At the moment it could be said that we’re having an en-masse crash course in managing uncertainty. For many people this will be a real challenge. You see certainty or a sense of control is an integral part of feeling safe, comfortable and like we’re “handling” things.
Tony Robbins has proposed that we have six “core needs”, four being needs of our personality; these are certainty/control, uncertainty/variety, connection/love, significance and two are needs of our spirit: growth and contribution. When I’m coaching I’m constantly listening for clues as to people’s priorities within these needs and in my experience, certainty is one of the strongest needs for the majority of people. Therefore it’s no wonder that our world is rocked when our perception of our ability to control our circumstances is lessened, such as during this current Covid-19 pandemic. Things that we might have previously taken for granted are now suddenly raised in priority when we realise that they’re on shaky ground. How very unsettling.
Here are a few of my suggestions for being able to make it through these uncertain times.
Shore up what you can
What I mean by this is try to manage the uncomfortable feelings associated with uncertainty by creating routine, structure and a sense of comfort and safety where possible.
Your health, a roof over your head, food, family and friends, hopefully a means of income. When life is reduced to these priorities, as it is for many at this time, securing what you can in each of these areas might be enough to be going on with right now. Many of us are learning some deep lessons around being grateful for what we have – and in some ways that’s a very good thing…
I believe that one of the reasons people are busying themselves with gardening, baking, cooking and the like is to create a soothing sense of being able to control something, even if small and somewhat fleeting. For many of us, work too is providing that sense of grounding in something known and at least to a certain extent familiar.
Build up your certainty in yourself
When things are swirling around – as they so often do, but particularly during times of large-scale uncertainty – building up your certainty around yourself can be a worthwhile investment of your time and headspace. Now could be a great time not only to develop your physical and mental wellbeing, but also to gain more clarity around who you really are, what’s important to you and what makes you tick.
Although navel-gazing might be the furthest thing from your mind at the moment (it’s fine if it is, above all be kind to yourself) consider that it could be a really useful thing to do to give you the means to move forward and assist with your decision-making as lockdown life eases into some kind of new version of normal.
Existential threats have been part of human life since, like, forever. And significant periods of collective upheaval have invariably led to new ways of thinking and doing. Now might be a great time to think deeply about this to help craft a new, more considered version of yourself. This could be a great opportunity to recalibrate and to strip away things and focuses that are less important to you, freeing yourself of mental clutter and gaining some clarity in the process.
Relax, nothing is under control
When you really stop and think about it, things are never guaranteed to be a certain way. That’s impossible. Just because something was so yesterday, doesn’t mean it will be so tomorrow. I personally have had many lessons in this and so has just about everyone I know. What we think of as being certain is just a convenient illusion, something to give us the perception and feeling of being in control, when in reality so much of what we experience is beyond our ability to control. When you put it like this, it almost seems laughable that we would even try to manage what is so obviously unmanageable, yet many of us expend considerable effort doing this every day.
We can’t predict the future – and that can feed our anxiety about what we may be facing, but if we can gain an awareness of and utilise our strengths, develop our resilience and a stronger sense of who we are, that can surely assist us to believe that we will be able to handle whatever is coming down the line. This might just be the most effective use of our focus and energy.