Updated: Feb 25
A year ago today I should have been in Iceland on holiday...
On February 14th we had arrived and checked in at the airport, seen our bags trundle away on the conveyor belt, gone through security and passport control and were sat having breakfast waiting to board our flight. Then storm Denis hit and Reykjavik airport closed! We had planned this holiday for ages really hoping to see the Northern Lights and enjoy some amazing experiences unique to Iceland. Oh well may be another time...
Of course this would have been a fantastic privilege and I am so grateful to have the means to do such very special things. When we realised our flight and therefore our whole dream holiday was not going to happen it was very disappointing for sure (Minor uncertainty). And not without some hassle just to get back home - we were flight side without our luggage. You cannot simply walk out of the airport - officially we were no longer in the UK! We had to be escorted back though the airport by an official and then wait for our luggage to be retrieved and get the car back from the off site parking.
Once it was clear that the trip to Iceland was off, and we had the week booked off for holiday, we immediately started looking for an alternative holiday and within about 6 hours were in a luxury cottage in Cornwall and ended up having one of the best and most memorable holidays ever.
What a start to the last 12 months. We spent a lot of money on the week in Cornwall in the secure knowledge our Iceland trip was insured (which took over 6 months and many hours on the phone), and 4 weeks later the first UK lockdown started and I lost all my work as a self employed locum optometrist. It’s fair to say, things were uncertain at that point.
I earn good money from optometry, but I am too good at spending money, never being one to accrue significant savings - one of my significant failings over the years, for sure. In the past I lived permanently in overdraft and racked up £40,000 on credit cards, albeit I have never missed a payment on any bill, ever. At times this has caused me significant stress as you can imagine.
I have never not been able to get a job. I have earned money in some form from the age of 10, starting with a Sunday paper round. At 13 I worked Saturdays assembling flat pack furniture for shop displays then worked in a chip shop after school (the shift always starting with huge plate of chips, steak pie, sausage in batter and gravy) and a multitude of handyman summer jobs for neighbours: painting and decorating; building fences; gardening etc. So last March, when the lockdown happened, it was probably the first time in my life there was a chance I could not earn enough money to cover the monthly bills. (Major Uncertainty)
I am lucky in that I am one of those people that can do a decent job of most anything practical and have a good amount of common sense. (Just don’t ask me to do do anything language related - being dyslexic I am a super slow reader and there’s no hope when it comes to another language). I also tend to be a “leap before you look” guy, which can often get me in trouble, but then I’m quite good at getting out of trouble too! This means I make a lot of mistakes and fail at things regularly. And this is OK and probably my most important way of learning...
Learn... Try, fail, learn, change... Try, fail, learn, change... Try, succeed, celebrate!
The starting point and biggest question in all of this is when to try for the first time? How much should I learn before making the first attempt? People who are highly risk averse will inevitably suffer from analysis paralysis, and on the other end of the spectrum some dive in with no previous thought which can be dangerous. Neither is ideal in my view, but it all depends on the nature of the thing you are trying to do and whether others are affected by what you are trying to do.
Do bear this is mind - trying and failing can be so much fun and sometimes hilarious. How many games are sold to us on this precept? If they weren’t hilarious some of them would never sell! Just last summer a bunch of us were trying to do cartwheels in the garden. Most of us were rubbish and yet it was so much fun. We also made a slip and slide one day from a long piece of tarpaulin, some detergent and a hose pipe. I over enthusiastically (surprise) threw myself onto this and swear I cracked a rib. It really bloody hurt and yet we laughed so much and then ended up wrapping each other in bubble wrap to soften the impact. Also hilarious.
Look for the funny, embrace failure, celebrate success!
The flip side of this is the crazy amount of pressure, from advertising and social media, on everyone to be unattainably “perfect”. This kind of perfectionism is having a damaging effect on so many and cited as a significant cause of depression and self harm in some generations. Frankly I find this pseudo perfect messaging boring because all these things are trying to do is get us all looking the same! We are all made unique, to be individual, not clones of whatever the next fashion in clothing, exercise, diet etc is.
Anyway - I got distracted... Back to braving uncertainty.
What’s the key to dealing with uncertainty? Bravery; courage; spunk; chutzpah; gumption etc... How do we become brave? This will be different for each of us, to some like me it seems to be in my DNA, I’m not sure how I got it but I also know it has limits. For example, I’ll have a go at most things but the thought of doing a parachute jump gets a flat no every time.
My thought is start where you are (comfort)able. Think of skills and abilities, things you already do and ask yourself what is the next level? What would being a bit braver look like and what do I need to do for that next step? Then maybe share that with a supportive friend to gain some moral support and plan a “have a go” moment in a safe place - one where if it goes wrong you can have a laugh at it, chat it through, learn and have another go, or may be succeed and celebrate. It’s win-win. Before you know it you are (comfort)able at this next level.
Look for the funny, embrace failure, celebrate success!
This process will not only apply to that specific skill but will also give you a little bit more bravery in other areas, because this is how the brain works. It’s neuroscience. As we do and experience new things the brain literally rewires itself and you are a different being after that event. Bizarre but true. (For more info on this I’d recommend listening to a Podcast - Unlocking Us with Brene Brown, episode with David Eagleman. Available on Spotify for free)
In concluding here, and I recognise this is a somewhat random not cleverly joined up set of thoughts, facing uncertainty need not be so hard as there are practical things you can do. When things are more certain and settled in life, introduce some uncertainty to practice how to deal with it. This means when it arrives from somewhere outside your control you are better prepared. Don’t be afraid of failure. Find the funny, learn, change and have another go! You will get better in more ways and areas than you expect! Share the uncertainty in a safe place with supportive people: Friends, family or even professionals.
If you have any questions or comments about any of this please contact me via the comments section or directly. I offer coaching services online and in person (when allowed).
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