Our world today is characterized by uncertainty. Our economies, our relationships, our jobs, our futures … . Uncertainty is ever present in our lives. Learning how to change your relationship with and to “befriend” uncertainty reduces stress and has a number of other benefits.
The Cambridge English dictionary defines uncertainty as: “a situation in which something is not known, or something that is not known for certain” and “the feeling of not being sure what will happen in the future” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org).
Recently, I came to a point in my business where I was extremely tired and feeling little passion around what I was doing. I knew I needed to make a change but I wasn’t sure what that change was. I had launched a new website and had rebranded less that one year ago. What was I thinking wanting to change things up yet again? Perhaps I just needed to take a break; to relax and “recharge my batteries”?
It was an unusual situation for me to be in, as in the past when I’ve no longer felt “juiced” by what I was doing or felt that an organizational environment was toxic, either I would leave a position, or change my direction in business, and I nearly always knew what I wanted to do next. This recent experience was different. I did NOT know what to do next and felt uncertain.
What happens when we feel uncertain?
We often experience fear and go into fight, flight or freeze – the stress response – as we feel unsafe and our body wants to protect us. When stress hormones are coursing through our bodies we often don’t make rational decisions.
We may “jump” at the first solution that presents itself so we feel more comfortable. This can be a position that we aren’t suited for because we need the money, or a relationship with someone who comes into our life so we won’t be alone.
We may be influenced by a well-meaning friend or person whose opinion we value, and choose a career or position we have the aptitude for; however one that we are not passionate about, instead of taking the time to figure what really “makes our soul sing” and following that path.
I’ve coached a number of clients who were extremely successful accountants, lawyers, engineers … in their late thirties and early forties, who were dragging themselves out of bed every morning, feeling no passion at all for their work. When asked to reflect on when was the last time they felt passion about their work, many admitted that they never really had any passion for their careers; a well-meaning adult had influenced them in their late teens to; for example, “be an accountant because you’re good at Math.”
There was a time in my life when I became a workaholic because I didn’t want to face the uncertainty of what my life might look like if I left my husband. If I kept busy all the time, I didn’t have to think or feel and I numbed out. Possibly you relate.
Uncertainty means different things to different people. I invite you to take a few minutes to think about your responses to the following questions. You may wish to journal about them.
What does uncertainty look and feel like for you?
Do you typically feel fearful when you experience uncertainty? If so, is your typical response fight, flight or freeze?
Do you react differently if the uncertainty is in your personal life than in your professional life?
From experience I know that we often don’t make the best decisions when we feel uncertain. I also know that for those of us who are used to always “doing”, being busy, and having lots of structure in our lives, it can be challenging to NOT DO, but instead to slow down and BE STILL. Many of us believe that to be valued and loved we need to be “doing” and accomplishing important things. Being what I call “in the void” or “in the space between” is quite foreign to us. That said, it can be an interesting journey and valuable experience to learn to feel comfortable with uncertainty.
So how can you change your relationship with “Uncertainty” and perhaps even make it your friend?
Here are some lessons I’ve learned (often the hard way) to “befriend” uncertainty.
- Acknowledge and Accept that you don’t know what to do and that is okay
- Trust that everything will work out for you and the greater good
- Believe that in time things will become clear
- Know that you can’t force clarity
- Remember that creative processes require time and space
- Learn to listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom; it always knows what is best for you.
Below are some strategies to assist in integrating these lessons into your life.
- Learn to listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom. A good place to start is to begin to integrate some mindfulness practices into your life. These practices help take you “out of your head” and “into your body”. They also focus on “being” rather than “doing”. One example is body scanning. On awakening scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice if there is any tension, discomfort or pain in any part. If you sense any of these breathe into each part and visualize the tension or discomfort releasing or melting away. Another practice is mindfulness walking meditation that I recommend you do three times a week for 15 to 30 minutes each time.
- Spend regular time in nature. This can be going for a walk in a nearby park at lunchtime, hiking, running by the ocean. Finding your special nature place and going there when you feel stressed or would like some guidance.
- Do yoga regularly. Find a style that works for you. I recommend you do it at least three times a week.
- Communicate with others who are close to you. They will then understand how you are feeling and often “cut you some slack”.
- Reach out for support from family, friends, a coach or a health professional.
- Get lots of sleep. If you’re feeling really tired experiment with going to bed earlier.
- Pamper yourself; have a bubble bath, massage, pedicure, make time to read a favourite author
- Move your body. Put on some of your favorite music and dance around your kitchen or living room.
- Connect with your inner child. Do something you used to do as a child that “filled you up” (e.g. painting, drawing journaling) OR try something you’ve always wanted to do but never took the time for (e.g. dancing, learning to play a musical instrument, singing)
- Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Remember that when you follow your heart and acknowledge how you feel, you give others permission to do the same.
I’d love to hear from you about your experience with Uncertainty and what strategies and lessons you have found useful to help you deal with it and perhaps even make friends with it. I welcome your comments below.
 A mindfulness walking meditation enables you to get out of your head and into your body. When you walk outside in nature, slowly press one heal and the toes of one foot on the ground followed by the next, being totally present with your movements rather than thinking about all you have to do or reviewing a recent argument with your child or significant other. Focus on all of your senses. Notice the wind on your cheek, the sound of birds chirping, the smell of the salt sea air, see the beautiful vistas that surround you. Notice how you feel while doing the mindfulness walking meditations and after. Over time doing these walking meditations on a regular basis, notice what you notice.
Often when we’re facing a life change; it could be a job loss, retirement, separation, a health challenge; we feel anxious. Our heart begins to race and we feel like we want to run away from the situation. It is difficult to focus and often times we want to go back to the way things were. We feel overwhelmed by all that lies ahead of us, and are uncertain about our future.
When this happens, what can you do to get out of this cycle of anxiety?
Here are some proven strategies:
- Take slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, keeping your mouth open and releasing sound when you exhale. Repeat this about five times and notice how you feel. This exercise releases oxytocin, the hormone that relaxes and calms us. When you have taken a few slow, deep, conscious breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed.
- Do body scanning on awakening and/or before going to sleep. Lie in bed and scan your body slowly from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. While doing this notice any tension or pain. If you do, breathe into that area and set the intention to release the tension or pain.
- Spend regular time in nature. Find a special place you feel connected to. For me there is a place on the rocks by the ocean close to where I live. When I go there and lie on the rocks, I feel so grounded, relaxed and protected. Did you know that the Japanese have done longitudinal studies to show that when we walk among trees it reduces our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our bodies produce?
- Do mindfulness walking meditations starting with three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each time. When you do this, instead of going for a walk and thinking about all that has happened or all you have to do, instead focus on your senses. Notice the wind on your face, the smell of the salt sea air, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the sound of the birds, the beautiful vistas that surround you. When thoughts come into your head, which they inevitably will do, imagine they are clouds and let them float by or imagine putting them in a bubble and seeing them float away, and refocus on your senses.
- Repeat to yourself several times each day, “I am safe, it’s only change. “ (a favourite of mine from Louise Hay) Post this affirmation where you will see it, e.g. on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door.
- Move your body. Put on some music you enjoy and dance around your kitchen or wherever. Feel the music and let it flow through you.
- Tap into and express your creative side. Do something creative that you enjoy. Perhaps it’s painting, drawing, playing the piano, gardening. It could be something you did as a child that you no longer do or something you’ve always wanted to try. When you tap into and express your creative side, you feel like a child at play, lighter and filled with wonder. This opens you up to exploring the positive side of the change you are experiencing, and to the belief that change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.
I’d love to hear from you some strategies you’ve found helpful to reduce the anxiety associated with change. Feel free to post your comments below and to share this article with others.
“Freedom is a gift you give yourself when you release fear and spread your wings” – https://www.suziecheel.com/
I love this quote by Suzie Cheel!
What do you need to do to move toward freedom or in other words what do you need to let go of, in order to fly free? …
It could be letting go of deep-seated beliefs such as:
- In order to be loved and valued I need to perform and achieve
- If I give to myself, I am selfish.
- If I go really big with my business and am successful, I won’t have time for myself or to spend with people I care about.
It could be behaviors that are no longer serving you such as:
- At networking events or in social situations when meeting someone new, leading with what you know and what you’ve done so that people know you’re smart and accomplished, instead of leading with genuine interest in and questions about the person you’re interacting with.
- When speaking with someone at home or work, instead of focusing on them and being present, rather thinking of the next thing on your “to-do” list.
- Reacting negatively when changes happen or are imposed on you instead of thinking “what am I meant to learn from this experience”?
I recently completed a six-week “Soul Painting” course with Kimberly Leslie – https://www.kimberlyleslie.com/– an artist, healer and intuitive. I was interested in learning how to paint with acrylics, plus I was intrigued by the opportunity to be guided and supported in a small group to “create a painting in a sacred space that invite(d) my soul to share itself with me.”
The process was fun; I got to connect with my inner child and to finger paint. I was amazed at the energy in everyone’s painting, and was intrigued by the process and what I learned about myself through it. At the final class, the completion class, Kimberly guided us to ask our paintings what else they needed. At one point I put mine up against the wall, sat in front of it and asked what more was I meant to learn from it. Tears began to stream down my face and I asked what the emotion was about. I got the strong message that I didn’t need to perform and achieve in order to be loved and valued, instead by being myself I am valued and loved. It was a powerful moment.
There are a number of transformational techniques I’ve found useful for myself and my clients, that enable us to let go of beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving us and move closer to flying free. In addition to the course I mentioned, they include:
- Spending regular time in nature
- Doing mindfulness walking meditations
- Journalling in the morning first thing or just before going to bed
- When faced with a challenging experience or change that is imposed on you, spending time “going inside” and asking “what am I meant to learn from this experience?”
- Participating in a group program or workshop where you are supported by an experienced facilitator and coach/mentor and learn how to turn your fears and doubts around change into living with more aliveness, creativity and joy such as:
If you’d like to learn more about how to “Let Go and Fly Free”, I’d love to have you join me and a small group of like-minded women in a beautiful natural environment for a one-day workshop Embrace the Art of Change: From Fear to Freedom on April 27th in Victoria. If you live up Island, or in such places as the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan or Washington state, if this speaks to you, I encourage you to join us and and spend several days in beautiful Victoria!
What does change have to do with being an entrepreneur?
- Entrepreneurship is all about change. When you start your own business it’s often scary as you’re leaving a “secure” position to go out on your own to new and uncharted territory. Having a business is all about experimenting. You try one niche and if you don’t get a great response you switch to another. You write copy for a program, product or service, test it, see who it attracts and then write some more and test that. In business we learn from our successes as well as our failures (usually more from our failures). Being successful in business requires being open to learning and growing.
- As we move through the various phases of growing our business, limiting beliefs and unresolved issues typically come up for us. Our inner critic sends us messages such as: Who do you think you are to want a 6-figure income? (related to self-worth); How can you choose such a narrow niche, you’ll have no clients? (related to fear of not making enough money). In order to grow your business you need to address those limiting beliefs and unresolved issues which involves change and transformation.
- Life Transitions and Changes in Business are intertwined. If we are stressed by changes in our business (e.g. breakdown of a business partnership), we often bring them into our personal lives and take our anger and frustration home with us. Similarly, if we are going through relationship transitions (e.g. separation or divorce), we often bring the emotions associated with those into our work. They may cause us to lose our focus, our patience and result in less engagement, lower productivity and more conflict at work.
- Our beliefs about change influence our behaviors related to it. For example, if you perceive change as scary and to be feared, then you will resist it and experience a lot of stress related to it. Whereas, if you view change as a creative process that opens you up to new possibilities, the change experience becomes exciting, easier and faster.
- There is some solace in knowing that we are all hard-wired to fear change. Our amygdala (part of the brain) is constantly scanning the environment to protect us and keep us safe. When it perceives a threat or something out of the ordinary, it sends messages to our bodies to go into fight, flight or freeze.
What happens when we don’t embrace change?
Research and life experiences show that if we don’t learn to embrace change we:
- keep repeating the same patterns in our lives and remaining unhappy and unfulfilled
- expend a lot of energy resisting change
- feel constantly under stress leading to chronic health issues and negative impacts on our relationships and our businesses.
The bottom line is if we don’t learn to embrace change, over time it negatively impacts both our personal and our professional lives.
So how can we reduce our fear of change?
We can reduce our fear of change when we:
- better understand how and why we respond to change
- learn a proven model and tools to help us reduce resistance and embrace and successfully navigate any change.
The more you understand change and the more self-aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it.
Why I’m so passionate about sharing this message
Having been an entrepreneur since the early 1990s, and running three successful businesses, I’ve experienced many changes in my business and personal life and learned some of my lessons the hard way, I know that having tools and processes to understand and embrace change is critical to creating the business and life of your dreams. I’m now called to support leaders and entrepreneurs to better understand and to embrace change. Based on more than 25 years of leading, consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations from diverse cultures on 5 continents, I’ve created the Art of Change Framework. It’s a proven 5-step process that guides and supports individuals and teams to move from fear and uncertainty to clarity and confidence. It makes the change experience fun as it likens the process to learning a dance.
We all need to process change and we do it in different ways and at different rates. When you have an increased understanding of change and how you respond to it, and proven processes and tools to help you to successfully navigate the change experience, it positively impacts your business and your bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more about the Art of Change Framework, here are some relevant articles: https://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/ ; https://pamela-thompson.com/important-embrace-change-begin/
If you’re going through a life transition and would like to learn more about it and how to more easily navigate it, I encourage you to sign up for my complimentary Transition Journey Quiz and Tips – https://pamela-thompson.com/about/
I always like to hear from you and how the articles “land” and welcome your comments below. How has change affected you and your business? What tools and strategies have you found helpful to navigate change? Please share the post with others who you think might benefit.
The Art of Change Framework is a proven 5-step model for embracing change be it in yourself, your relationships, your workplace/organization. In a previous post I outlined the 5 steps in this model – https://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/. In subsequent posts I identified the powerful practices associated with each step in the process. This article will focus on step 5 in the Art of Change Framework entitled Consciously Share Your Dance with the World.
We know that when we change, others around us notice these changes and either choose to follow us or resist the changes we are modelling. An example is personal growth work. If one partner in a relationship wants to learn and grow and begins reading about personal growth and attending workshops or receiving coaching to learn and grow, and their partner is not on the same wavelength, the partner who wants to maintain the status quo may feel threatened by the changes in the other’s behaviour. For example, having a spiritual connection when your partner is an atheist or becoming more assertive in conversations instead of not saying much or always acquiescing to the other partner’s wishes. Does this sound familiar? When we change, we influence those around us.
During step 5 in the Art of Change Framework, it is important to observe the positive changes in yourself, how others respond to you, and the positive impact you are having on your family, friends, communities and workplaces.
As a leader in an organization, you will notice the difference among people who either resist or embrace changes that you initiate. The tables below identify the typical differences between those who resist and those who embrace change.
What happens in Ourselves, Our Relationships and Our Workplaces when We Resist Change versus Embrace it?
|We view change as a threat
We view change as an opportunity to learn and grow and as a creative process that opens us up to new opportunities
o Low in energy
· The increased stress over time negatively impacts our health; can lead to chronic illness and negatively affect our career paths
· Over time we are more relaxed, more flexible and open to creative ideas
· Our health may be positively impacted as we feel supported by those around us and that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves; may positively impact our career paths
|In our interactions with others we:
o Are not totally present
o Are judgmental
o May be argumentative
|In our interactions with others we:
o Are present
o Are mindful
o Seek to understand and support others
o Characterized by increased conflict
o We feel alone, victimized and that others don’t understand us
| o Open
o Characterized by increased understanding, creativity and compassion
o We feel part of something and supported
o Increased conflict – “us” versus “them” mentality
o Reduced morale
o Reduced engagement
o Little innovation
o Increased illness and absenteeism
o Negative impact on the bottom line
o Increased cooperation, collaboration and synergy
o Increased morale
o Increased engagement
o Creativity and Innovation
o Reduced absenteeism
o Positive impact on the bottom line
Learning how to embrace change and understanding how we respond to it, is critical to positively influencing our families, friends, communities and workplaces. Learning and implementing the 5-step Art of Change Framework helps you understand how you respond to change and is a tool to support you and your team(s) to embrace it. In these challenging and uncertain times, now more than ever, we need proven processes to support individuals and leaders in communities and organizations to make a positive difference in the world.
What have you noticed in yourself, your relationships and/or your work environments when they are characterized by embracing versus resisting change? What aspects of the Art of Change Framework have you found most useful? Any new insights? I invite and welcome your comments below.
In a recent post – https://pamela-thompson.com/art-change-framework-part-2/, I shared a three-phase model and process called the Transition Journey, and step two of the Art of Change Framework: Choose Your Dance. In Step Three of the Art of Change Framework: Feel the Rhythm and Learn the Steps, you commit to embracing change in your body rather than resisting it, and begin doing the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are currently in.
To recap, there are three phases in a transition journey: They are:
- An Ending
- The Neutral Zone
- A New Beginning.
There are emotions and work associated with each phase. If you don’t do the work, you often keep repeating the same patterns in your life and remain unhappy and unfulfilled in life and in work.
An Ending is the end of a job/ relationship/ career. The main work of this phase is to “let go” of the old job/relationship/career and to celebrate the positive aspects and lessons learned from it.
“Letting go” is easier said than done. Here are some proven strategies for “letting go”.
- Identify and surface the emotions you have around a current or previous transition; for example, anger at a boss, a previous partner, a friend.
- Release those emotions from your body. When you think about a particular emotion notice any tension in your body and where it is located. It is often felt in your gut or your heart. Think of emotions associated with past hurts and transitions as “rocks in a backpack” and visualize and experience releasing them all from that backpack.
- Forgive yourself and others. This is powerful and often keeps us stuck and holds us back from moving forward. A mindfulness tool that facilitates forgiveness (of self and others) is “Forgiveness Meditation”. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbHKCy4f6Dk for a process developed by Jack Kornfield , a psychologist trained in Eastern and Western Psychology.
- Write a letter to your previous boss, partner, friend from a balanced and empathic perspective. There are always two sides to any story. Reflect on the lessons learned from the experience.
- If you still have anger and strong emotions associated with a past relationship, it is therapeutic to write a letter to that person sharing how they wounded you and what the experience was like from your perspective and then to either burn it ceremoniously or tear it up into small pieces and at the same time commit to releasing the negative emotions associated with the relationship.
In Phase 2, the Neutral Zone, you may feel stuck, angry, confused and uncertain of what to do next. This is the phase when we often second guess ourselves and question our actions. We may even return to the old job or relationship. The main work of this phase is “getting clear”. It provides an opportunity to envision the job or relationship of your dreams. Here are several ways to envision the relationship, career, or life of your dreams.
- Go to a quiet place, outside in nature if possible. Write down what you envision in the relationship of your dreams; e.g. someone who makes me laugh, loves being nature, is physically active, is a great communicator, … . It’s helpful to use the stem I see … and let the list flow out of you without overthinking it. Then imagine you have achieved your dream and imagine how you will feel when you have that special relationship and truly feel it in your body. It’s helpful to use the stem I feel … and write down those feelings; e.g. I feel happy, content, loved, valued … .
- Create a vision board from old magazines or digitally, e.g. using pinterest, of that relationship, career, life of your dreams. It is then important to look at your vision board ideally twice a day, in the morning on awakening and in the evening before retiring, and say to yourself I am so happy and grateful that I’m living a life that includes … . While you’re doing this, feel the positive emotions in your body you will experience when you have achieved that dream relationship/career/life.
I can attest to the power of this process as 1.5 years after I left my husband of 24 years I wrote out all of the attributes I wanted in a significant other and in a relationship. Within 5 months of doing this I met my current partner and “soul mate”.
In Phase 3, the New Beginning, you take action on the vision you created during the “Neutral Zone”. This phase can be likened to a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon and can be a time of real transformation (if you’ve taken the time to learn and grow in the “Neutral Zone”). Think about how you felt when you launched your new business, were selected for that dream job, met the man of your dreams. These are the feelings associated with the New Beginning which fill us up and make us feel happy, healthy, confident and fulfilled.
If you don’t take the time to reflect, learn and grown in each phase, you may find that you keep recreating the same patterns in your life. If you want a life of joy, balance and fulfillment, it is helpful to understand the transition journey process and also to do the work to learn and grow in each phase.
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share the fourth step in the Art of Change Framework designed to help you embrace change and create the life of your dreams – one of clarity, confidence, health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace.
Are you on a transition journey? Did you glean any new insights from this article? I welcome your questions and comments below. What strategies have you found helpful in embracing change?
 From Mary Morrissey and her Dream Builder Program – https://www.dreambuilderlive.com/