On today’s show we’re talking about the mental aspects of navigating these uncertain times. I find myself going through all kinds of emotional swings in these days. Those who know me would describe me as someone who is very tempered, pretty unflappable.
Over the past several months, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions. I’m asking questions like:
- Will there be a shortfall in rental income, and if so, how much?
- When will we see revenue return to our short term rentals?
- Will our current construction projects be impacted by the mandated shutdowns?
- Will any of my friends or family get sick?
- Will we experience food shortages?
- Will we exhaust our financial reserves?
- What will the market look like when we emerge from this period of social isolation?
- What will happen to the capital markets?
- Will people stop investing out of fear?
What I discovered in these questions is that all of these questions have one thing in common. They are rooted in a basic human need to bring certainty to the most fundamental aspects of living.
We all crave certainty to some degree. If everything is certain in life, then there is no variety and life gets boring. So we need a little uncertainty, but we want that uncertainty to add a little spice to life. My wife loves to be surprised by a gift of beautiful freshly cut flowers. That should be uncertain.
But in areas that are core to living like: “Where is my next meal going to come from?” We want that to be certain.
In fact we need certainty so badly that some people will do just about anything to create certainty in their life. They will lie to themselves, they will create a narrative in their own minds that synthesizes a suitable level of certainty. If the certainty isn’t there, they will invent the story that brings an acceptable level of certainty.
I’ve observed the full spectrum of reactions. There are those who go to sleep at night in a hazmat suit at one end of the spectrum, and then there are others who are in complete denial and believe that this is all a hoax.
Both ends of this spectrum are trying to accomplish the same thing, to bring certainty to an uncertain situation.
I reality, nothing has changed. Life is uncertain and always has been. Even those who embrace the thrill of the hunt, the adrenaline junkies out there. They too at a deeper level require certainty at the very core.
My own response to the current Covid-19 pandemic has been to get as much information as possible. Armed with knowledge of what is really happening is my best path to certainty. I believe that I can’t change reality on a large scale. I can control my own expectations. The closer my own thoughts are aligned with reality, the less stress I will experience.
There is a natural human reaction to any bit of new information. The first step might be denial. At the other end of the process is acceptance, and finally action taking. In between there are a number of steps which include shock, anger, rationalization, confusion, rationalizing.
Some people get through that process to acceptance quicker than others.
I’ve discovered for myself, that the best path to certainty is to remain grounded in reality, to constantly question my own beliefs to make sure I’m not engaging in confirmation bias. It’s a difficult process. Sometimes I catch myself looking at wrong data, simply to make myself feel better.
Check in with yourself and how you are managing the uncertainty, that has been present in your life all along whether you recognized it or not.