cortisol levels while increasing dopamine. Meditation is one of the best tools for self-regulation. The Chopra Center has a number of 30-day meditation practices. The commitment of 15 minutes a day can dramatically change how you feel and respond to the world around you. Apps like Calm, Breethe, Headspace, and Simple Habit are also great options.
Mindfulness is simply becoming more aware of your thoughts, your breathing, and your body. A simple practice at the beginning of each day, right after waking, would be:
- Sit in a chair in a relaxed position. Close your eyes and connect with the sensation of your body sitting in the chair.
- Take 3 long nourishing breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your breathing take on its own rhythm, just paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe.
- As you settle into your breathing, ask yourself: “What is my intention for today?” Other prompts to help you identify your intention might be: “How might I show up today to have the greatest impact? What would have me feel more connected today? What do I need from myself today? What quality would I like to bring to the world today?”
- Set your intention for the day. An example might be, “Today I intend to empower others around me by demonstrating a calm, focused, and tenacious attitude while having fun in the process”.
- Check in with yourself throughout the day. Stop throughout the day and revisit your intention. Notice how just looking at your intention changes your energy. If needed, take some deep cleansing breaths – breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, repeat four times.
Many people will shut down during uncertain times and confuse shutting down with letting go. Shutting down amplifies the feeling of uncertainty and loss of control. This shutdown is typically a byproduct of your brain state. You have control over creating a healthy brain state, and it’s why we started our list with meditation and mindfulness. Remember to start there before proceeding to take responsibility.
Learn to take responsibility for where you are. Go back to your goals and your plan. Notice what the plan requires of you or your organization. Learn to adapt if necessary. You’ll have far more control over your future if you measure your actions against your results. Knowledge is power. Change simply for the sake of change is never the best business decision, yet happens often to those that fail to create a plan, follow the plan, and measure against the plan.
Action based on a plan breeds momentum and creates inspiration for the future.
Shift Your Focus
There are too many things that happen in the world you have no control over. As troubling as the circumstances are between Russia and the Ukraine, you have no control over it. Remember that uncertainty is often caused by things you have no control over. The more you attempt to control these events, the more anxious you’ll become. Focus your energy on the things you can control: your emotions, your thoughts, your actions, and your words. Trust me, you’ll feel far more empowered if you begin your day with identifying what you can control and you give that list your attention.
Create a Vision
When you’re faced with uncertainty, having a vision of the future will be extremely valuable. Vision allows you to look past the moment you’re in and give your attention to a bigger and brighter future. Any time you are in a situation that creates a feeling of uncertainty, it also gives way to a new desire. If you don’t want what you are currently experiencing, what do you want? Sit with this question until you find an answer. The vision doesn’t have to be something that changes the world, but it must be something that excites you and speaks to you.
I’ve seen people during my coaching career that will start to question the significance of their work once they see any chaos in the world around them. I remember an early coach of mine said this to me after the sudden loss of my brother and the disengagement I felt with my business, “Earning more money will solve 99% of your problems”. Trust me, when he said it, I resisted it and was actually insulted by his statement. He encouraged me to go back and make a list of everything that I worried about or considered a problem. When I brought the list back and we went through it together, I understood his comment. If I could earn money, I could also solve a lot of my own problems and the problems of the people in my life, in my community, and in the world. He was attempting to help me see the value I can add just by showing up in my role. My position had a far bigger reach than just doing a transaction. The work I did actually mattered!
Control Your Environment
Stop minimizing the importance of what you expose your mind to. Whatever you listen to or watch, whoever you hang around, whatever you’re scrolling on social media, and whatever you talk about most often, will have a significant impact on the state of your brain. Whatever you input, is exactly what you will output.
Ghandi said, “I will not let another walk on my mind with their dirty feet”. He clearly understood the importance of protecting the health of his mind in order to effectively do his work in the world. Like Ghandi, be selective in what you expose your mind to. If something doesn’t inspire you or cause you to feel empowered, stop watching it or listening to it. If you are responsible for leading other people and they require more energy from you right now, you need to increase the amount of positive fuel you pour into your brain. This fuel can come from sources like prayer, reading, listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video, taking a walk in nature, doing yoga, watching a funny movie, meditating, etc…
Life is not happening to you, you are creating it. If you want to contribute to the world around you in an effective way or make an impact on those that matter most to you, learning to create certainty in uncertain times is not an option, it is a requirement. It doesn’t happen overnight and, I promise, with practice, you will find yourself more empowered to create the life you desire.