Thriving in Uncertainty

It’s easy to get carried away with our emotions during this pandemic. It’s easy to feel low and down. It only takes watching the news for a short while before we start feeling this way. It only adds to our woes that many countries are showing poor leadership at the helm, making the situation much worse than it should have been.

Common sense has become quite uncommon, and we are making the simple things complicated—for example, wearing masks, keeping 6 feet distance from others, and leaving our homes only for essential services/needs. Not to mention, we are making some of these things political for no rhyme or reason.

We have lost our humanity in many ways, and ergo, we are not doing the right things. We already know in our hearts and minds what we ought to be doing but we aren’t doing it, for many reasons.

It’s easy to get depressed about this ever-worsening situation. Our lives are challenging as it is, let alone in a pandemic. To be confined to our homes, and to be with our families 24/7 without having the space needed for our well being to function optimally, can be stressful for some. It’s no surprise that things will likely get worse before they get better anytime soon.

While all of that may be true, let’s not lose grip over ourselves. Despite whatever is going around us, let’s remind ourselves that we have the power to choose and respond appropriately. Our response is under our control.

There is no point in worrying or thinking about things that are outside of our control (though this is much easier said than done). Moreover, it’s not what happens to us that matters, but how we think about it and respond. There might be a light at the end of this tunnel, but for now we are in the dark as we search for a way out.

We need to accept the reality of our situations before we can change things. We need to be resilient in our thinking, which in turn determines our actions. Let’s see our problems as challenges; we must not only accept them, but embrace them wholeheartedly. Only those who are able to accept their reality in totality are the ones who are able to thrive.

This pandemic is a stark reminder to focus on those few things that are under our control. It’s not the first pandemic, and is unlikely to be the last. We can either use this time to be enslaved by our situation and become its victim, OR we can use this as an opportunity to make the most of our time. It always comes down to choice.

Let this also serve as a good reminder that there is nothing to achieve in life. How we live our life is infinitely more important than what we “accomplish”. Who we are is much greater than what we do.

The first thing we need to do is to not merely accept our reality, but fully take stock of and embrace it. This is a three-step process:

  1. First, we need to think about what is happening to us. We need to evaluate our circumstance. For instance, the economy is going bust, we are likely headed towards a recession, and we might lose business in the near term.

  2. Next, we need to anticipate the worst. Given the situation we find ourselves in, think about the worst that could happen to us, both personally and work-wise. Again, things are likely going to get worse before they get better. After thinking about these questions, it’s easy to get even more depressed, but the point isn’t to dwell on it, but rather to look at it objectively.

  3. Once you have a good answer to those two questions, then figure out what you can do so you use your energy to only focus on things you truly can change. Think about how you are going to ride the storm. How are you going to best navigate this change?

For instance, we could use our money only for the essential services and avoid any discretionary spending—but that is true regardless of any situation, and even more true now. Work-wise, we might focus our efforts even more on how we can use our strengths to help others and add value to their lives. It’s only when we are able to take stock of our situation that we can do something about it.

Of course, we also need to build our resilience before these things happen rather than waiting for the fact, so that when we encounter difficult times like these, we are well prepared in advance to navigate the storms. One way we can make ourselves more resilient is to play the long game (with an infinite mindset).

As individuals, we need to remind ourselves of our WHY, so we can pivot easily to better able to help others during these challenging times.

We need to focus on our Why rather than operate from our What. Rather than staying fixated on What we do, we need to ask ourselves Why we do what we do. Our Why helps us contextualize our What. It provides more flexibility and helps us pivot much better during the difficult times.

For instance, if you are providing a service (such as photography) and if you merely think of yourself as a service provider (commercial photographer, let’s say), it will be much more difficult for you to pivot to doing something else of value as opposed to when you have a clarity about your Why. If your Why happens to be “inspiring people to express their authentic selves”, photography is simply one of the Whats you did to realize your Why. When you are able to express your Why, it helps you pivot much easier and helps you add value to people’s lives regardless of external situations.

On a more personal level, one of the things we could do to be more resilient is to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. We can also build a significant buffer over time in the form of savings to weather the difficult times. This allows us to sustain ourselves and gives us time to pivot so we can continue to add value to people’s lives.

On an individual level, we need to help ourselves first before we can help others. We need time for ourselves, we need time for the work we do, and we need time for our relationships (family time)—it’s the trifecta of life. We do this by creating appropriate boundaries.

As a family, this might be a good time to define (or get reacquainted with) your family mission statement. It might also be a good opportunity to help our children become more independent so they can use their own resourcefulness and initiative to do things on their own. They already know in their hearts what the right thing is in most situations; we just need to encourage them to think for themselves in those situations, only coming to us when they truly need our help. Parenting is just another word for leadership.

I hope this draft gives you some ideas for thriving in uncertainty. Let’s not forget: The reason we have survived for so long as a species is not because we are the strongest, or the smartest, but because we are the most adaptable. While it’s hard to change, we can always learn to adapt. We can focus on what we need to do going forward, rather than worry about what we can’t change.

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