Over the next few months, LUX columnist and life coach Simon Hodges will be drawing on his own personal experiences and case studies to explore how we can move away from a place of fear to thrive amidst uncertainty
We are wired to need certainty
From an early age, we are pre-programmed to put an incredibly high value on the need for certainty in our lives. So much of the subliminal messaging which floods us every day is shot through with the idea that we have to tick certain boxes so we can eventually match someone else’s definition of a ‘successful life’: getting married, having the huge house (without a mortgage, of course!), a big pension pot, perfect children educated at the best schools, exotics holidays… We are constantly being sold a definition of success which is beyond question – it is, in fact, so ‘essential’ that it has become a certainty in our minds.
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How often do we stop to wonder if this is actually what we want and, more importantly, if this is how we define success? The answer, at least in my case, is probably not at all until a life-changing event forces you to do so. This past year has been one such event, and it has forced us, on a global scale, to re-evaluate and question the ‘certainties’ we had all to readily accepted. What’s more, it has forced us to consider some of the ‘big’ questions:
- How do I need to adapt in order to survive these times and begin to thrive again?
- What are the beliefs that I previously bought into which are no longer serving me?
- What are some of the lessons the world is sending us? What are we being asked to learn?
- What can and can’t I control, and what does this mean for me going forward?
Across this new series of articles, I will endeavour to explore these questions and, hopefully, offer some thoughts and insights which I have learned throughout my life, which might help you in the months and years to come.
Your relationship with uncertainty will determine the quality of your life
This last year has shown us all that the only certainty is that life is consistently, and unapologetically uncertain. However, when our need for certainty is compromised, it can leave us reeling; we feel untethered, overwhelmed, powerless. Inevitably, we react by reverting to fear, to the certainty there is in being afraid. Indeed, if everything around us seems to be falling apart, fear seems, at first, to ground us, to focus the mind. But fear relies on a myopic view of the world and it thrives off our pain, leaving us in a fight, flight or freeze state of mind.
Learning to change our relationship with uncertainty is key. From a position of fear, uncertainty is an unassailable obstacle and beyond our control. However, from an empowered position of love, uncertainty holds the possibility for adventure, for opportunity (where there is risk, there is always reward), for positive change, for the ability to grow and develop.
If we all accept that uncertainty is a fundamental part of life and that it is here to stay, why would we not want to change our relationship with it? One thing I know for sure, is that your ability to not just tolerate uncertainty but actually learning to embrace it, will ultimately be a huge factor in determining the extent of your fulfilment and success.
Learning to let go
One of the most liberating things you can do today is to get clarity on what you genuinely can and can’t control. If you consider this deeply, you will soon realise just how little falls within the scope of our control. And if we pursue this question to its furthest lengths, we will, eventually, come to the conclusion that the only thing we can ever control is ourselves.
It may be frightening at first, but if you allow the idea to settle and the waters to clear, it is one of the most empowering truths there is. Normally, for many of my clients, the implications seem isolating and overwhelming: if I can only ever control myself, how can I ever help anyone else? How will anyone ever be able to help me?
But hidden in these questions is an assumption of lack; they suppose that we can never be enough on our own, that we don’t already have everything we need within ourselves. What’s more, they forget that help can’t be given until it is accepted, that no matter how hard you may try, you can never ‘fix’ anyone else.
So, my message to you is that you have it all already, and if you allow yourself to give in to uncertainty, to accept it for what it is, and follow where it takes you – you will always come out the other side: this too shall pass.