I am rubbish at handling uncertainty. I don’t say that in a critical way, rather with awareness and acceptance . You are probably similar, possibly to a lesser degree, maybe even more. It’s human nature, part of our evolution. That’s a comforting thought. It is part of being a human and alive, with the majority of people being similar.
However uncertainty brings fears and hope, which left unchecked will ruin the present. So as I go through quite a lot of change (termed by HR professionals and insurance companies as “life events”…don’t like that term though) then how to manage my way through ?
It’s funny, I think, how we consider our past to be certain, a firm foundation to build off for the future, learning from mistakes, looking to repeat successes. However we know that the past in our head is our version. It’s influenced by emotions, positive and negative. It’s warped by how we like to think the past happened. It becomes part of a story, our story. But it’s not certain.
Consider how many people can witness the same event but remember different things and see the event in hindsight differently.
And the future, well that hasn’t happened yet. Despite whatever plans or hopes, there can be a zillion things that happen randomly, many unconnected or loosely related which make it what it is. They make now the only reality, whether it’s worse or better than we expected.
So if handling uncertainty is difficult what does that mean – just live in the now, with no plans for the future? What does that mean to hopes and dreams? What do we do with our worry and concern?
For me the big uncertainty issue is the mismatch of expectations and fears to the realistic. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have dreams. Dreams are great, can lead to wonderful insights and creativity. Being concerned about something can make you motivated, to do the best or to take action.
Both hope and fear can inspire us to great, wonderful things, small and big.
I think expectation is like a mountain range. You have this thing happening in a few weeks, really looking forward to it. You can see the peak there, it looks great. As you get closer it gets bigger, the excitement builds. Right up to the moment, you get to the peak thinking this is going to be great, dreamt about this for weeks and it’s going to be brilliant and aweso…..oh…not quite so good as thought…it is not like I imagined it…that’s a shame, bit distracted now…I mean it’s just not how it should be…spent ages waiting for this…. and down into the valley of disappointment we go.
How can we be disappointed in reality ? The peak is what it is. Our hopes, expectations cannot change that. If we can accept that, we might find the now more fun and less stressful.
Then there is the flip side, the fear of something. It can also appear as a mountain, dominating your thoughts and constantly on mind just being there, in front of you. Getting larger. The more it looms the more daunting it looks. The darker the clouds around the summit as you trudge upwards. Slowly reaching that moment at the peak …hold on…this isn’t as bad, it’s not great, but the clouds aren’t as dark as I thought…I mean it’s tolerable…in fact it’s okay…and down into the valley of relief, with a dose of self-criticism for the worry.
The reality is never as bad as the fear. The peak is what it is. Our fear, worries cannot change that. If we can accept that, we might find the now more fun and less stressful.
So it seems both fearful and hopeful uncertainty have similar outcomes , mainly the impact on now. I am not great at following these suggestions but I try to keep in mind:
- Be clear what the outcome is for you. That has to be and can only be defined by what you can influence and be accountable for.
- Manage the expectation. Ask yourself, is this picture of the future actually helping me right now to focus on the steps to get there and is it realistic?
- Manage the reality. If the reality doesn’t match expectations, don’t let that ruin the present. Focus on what is good and indeed different to what you expected. The expectation only existed in your head, don’t judge reality. If it’s better than you feared take a moment to relax, do not judge yourself for the worry you carried.
Those steps might just let you focus on the daily path to the mountain, rather than focus on the destination and to accept the reality when you reach that future moment.
Which then becomes now.
Are there other ways you manage uncertainty ? Maybe you agree or disagree with my thoughts. I would love to hear, but have no expectations : )
Have a lovely weekend, Chris