Dealing with uncertainty and change

As humans, we mostly like things to stay the same, we like order, predictability and consistency.

Most of us are fairly resilient to a number of unexpected events and can tolerate change and unpredictability to a certain extent. Some of us can even thrive in such situations.

What makes the difference between thriving in an ever-changing world and floundering is whether we see the uncertainty and change as a threat or a challenge. We can easily feel overwhelmed when faced with ever-changing situations or problems to deal with and this can leave us feeling somewhat helpless and inadequate.

For example, someone who thrives in uncertainty may love the challenge of coming up with creative ideas in finding a solution or making it work. Someone who flounders will seek to find the obstacles, the problems, the issues and the certain failure.

Our response to uncertainty comes from a primal instinct that is designed to keep us alive, to look for the threat. Some say this is the rational right-brain thinker, that strives to analyse the potential situation, look for all the past negative experiences that have occurred previously (whilst editing out the positives) to form a considered expectation about what is likely to happen - usually negative and catastrophic.

As you can see, this approach is destined to keep the person who thinks mostly this way, stuck in a cycle of perceived threat and fight, flight, freeze and fawn phenomenon. This then creates a destructive cycle, as each time an uncertain or changeable situation occurs, this way of thinking strengthens the perceived belief that everything goes wrong and looks for the problem, not the solution.

Those that have overcome this outdated primal instinct have learnt to use a different part of their brain, thought to be the creative left-brain thinker.

This way of thinking varies vastly from the former in a number of key ways. When faced with a new, uncertain or changeable situation, the thought process goes something like this:

  • How many ways can I think of (without analysis or judgement) to resolve or overcome this that may work, no matter how crazy?
  • Which of those ideas is viable? Which of those that are viable is most likely to work?
  • Which is my best option? Great, I'll do that!

This is done in a matter of seconds, with certainty. Unlike the person who flounders in such situations, this kind of person has created this thought process and it has become an autopilot response. It takes minimal effort and actually is fun and inspiring, thus improving the ability to be creative in thought process and come up with solutions, not problems.

To begin with, if you're unfamiliar with this process then it'll feel a bit clunky. It will take effort, and you might need to write your ideas down on a piece of paper. I'd suggest allowing at least 10-20 minutes to learn this, with practice it will be whittled down to a few seconds.

You'll notice that at first, you will dismiss ideas almost immediately with a 'that won't work' response or something similar. Don't worry, this is to be expected. It is part of what is keeping you stuck in the cycle of angst around uncertainty and change.

Fearful woman

It's your judgement that has become an autopilot but one that is destined for the 'everything goes wrong' destination. It's an automated way of thinking that has simply become very quick - just like the person who is automatically able to think of lots of solutions, you've become really good at finding all problems - even to the solutions!

To overcome this default negative judgement pattern you are running on autopilot.

Think of the game hide and seek only in this game the negative judgement is the saboteur that is hiding. In the game of hide and seek, once the hider is found, it is game over. In this case, once you are aware of the negative judgement of ideas and solutions are noticed (especially in a fun way), it switches your brain from rational, analytical right-brain thinking to creative solution-focused left-brain thinking. The judgement loses its power to judge the ideas.

Feel free to name your negative judgemental autopilot, it's time he/she took a vacation!

Every time you notice that you are beginning to panic, get overwhelmed or feel helpless in an uncertain or changing situation, pause for a moment...

Then:

  • Write down as many creative ways to find a solution, resolve a problem or think of a way out as you can.
  • Each time you hear the dismissiveness or judgement that keeps you stuck, say out loud 'I see you! Game over.'
  • Then look at your list of creative ideas and pick the viable ones, that are likely to work.
  • Then look at those options and decide which is your best option. 
  • Then do that.

Please note: There are reasonability and ecology checks to make here and I hope all the readers are aware of making sure that any decision made or ideas acted upon are reasonable. Don't harm anybody and fit with who you are and your environment.

There is a saying that I used frequently to help me move from the problem-focused, 'disaster will happen' mode to the creative solution-focused way of thinking:

You can only make the best decision you make at the time you make it based on the information to hand, your knowledge, your experience, your understanding.

That is all any of us are doing. Making the best decisions we can at the time we make them.

If new information or understanding comes to light, then repeat the process.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

Written by Nikki Emerton

Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

Having spent the majority of my adult life not really knowing how to be resilient to life's ups and downs, I discovered NLP, hypnotherapy and coaching. I've found this invaluable in my own life and now use the skills I have learnt and the experiences I have had to help others change their thoughts and behaviours to achieve health and happiness.

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