Shifting Your Perspective in a Time of Uncertainty
2020 – tragedy or adventure?
If we asked you about your 2020, would you identify with a tragedy, an adventure or a crisis of meaning? Perhaps all three and perhaps you’ve navigated between these as you’ve learned to live in a world with COVID, adapt your life, help others adapt, shift employment, or shift business focus?
Perhaps like many others, you’ve been busy trying to ‘work your way through’, to figure out ‘what happens next’ and getting busy trying to predict and control the next ‘happening’. If this has been your orientation, you’re more likely to have generated anxiety rather than answers.
In this article we’d like to offer a different orientation. We are reaching deep into our practice and offering a few ways for you to shift from what we call ‘living from negative assessments’ (assuming the worst and waking up to feel like this each day) to being able to accept the uncertainty and discomfort of this time.
Imagine waking each day to say, “I’m not sure what today will bring, but I am up for the adventure”.
What if you could shift from seeing these times as a tragedy to begin experiencing them as a great adventure? What if instead of a crisis of meaning, this time could be a chance to deepen your sense of what’s meaningful for you and your life?
What is Uncertainty?
Uncertainty arises for we humans when we are unable to predict or control what’s going to happen next. It is a fundamental part of living, yet for some reason, particularly in the West, we get ‘busy’ trying to craft our lives to be predictable, so that we feel a sense of comfort and safety in our daily drift.
We live in an illusion that we can predict and control our lives. We fail to see that most days bring unexpected experiences, and when we’re deeply invested in controlling our days, we see these as threats rather than the chance to navigate what’s happening and grow.
Uncertainty is also something we generate. This means that we, as observers of what’s happening, have a view about what is and what is not certain for us, and in that, we tend to take a position about our view. That position can be positive or negative. A negative position (or assessment) sounds like “I won’t have time to respond to that and it won’t go well if that happens” and a positive position sounds like “I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I know I’ll cope – this could be a great chance coming my way”.
The position or ‘stand we take’ in regard to uncertainty has a lot to do with how we feel about uncertainty. This differentiates those who regard uncertainty as the place of great adventures versus those who feel the threat of great tragedy.
If you would prefer the orientation of ‘great adventure’ and find yourself in ‘great tragedy’ the good news is that this can change. Here are a few ways for you to shift your perception.
1. Learn Acceptance
Learning acceptance is about recognising your likelihood to oppose what you cannot change. Opposing COVID, opposing changes to employment, opposing changes to life, opposing anything that does not meet your standards of ‘acceptable’.
What is it you find yourself opposing in your life right now? Clues that you’re opposing include feelings of anger, resentment or even feeling loss.
The pathway to letting go of opposing requires you to realise just how much energy you’re investing in opposing those things you cannot change and deciding to stop. You might realise how much energy this suffering takes and how you find yourself stuck on the same angry loop. You can decide to change it. This might sound pretty straight forward, but it’s a true act of will.
The trick with acceptance is that you don’t have to like it. In fact, this can be really helpful. You don’t have to like what’s happening, but you realise that continuing to ‘wage war’ against what you can’t change is really unhelpful and just brings about frustration.
What is it you can accept about these times, even if you don’t like it?
What difference would this make if you could ‘be with’ or ‘go with’ what’s happening?
How might you use the energy you once put to anger … more energy and time for yourself?
2. Learn To Live In Wonder
Wonder is the opposite mood to anxiety. Anxiety arises when we get busy trying to predict and control EVERYTHING that’s happening. Logically, this is an impossible task. Imagine all of the energy you might invest in trying to control your life this way.
In the case of anxiety, we tend to take a negative position. A negative position sounds like “what if this or that happens” or “I’ll never recover from that”.
What do you find yourself trying to predict and control?
What happens for you when you can’t predict what’s about to happen? Perhaps you find yourself not only feeling anxiety but a sense of frustration too?
To break free of these feelings requires another deliberate move. Wonder is this move.
We create an intervention for ourself and decide to ‘shift our story’. It means easing back from the intense need to know, because we recognise that we cannot know, that it takes a lot of energy to know, and we aspire to be able to be more at ease with things. Easier said than done, but it starts with an intention.
Wonder sounds like this. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but let’s see how it goes”. It involves a genuine fascination and the skill to be ‘present and available’ moment to moment. It’s in these moments when we’re present that opportunities present and when we are available to them, we can respond, adapt and learn. This is the space of innovation and creativity – ways we need to be in a time of COVID.
If you were able to stop trying to predict and control, what would that give you?
Does controlling and predicting really provide a sense of safety and predictability in your life?
What might your life be like if you adopted a more wonder-orientated stance?
3. Generate Ambition
Ambition is a tremendous ally in a time of COVID. It has an energy that brings about hope and enthusiasm, determination, persistence and courage. It sounds like “we can do this” and “let’s give it a go” and “let’s keep at it”.
Ambition and wonder, combined, are the spirit of a great adventure.
Ambition is about accepting possibilities. It overrides resignation and brings a fuel for action.
In our practice, for all of the challenges we’ve experienced in a time of COVID, we have equally seen the emergence of great feats in leadership. Leaders leading restructures in the midst of what felt like a ‘crisis’, leaders adapting course, leaders having conversations that reveal what it is to be human, and leaders a long way out of their comfort zone. Behind their action is this fuel for ‘creating the future’ rather than being victim to it. In all instances, it has been with deep acceptance they’ve been able to move forward – not necessarily liking what’s happened but determined to move on and generate their future. Ambition is the ultimate ally.
The way you perceive what’s happening in your world is a function of the story you’re investing in. To find new meaning you need to interrogate the narrative that lies below the mood you’re in.
Does your current narrative serve the story of the tragedy, or the adventure?
What will you do to change it?