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Certainty in uncertain times

9 ways to thrive in uncertain times

A new city. A new job. The loss of a loved one. The loss of a dream. Uncertainty has always been a part of life, but lately it seems like the entire world is facing uncertain times. We don’t know when we will be able to return to work, take a vacation, see a concert or even hug our loved ones. We don’t know when things will return to normal – or if they will at all.

Uncertain times can be positive, like moving to a new city. But when they’re unexpected, they’re often disruptive and difficult. Regardless of what form uncertainty comes in, remember that you have a choice: you can either ride the wave of change or let it crash upon you as you struggle to remain afloat.

Why we need uncertain times

All people are driven by Six Human Needs – needs that are essential to our ultimate happiness. Both certainty and uncertainty top the list of these vital requirements. We all want more certainty so we can break through fear and steer our lives toward our destiny. Certainty is the emotion that allows us to accomplish what once seemed impossible. Our capacity to achieve, lead and serve is expanded by it, and it is a resource we can access in a moment.

At the same time, when you think about the opposite of certainty – uncertainty – you may think it produces fear, worry and doubt. The truth is that uncertainty – or variety – is just as important to leading a fulfilling life. In times of uncertainty, surprise and fun in our lives can be unlocked and allow us to experience brand new feelings, thoughts, beliefs and strategies.

The paradox is this: We need both certainty and uncertainty. As Tony Robbins reveals in one of his PowerTalk! Sessions, we need both forces to lead fulfilled, passionate and successful lives. Uncertainty can liberate us, while certainty allows us to get anything we want from life.

Dealing with uncertainty

Life would actually be very boring without uncertainty. Instead of eliminating uncertainty from your life, learn how to improve the balance between certainty and uncertainty, so you’re fulfilling all of your essential needs.

1. Take responsibility

When dealing with uncertainty, many people respond by shutting down. Shutting down can often be confused with letting go of something or someone when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. While letting go is a positive action that releases our need for control, shutting down is different.

It’s easy to adopt a laissez-faire attitude when turbulence comes your way. It’s the path of least resistance to shrug your shoulders, step back and watch as the events unfold and take their own course. But while that certainly requires less effort, it also disempowers you and precludes you from taking control over your own life. Embrace change instead of hiding from it. Take responsibility for your circumstances and realize that the only person who can change your life is you.

2. Shift your focus

Uncertain times are often caused by things beyond our control: another person’s actions, a natural disaster, a death in the family, a pandemic. That’s part of what makes them so stressful – and it’s also the key to dealing with uncertainty. When we attempt to control these events and circumstances, we end up in an anxious state.

Have you ever attempted to control the weather? Probably not, because you know it’s impossible and would only lead to frustration. Attempting to control other people has the same result. To deal with uncertainty, focus your energy on things you can control: your own emotions, thoughts and actions. You’ll feel empowered and confident instead of stressed.  

3. Create a vision

When it comes to dealing with uncertainty, visualizing can be very valuable. Create a vision for what it is that you truly want. If you find yourself unemployed, what does your ideal career look like? If you recently relocated to a new city, what do you want your life to look like there? If you and your partner are having trouble, what does your dream relationship look like, and what is your ideal way to connect with each other?

The vision must excite you. It has to be compelling. It has to pull you. It isn’t something that you have to push yourself toward – it’s something that you desire more than anything else. It moves you emotionally. Envision this goal, see how it makes you feel and then dive in. This helps you regain the balance that can sometimes be disrupted by uncertain times.

Uncertain times

4. Make the resolution

Now it’s time to declare: “Okay, I am not going to just sit here and hope everything will be okay. I am going to take control of this situation and my emotions.” Cut off any other possibility. If this is what you want, then burn the boats. Make the resolution that you will find a way to make things work and mentally put yourself on the path toward achieving the vision you just set forth. Though you may not be able to control uncertain times, you will at least achieve the certainty that you have a plan you are committed to.

5. Find your reasons

Now that you have your vision and you have dedicated yourself on a fundamental level to reaching this goal, you need to find your reasons – your purpose for wanting to achieve this result. When dealing with uncertainty, keeping your purpose front and center is crucial.

This is one of the most important components to making progress in times of uncertainty because without it, you will lose your emotional drive. You will inevitably face hurdles when confronting uncertainty, challenges and obstacles along your journey, but the reasons will help push you through. When the stress and pressure come, your reasons will propel you along and you won’t let the fear or negative talk take over

Your reasons can be framed in a positive or a negative manner – “If I don’t do this, this is what it will cost me,” or “If I do this, then this is what I can gain in my life.” What matters most is that your reasons resonate deeply within you and that they give you a sense of certainty. They are not superficial, but rather stem from a powerful purpose that carries a profound emotional weight.

Just remember, when you feel stuck in uncertain times, reasons come first, answers come second. Find the meaning behind achieving your goal, and allow that to help you get on target when things get rough.

personal growth

6. Make it part of every day

Think back to something you wanted more than anything, something you were so hungry for that you felt a deep emotional need for it, something that you were intensely clear about and thought about every single day. You just didn’t know how to make it happen and uncertainty started to creep in. Then suddenly, you attracted the right situation or the right people, and everything just came together.

Why did that happen? Is it the Law of Attraction? Not exactly.

There’s a part of your brain called the RAS – reticular activating system – and it determines what you notice in the world. When you set a goal, become extraordinarily clear on it and have strong enough reasons behind your intent, you trigger the RAS. Your brain then becomes incredibly acute at noticing anything that comes into your world that could help you move forward, and uncertainty vanishes.

Invest yourself fully in your vision. Make it a key part of your focus every single day. Then start to take note of what pops up in times of uncertainty. The opportunities and key insights that arise may just surprise you.

7. Raise your standards

Ultimately, if you want to create real change in your life and develop effective ways of dealing with uncertainty, you have to raise your standards.

How many years ago did you come up with what you could or couldn’t do in your life? Take a look at any area in your life where you have a limitation and ask yourself when you decided to accept that as certainty. For many of us, it’s these self-imposed limitations that prevent us from making any real progress in our lives. We have convinced ourselves that our status quo is exactly what we deserve, and we, in turn, base our identities around that – wherever people have their identity attached to, they live.

If you want to thrive during uncertain times, then you have to raise your standards. You have to let go of the limiting beliefs that keep you locked in complacency and start seeing each instance of uncertainty as a challenge to rise higher. Make progress a “must” for you. Refuse to settle for anything less. This will take practice – it’s not something that happens overnight. But the more often you adopt the thoughts, behaviors and rituals of a new identity, the more powerful your brain will become at finding ways to bring you there.

uncretain times

8. Adopt rituals

You have to back up your standards by what makes those standards real – rituals. Rituals are little things that you do each day that eventually build up so much momentum that it becomes a clear path to your vision. You can demolish uncertainty with the right rituals.

If you are unhappy with your status quo and feel that creating the life you desire is just a massive challenge, then break it down to bite-sized steps. Condition your body and emotions with a few small rituals. Maybe that means going for a short run in the morning. Or taking the time to make a healthy breakfast. Maybe it means incorporating incantations into your day. Or catching up with one good friend every week. It could even be doing something kind for someone else once a day. Having the certainty that you are making the world a better place will help you in times of uncertainty.

Rituals are where the power is. They define us. They help us put our standards into action and deal with the uncertainty that comes with change. Remember, when challenging periods come our way, we have the choice – to relinquish control and shut down, or to take action.

9. Measure your progress

The secret to handling uncertain times is to focus on progress. If you can make progress on a regular basis, then you feel alive. Now, you may be thinking that this is easier said than done. When you are lost, or trapped in an emotional fog, it’s hard to even make sense of what is happening, let alone understand what steps to take to move yourself forward. But by setting SMART goals, tracking your progress and celebrating your successes, you can bring a sense of structure and certainty to an otherwise chaotic time, and start building something new.

Creating the life you want and dealing with uncertainty is not an overnight event. It’s in the little things. It’s having a vision. It’s making it compelling. It’s seeing it and feeling it with absolute emotion. It’s caring about other people. It’s calling to say “I love you” for no reason. It’s about taking every opportunity to connect. To be playful. To honor and cherish your loved ones.

Uncertain times, no matter how devastating, do not have to define your life. You get to make that decision. And if you follow these tips, then no matter how lost you may feel, you will be able to start designing the life you want, and living the life you deserve.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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