How to Make Friends with Uncertainty: Valuable Lessons & Strategies for Your Personal & Professional Life

How to Make Friends with Uncertainty: Valuable Lessons & Strategies for Your Personal & Professional Life

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[1] 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.

[1] 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.

 

What Are Healthy Organizations & Are They Possible?

What Are Healthy Organizations & Are They Possible?

In many organizations regularly working overtime is still a badge of honor.

I have a number of close friends who have been high achievers in academia, brought millions of dollars into their institutions, and who have been harshly mistreated by certain “higher ups”.

I have also experienced colleagues who have been undervalued and made to feel they are in jeopardy of losing their positions because they have proposed a creative solution in an organizational culture where maintaining the status quo is the norm.

Increasing numbers of high performing younger and younger women (e.g. in their late twenties and early thirties) are coming into my life having been diagnosed with breast cancer, mono, and/or on stress leave and antidepressants. Burnout and adrenal fatigue continue to be rampant and yet are often “kept under the covers”.

Since I launched my coaching business in 2009, I’ve coached a number of high achieving women and provided them with tools and support to change their lives from constantly driving and striving to healthier, happier, more balanced lives. I’ve recently realized that this is not enough. It is one thing to provide a person with tools and support, but if they return to a work environment that does not enable them to put those tools and strategies into action, it is rather like sending someone on a training and having them return to a workplace that doesn’t enable them to apply the new skills they’ve learned. It is frustrating, unsatisfying and doesn’t address all of the issues.

I realize that it is only part of the solution to provide high performing women and men with tools and the vision of a healthier, happier life. The other part of the equation is to change our organizations so they are healthier. 

I would like to start a conversation on this. What is a healthy organization? Is it possible to create healthy, successful organizations?

To start “the ball rolling”, here are a few characteristics of what I believe constitute a healthy organization. A healthy organization:

  • Treats their staff and management with respect
  • Is clear on their values and “walks their talk”
  • Values creativity and innovation and creates space to enable this to happen
  • Values and fosters collaboration within the organization and with outside partners
  • Is lead by balanced and mindful leaders ( See –https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/balanced-mindful-leadership-time-new-type-leader-pamela-thompson/ )
  • Recognizes that many of today’s issues are complex and require multiple disciplines and ways of thinking to address them
  • Embraces change and supports its staff and management to better understand and embrace the change process
  • Provides a physical environment that supports well-being; for example, a meditation room or garden, indoor plants, on-site gym, yoga and childcare
  • Makes a healthy profit
  • Gives back to the community

These are a few of my thoughts. I welcome yours in the comment box below.

 

 

What Nature Can Teach Us as Leaders and Changemakers

What Nature Can Teach Us as Leaders and Changemakers

My husband and I recently returned from a long weekend kayaking and camping on the Broken Islands off the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is truly a magical place!

For many years I was a driven professional woman with a packed agenda involved in work I was passionate about. My mind and my body were constantly “on the go”. At this phase in my life, I’ve made the decision to take some time to reflect, spend more time in nature and notice what I’m “called” to do. Here are some of the lessons Nature can teach us based on thinking about our recent weekend “off the grid”.

Lesson #1 – Relax

Have you noticed when you’re in nature how much more relaxed you feel? The Japanese have done longitudinal research to show that when we walk among trees it reduces our blood pressure, reduces our heart rate and increases the number of natural killer cells our body produces. In other words, it strengthens our immune system. As leaders and change makers it is important to “get off the treadmill” and take some time out of our busy lives to truly relax, and nature is the perfect remedy.

Lesson #2 – Trust

One morning when I climbed out of our tent I noticed that the fog was down to the ground and visibility was extremely limited. I’m not keen on kayaking in fog and said to myself, this will burn off. I trusted that the sun would burn off the fog and the visibility would return, and it did! As leaders it’s important when things aren’t going the way we wish to trust that things will work out, and that we will learn something from the experience.

Lesson #3 – Presence

Last weekend I noticed that I was truly present much of the time. I was focused on what was in front of me while kayaking and when speaking with my partner. It is important to notice changes in the wind, clouds, tides and currents when you’re kayaking on the ocean. Likewise, as leaders it is important to be present in our work and personal lives and also to be alert to change or the need for it.

Lesson #4 – Playfulness

When I watch birds flying on air currents and humpback whales jumping, it reminds me of the importance of taking time to be playful and to connect with my inner child. It gets me thinking: How can I inject more playfulness into my life? What about you?

Lesson #5 – Courage 

Most animals have predators. While off the grid, we saw an amazing array of creatures; from bears to whales, to dolphins, mice and tadpoles. When these animals show themselves, it takes courage, as not only do we as humans see them, but they open themselves up to being seen by their predators. How can you be more courageous in your life and work?

Lesson #6 – Creativity

We experienced an amazing sunset while camping. When gazing at a sunset and watching it change, it reminds me of someone taking a paintbrush and constantly adding and changing colors and tones. In our work, it is important to take some risks and come up with creative solutions to those issues that arise.

Lesson #7 – Beauty

When spending time in nature it’s difficult not to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and to be amazed by the diversity. In our lives as leaders and changemakers, it is important to recognize and appreciate the diversity among our teams and also the beauty in how we “dance” together

Nature is such a powerful teacher. To relax, trust, be present, playful, courageous and creative, are a few of the lessons we can learn from nature. These are powerful reminders for us as we navigate our lives as leaders and changemakers. I encourage you to spend more time in nature and to notice what YOU notice.

I’d love to hear from you. How does nature inspire you? I welcome your comments and invite you to share your experiences below.

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Change Framework: Part 5

The Art of Change Framework: Part 5

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?

OURSELVES

Resist

Embrace

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

We feel:

o   Angry

o   Depleted

o   Low in energy

o   Victimized

·      The increased stress over time negatively impacts our health; can lead to chronic illness and negatively affect our career paths

 

 

We feel:

o   Open

o   Excited

o   Energized

o   Nonjudgmental

·      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

 

OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Resist

Embrace

o   Strained

o   Reactive

o   Judgmental

o   Characterized by increased conflict

o   We feel alone, victimized and that others don’t understand us

 o   Open

o   Responsive

o   Curious

o   Characterized by increased understanding, creativity and compassion

o   We feel part of something and supported

 

OUR WORKPLACES

RESIST

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

EMBRACE

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.

 

 

The Art of Change Framework: Part 4

The Art of Change Framework: Part 4

In order to let go of beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving us and to embrace change, whether it be a change we initiate or one that is imposed on us, the Art of Change Framework is a proven model to help you understand change and how you respond to it, and to support you to move forward in your life. It is also helpful for leaders and changemakers so they can be more effective with the individuals, organizations and communities they serve.

In a previous post I outlined this 5-step process for embracing change while at the same time making a positive impact in the world – https://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/. In this post we will explore Step 4 in the Art of Change Framework entitled Practice, Practice, Practice! As with learning a dance or integrating any new behavior into your life, it is crucial to practice, practice, practice, so that over time that belief or behavior becomes a habit and more unconscious than conscious.

So what are the key elements of Step 4 in the Art of Change Framework? Step 4 encompasses doing the work that includes: letting go, identifying lessons learned, envisioning the work, relationship, home of your dreams, taking action toward the dream and believing that change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities. If we hold that belief it is much easier to embrace change, than if we fear change and resist it.

To illustrate Step 4 in the Art of Change Framework, I’ll walk you through an example from my own life. When my husband was headhunted about 1.5 years ago it came “out of the blue”. We were living in our dream home, with a lake view and able to walk to three wineries from our home. We thought that we would be there forever. The Universe had other plans. My husband was given an offer he couldn’t refuse and asked to begin work 2 weeks after the offer was presented. I felt like the “rug had been pulled out from underneath me”. He moved to the new city, rented a small apartment and began working. I visited him several times, he came home and then I decided to try living in the new place for part of the summer. I rented our home and “dipped my toe in” for 6 weeks. During that time I realized that the new city was beautiful and Alan was enjoying his work, so we made the decision to put our house on the market. It sold quite quickly and before I knew it we had downsized from a 5-bedroom home to a 2-bedroom apartment (The Ending Phase). The first 6 months were challenging (The Neutral Zone). I so missed my friends and the life I had in the Okanagan Valley. For awhile we were surrounded by boxes, trying to decide what would fit into our new place and what to give away or put back in our storage unit. I was upset with the lack of cleanliness of parts of the apartment building we were renting. I looked at other apartments and finally realized that the location and benefits of the place we were in outweighed the cost of moving to yet another apartment. Little by little I started to meet new people, joined several Newcomers Clubs, found a great yoga studio and we began exploring the Island on weekends. A few months ago we decided we wanted to purchase a new home. Alan and I sat down and envisioned the key elements of the new home of our dreams (The New Beginning) and hired a realtor to work with us. I’m happy to report that 2 weeks ago we moved into our new home. It feels so good to be in our own place again! We made the decision not to purchase a home with a yard and instead went for a townhome that is 10 minutes walk from the ocean and 10 minutes from downtown. We love it!

Reflecting on this experience I understood why for me, someone who typically thrives on change, found this move so challenging. I realized that I had lived in the Okanagan Valley in the same home for 8 years, and that was the longest place I had lived since I left home at age 18!

I invite you to reflect on a change that you’ve made in your life, one that was imposed on you and you found challenging. Use the Art of Change Framework to identify the work you have done and to see whether there is more work yet to be done. For example, to let go of anger related to an old boss or partner. In order to move forward in our lives, it is important to learn about change and how and why we respond to it, and to do the work to help us to move toward clarity, confidence, radiant health and true fulfillment.  

I welcome your comments and experiences below. Was the Art of Change Framework helpful? Did you glean any new insights? Feel free to share this article with others.

 

 

How To View Change Through a New Lens

How To View Change Through a New Lens

What if we all viewed change as a creative process that opened us up to new possibilities? Do you think our relationships, workplaces, communities and the world would be different?

Let’s explore this perspective a bit further. Imagine if you were laid off. Instead of feeling angry, anxious and unsure of what to do next, what if you viewed the change as an opportunity to do something new, perhaps launch a new business you’d been thinking about for a few a few years, but had been afraid to start?

What if after a partner left you, you took the time to reflect on the relationship; what worked well and what didn’t? And, you took the time to write down all the lessons learned from the relationship as well as the qualities you wanted in a significant other and in a relationship? For example: someone who makes me laugh, who is a great communicator, someone who is physically active, and who loves being in nature? I did this a number of years ago and within 5 months of doing so my life partner and soul mate showed up who had all of the qualities I had written on my list!

Imagine if you were working in an organization that had a change in leadership, and instead of feeling uncertain and fearful, you viewed the change as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I invite you to “try on” this new perspective of viewing change over the next week and notice what you observe. It could be something as small as changing the way you usually respond to a person or situation. I welcome your comments and experiences below. Feel free to share this post with others who you think might benefit.