An (involuntary) lesson of how to deal with uncertainty and unpredictability

The ups and downs with Covid and its consequences over the last couple of years were basically an intensive course to learn how to deal with uncertainty and unpredictability. 

I dealt with several unexpected situations this year (well, and the previous year). But during the last week, I had the ultimate chance to "test" how much my learning holds up. 

And I realized that there is particularly ONE thing that helps me (and a couple of other concepts on top of that) - which can even lead to unexpected results….more on that in a bit. 

We all know that situations/people close to our hearts affect us the most. 

So also in my story. 

Here's what happened.

My daughter - who has been living in the UK for quite some time - decided in the summer to come home for Christmas. After not having been home for the last 3 years (an attempt in 2019 went wrong due to some misinformation regarding trains and dogs….but that's another story).

We were all aware of the Covid situation and were only cautiously optimistic about the travel. 

Uncertainty ruled….who the heck knew what might happen while coming closer to Christmas. 

Eventually, it looked really good and the planning started. Travelling from the UK to Germany by car with two people of different nationalities and two dogs is not short of an administrative nightmare these days. The amount of paperwork involved - due to Covid AND Brexit - was enormous. 

Feeling hopeful...and the unexpected turn of events

All was done and prepared and I dared to feel expectant and joyful just 4 days before the journey was about to happen. 

Too early as it turned out.

Then suddenly- completely unexpected - the French government announced to close the borders for anyone from the UK "not travelling without a compelling reason". 

BANG. There it was. Unpredictability in its purest form. 

Frantically, we researched the whole friggin' internet for information. With the help of Google translate, we got a better understanding of all the stuff published on the website of the French government. 

Visiting family was not a "compelling reason" - with the result that the journey through the Eurotunnel was cancelled Thursday night. 3 days before the official travel date. 

Not without having had numerous calls amongst us with the frustration and level of helplessness running high. So easy to feel like a victim to circumstances!

In the evening - while I started getting used to the idea of having another Christmas without my daughter here I still scanned several sides for more information. 

The rollercoaster of emotions

And tada - a shimmer of hope came up when I read that transit through France might be an option after all.

So the next morning we got in the queue of the customer service at Eurotunnel (we started in position 102…took a considerable amount of time to be able to speak with someone) and we re-activated the ticket and really felt hopeful that it could work. Particularly after a work colleague of my daughter found something on a French form that sounded like being an EU national would make travel possible.  

YAY.

That was Friday. 

Saturday: New information. Looked like we misinterpreted what we read. You have to LIVE in the EU to be able to transit.

Shoot. 

Lots of discussions. Going - not going - going - not going. Do we risk being sent away at the border or not? Do they tell the truth in the forms or not (yes, we even debated lying!). A decision they had to take (despite my daughter begging me to tell her what to do).

 A rollercoaster of emotions. 

In the end, it was clear: They were totally truthful in all the paperwork. And decided to take the risk (which was having a drive of 4.5 hours with potentially having to drive the same time back home). 

A risk taken... and a happy end - this time

Fast forward: they were let through the border(s) and made it home. Also about 3 hours before Germany restricted entry for everyone from the UK (Covid related).

And we got our first family Christmas in 3 years - couldn't be happier. Let's face it - the outcome could have been very different. Sometimes we're rewarded for taking risks and other times we're not.

The 6 things that help me with dealing with uncertainty and unpredictability (plus a superpower)

 So here's what I learned about uncertainty and unpredictability and had the chance to apply (hooray.....): 

  1. Most things are out of my control. Bugger. But that's how it is. 
  2. Even when I think or believe things are going in the right direction, last-minute changes can disturb even the best-laid plans.
  3. It is what it is. Fighting against it only costs lots of energy and is futile. 
  4. Even when accepting things how they are I can make an effort of finding solutions that have the chance of bringing me the desired result. 
  5. Worry is pointless. It's only exhausting and basically never helpful to the situation. The better way: Staying in the present. Which is hardly ever as scary as our worries about what might happen in the future. 
  6. Positive indifference is the most relaxing attitude to deal with uncertainty (=being positive without being desperately attached to the outcome). Admittedly takes some practice. And does not prevent sudden rushes of anger or frustration. Hey, nobody is THAT zen. ;-)

And now to the number 1 superpower that I found the key to dealing with uncertainty and unpredictability: 

HOW I DECIDE TO RESPOND TO THE SITUATION. 

Emotionally that is. 

THAT is totally within my power. 

While I had moments of frustration and sadness when it looked that my daughter wouldn't be here, I moved past those feelings rather quickly and into acceptance. Despite this was so important for me. 

I also decided to keep evaluating and researching to possibly find a solution. I could only find the energy to do so because I crawled out of the dip of bad feelings quickly.

I'm no saint nor am I perfect. 

So I also allowed myself to rant about unvaccinated people for some minutes for partly being responsible for the situation for some minutes and then realized that this does not help. 

Not me. Nor the situation. 

Finally - even BEFORE knowing how things would turn out I decided to have a great Christmas and enjoy every day regardless of the outcome of the situation. 

This felt so much easier and relaxed than pushing against what is or allowing me to stay in the dark hole of frustration and anger. 

We all love a predictable world (and people)

The thing is: We all love a predictable world - or people. Because it seems to guarantee certainty. 

We want to be certain that we keep a job, that the money comes in regularly, that people, economies and (lately) governments behave in a certain way. 

Because then we are in control and can feel safe. 

Everything else can feel rather scary.

That might even be the moment to start blaming others.

  • Those with a different opinion.
  • The company we work for.
  • The government (very popular these days).
  • The unvaccinated (even more popular).

Because it's much easier than to take responsibility for my own feelings. Even if I had no control of the circumstances. Totally get it.I've learned though to use the superpower of response. 

Because I'm back in power then - which gives me the feeling of control. At least about how I feel. 

And maybe a way for you too to deal with the world we're living in right now (with no sign that it will change any time soon). 

I wish you a lovely and more importantly, peaceful holiday time and a fantastic start in 2022...whatever it might bring for all of us. 

PS: If you feel that you'd like to have some support for dealing with the uncertainties of life and work and would love to find and develop your personal superpowers and ultimate confidence to do so - just drop me an e-mail at [email protected] and let's talk. 

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