Many of you already know Dr. John Ryan – NLP Master Trainer with us at the Empowerment Partnership. Dr. John wrote a great article recently about our necessity to create certainty even in uncertain conditions and I want to share it with you. Enjoy!
Guest Blog – By Dr. John Ryan
Creating Certainty Out of Chaos
The world is changing. Well, I suppose that’s not really news because the truth is that the world is, has been, and will always be changing. The difference is the degree of change and the speed at which it is occurring.
Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, circa 500 BCE said, “The only constant in life is change.” As true as that statement is, I think we can modify it a bit to reflect the times we live in. In modern times, change isn’t constant, it’s ever-present. Yes, change is constantly present, but the rate of change is increasing. Not only that, it’s increasing at an increasing rate. It’s increasing at an exponential rate. That means the world will change faster and more drastically than ever before.
As a result, we need to learn how to create certainty even in uncertain conditions. And the reason this is so important is that we need certainty. Without certainty, we experience stress, fear, anxiety, all of which compromise the immune system and makes us more vulnerable to illness. We need certainty to help us get out of fight-or-flight mode. We need certainty to create stability for ourselves and others. We need certainty to help us move forward on the path before us.
The Basis of Certainty
What is certainty? Certainty means different things to different people based on what’s important to them. For many people, It’s a feeling of stability. It’s a feeling of normalcy. It’s safety and security. It’s faith or a belief that things are going to work out.
If you look at all those definitions, they are based on feelings and beliefs. Feelings and beliefs that things either are okay or that they will be okay. It’s a mental construct based on our rules for how things need to be in the present or how we believe they will be in the future.
Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The basic needs that we all have are Physiological Needs. Food, water, and shelter. In times of crisis, we take an inventory of our situation and we do so from the bottom up. We don’t start at the top, we don’t typically say, am I self-actualizing right now? Instead, we go back to the basics to find that certainty.
For example, if we lose a job, quite often we start by taking an inventory of our basic resources. Do I have food and water? Do I have shelter? How much money do I have available? How long can I survive without additional income? Perhaps you decide you can last six months based on current resources. That gives you time to breathe and to create a plan of action to generate income to create more certainty.
If you don’t have those resources, if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, if you don’t know how you’re going to keep a roof over your family’s head, that’s going to create some stress because of the uncertainty.
And that stress isn’t a bad thing. Stress makes you pay attention. Yes, there is such a thing as too much stress which can compromise the immune system and overwhelm us to the point where we’re unable to take action, but it’s appropriate to have a certain amount of stress when there is a possibility that you can’t meet your basic Physiological Needs.
That stress is a survival response. The feeling of stress is a signal that is telling you to pay attention to your situation and to do what you need to in order to navigate the challenge. As long as you listen to that signal and respond appropriately, you can reduce the stress and create certainty even amidst chaos.
Here are five things you can do to start creating certainty in your world today:
Take an Inventory
First, as described above, take an inventory of where you are in terms of your basic needs. Maslow referred to these as the Lower-Order Needs including Physiological, Safety, and Belonging. These are the needs that we have for survival. Even Belonging, including connection, is part of this category. We are social creates. We crave connection. Babies, for instance, need touch, connection, and attention to thrive. That need remains with us throughout our lives.
Taking an inventory is something we intuitively do when things change significantly. We step back and evaluate our lives to answer the question, “Am I going to be okay?” And once we answer that question sufficiently, we start to see that path towards a more certain future. Then we shift from wondering if we’re going to be okay to knowing that we’re going to be okay.
We begin to have an increased gratitude for the things and the people we have around us. We say things like, “We’ve got food on the table, we’ve got a roof over our heads, and we’ve got each other. What else do we need?”
Those gratitude-filled statements are the walls that keep the chaos at bay. The world may not have changed, but the perception of it has because we found our footing. As long as we have this, we’ll be okay.
That foundation creates strength. It creates solidarity. It creates resiliency. From that place of resiliency, we can shift our focus from the present to the future which is the next step.
Identify Your Outcomes
Once you have your foundation established by taking inventory and addressing any gaps that need to be addressed, then we can begin to shift our attention from the short-term to the long-term. We do this by identifying our Outcome.
We are an incredibly goal-oriented species. The world has been and is continued to be shaped by the goals that we set. In times of crisis and dramatic change, goals are even more important. One of the challenges in setting goals during turbulent times is that the conditions around us keep changing. We ask, “How can I decide what I want to do when I don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like?”
That’s a fair question. The reality is that we never know what tomorrow is going to look like. We never have. That hasn’t stopped us from setting goals in the past. The difference is that in times of great change, that uncertainty is amplified. We see the uncertainty and the ambiguity more clearly which makes us a little more hesitant in creating plans and objectives. When in fact, having goals is more important than ever in such situations because they give us a sense of purpose.
Goals help us create a sense of certainty in the future. We may not know how we’re going to get there but we know where we’re going and that’s half the battle.
Despite the uncertainty, force yourself to identify your goals. You may not want to make 10-year goals, but rather short-term and medium-term goals. Where do you want to be six months from now or a year from now?
Stephen Covey said, “Everything is created twice, first in the mind, then in reality.” To change the reality around us, we need to start by changing the reality inside us. That begins with identifying your goals.
Create an Action Plan
After you’ve identified your goals, then it’s about creating an action plan. This, in itself, creates some normalcy, because this is what we do regularly. We identify goals, we create lists of tasks, and then we get to work. Simply creating and implementing an action plan gives us direction and it gives us a way to positively direct our energy.
Uncertainty brings up feeling and with those feelings often comes a surge of energy. Without direction, that energy can be used counterproductively through worry, rumination, and fear. Instead, with a clear goal, a clear set of actions to take, we can use that energy to improve our situation in the present or to decrease our uncertainty about the future.
Manage Your Mindset
Although we’ve been talking about steps and actions to take to increase your certainty during uncertain times, what we’ve really been talking about is your mindset. Taking an inventory of the resources you have creates certainty and potentially gratitude in the moment. Setting a goal creates positive feelings towards the future. Creating and implementing actions utilizes the energy you have in a positive way which directs our attention and also helps us feel better because at least we’re doing something.
In that sense, managing your mindset may be the most important thing to do to create certainty. After all, that feeling of certainty comes from you and your mindset.
To manage your mindset, make sure that you’re mindful of what you’re putting in your mind. In today’s media, there is negativity everywhere. Minimize that exposure. Yes, stay informed. Seek out the information you need to keep you and your family safe, but if you’re getting sucked into the negativity and the drama, that’s going to bring you back to a fight-or-flight response and you’ll start operating from fear rather than faith. Remember the idea, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”
In addition to paying attention to what you’re putting in your mind, pay attention to what you’re putting in your body. The same principle applies. Make sure you’re feeding all of your bodies, Spiritually, Mentally, Emotionally, and Physically. As above, so below; as below, so above.
If you really want to enhance your sense of certainty, help others. Support others through their challenges too. Not with an expectation of reciprocity but from a place of giving. The simple act of giving and helping others sends a message to you and your unconscious mind that there is more than enough, that you are in abundance.
While helping others feels good and helps us to have a sense of abundance, it also allows us to connect with others and fill the need for connection. And sometimes all you need to support someone is to connect with them. A simple check-in to say that you’re thinking of them and you’re wondering how they’re doing, that creates connection and it deepens the relationship.
What’s great about investing in a relationship like that is that unlike physical resources, when you give someone your energy like that, it doesn’t take away from yours. In fact, as you give people your energy, your energy expands as well.
Putting Them All Together
These certainly aren’t the only things you can do to create certainty during uncertain times, but they are fundamental. Start by incorporating these ideas today to enhance your sense of certainty and continue to add more concepts like these on the way.
Start by taking an inventory of what you have, if you haven’t already done so. Take action to fill in any gaps that you have in Physiological or Safety Needs. Build walls of gratitude by being thankful for the resources and people you have with you or in your life, in order to keep the chaos at bay.
Identify your goals to create direction and purpose and start taking action toward those goals. And manage your mindset while supporting others along the way. If you do these things, you may find that you have a greater sense of certainty in the present and the future, regardless of the chaos that surrounds you.
Dr. John Ryan, MBA, MSW – As a Certified Trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a Certified Sales Trainer and Coach, Dr. John’s mission is to empower others to create successful and fulfilling lives. For Dr. John Ryan’s full bio, please click here.