How to deal with uncertainty

Since the referendum vote, there has been market, economic and political uncertainty.

As it dawns on us that our politicians do not have a plan for how to leave the European Union, and the economists issue dire warnings, it’s no wonder that a number of Leave voters are now feeling ‘buyer’s remorse’. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of taking some action or making a decision, swiftly followed by that thought: “Oh what have I done?” as we realise that we have stepped into the unknown in some way.

The markets hate uncertainty, and so money flows to a safer haven.  The media love uncertainty because it increases viewership or readership, and increases their influence, so don’t expect to find an ally for calm there.

Speaking to friends and family over the last few days both in person and watching Social Media, there is a lot of upset, confusion, anger, and especially uncertainty. It seems to me that the uncertainty that we feel personally and the group uncertainty feed each other resulting in almost a frenzy of fear.

Fear is a basic human emotion.  It serves us by keeping us safe, and the safe survive. Those who survive pass on their genes, their traits and their habits to future generations while the brave and foolhardy got themselves killed.  So over thousands of years we have learnt that safety is ‘good’ and that risk taking is ‘bad’.  So we unconsciously crave safety and security, and when it is taken away, or the perception of it is taken away, we can get a strong negative reaction because we feel vulnerable and scared. Of course we do, because we are human.

However, I would argue that what we lost last Friday was not certainty but the illusion of certainty.  Because certainty with regard to the future doesn’t exist.  We like to think that it does, that the sun will rise tomorrow, that my savings will support me in my old age, that we will be able to live in relative peace.  Maybe we need to believe in some kind of positive future, to enable our society to function, but let’s be honest with ourselves and accept that it’s an illusion, a hope, a dream.

So if we can’t trust our vision of the future what can we trust, where can we place our hope? Firstly in the present.  Do I have everything I need to function now? Do I have sufficient air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat? Do I have people to love? Do I have work to do? Check your reality, and I trust you will find some certainty there.

Secondly, take a look at what matters to you.  What really matters to you. This world is amazing, and yet it has enormous unmet needs.  What are you passionate about?  What are the principles that are vital to you?  Which values drive you?  Here’s where you can place your trust.  Your thoughts are unreliable, your feelings change, people will come and go in your life, but your values are rock solid. Your values will never let you down. 

Whichever way you voted, however you feel about the merits of EU membership, there are now opportunities, new opportunities for you to demonstrate personal leadership, by moving your focus away from uncertainty and towards the here and now and your values.

You can be positive and make a difference right now, improving today and maybe all of our tomorrows.