Dealing with uncertainty

A view of a mountainous landscape separated from the road by a warning sign.

These are unprecedented and uncertain times.

Covid-19 and the associated lockdown has meant all sorts of changes to the way we live, work, shop and interact.  Although things are brightening and we’ll be coming out of this soon, what exactly our brave new world will look like is uncertain.

What does our future look like?  What will the way we work look like?  Are our jobs safe?  Most importantly, are our loved ones safe?

The answer is that we simply just don’t know. For all of us, in some way, we are currently living in uncertain times.

David Rock, author of the best selling book, Your Brain at Work, explains how a lack of certainty can diminish the release of dopamine which is the feel-good, reward hormone.  When dopamine is absent we are more likely to feel fearful.  So if you, or somebody you know is struggling with uncertainty at the moment, here are some tips to help.

Be clear on what is and what isn’t uncertain

We are hearing a lot of phrases like “everything’s up in the air!”, or “it’s all uncertain!”.

Although lots of stuff is uncertain, not everything is.  For example, we know that things are opening up again.  That’s a fact.  We just don’t know exactly how the future of office working will look, and of course, this will be different for every company.

Focus on the shorter term

The further you look into the future, the more things look uncertain.  What’s happening right now, this week and next?  We can be more certain about that.

On the contrary, worrying about what the state of the world will be like this Christmas is unhelpful as it is so far away.

See it as an opportunity for positive change and possibilities

Full disclosure, I’m an optimist so this is easy for me, and not so for many others.

The truth is though that there are lots of positive things coming out of lockdown and Covid.  The past year has highlighted the kindness of people, communities coming together, and appreciation being shown for key-workers.

Also on a practical level, people have been learning to work in new ways, embracing technology and remote working.

Be prepared for what it could be

As an optimist, I need to take my own advice on this one.  I always assume that everything will be alright and often relish uncertainty.  The danger of this though, is that I don’t prepare enough for eventualities that might not go my way.

For example, if there is a chance you might lose your job, don’t ignore it.  Take action to start brushing up your CV and considering your options.

This is not about assuming the worst possible case, it’s just about doing some preparation so you know what you will do if it does happen.

Adopt a mindset of confidence in uncertainty

My brother works in the police and talks about what he calls ‘other-side-of-the-door thinking’.

Being a police officer means you deal with a lot of doors; knocking, banging, or even kicking them down.

But what you have to deal with on the other side of the door is never 100% known.  So, it is his job to be ready for whatever the situation holds; to be confident that he can handle it.

Now although we have never been through anything like this lockdown before, we have been through lots of challenging and uncertain times throughout our lives.

We need to remind ourselves that we do have the skills and resources to get through whatever the future holds.

Be confident that, although the future is uncertain, as humans we have amazing abilities to adapt.

Stay safe!

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