From gang leaders to social entrepreneurs to Corporate CEO’s.
Everyone, at some point, will be hit by uncertainty that will bring you to your knees.
This month, I learned how to Identify the feeling of fear, fog and stasis in your body.
Because the more you can identify fear – the better you can cope with it.
Here’s how my journey started.
In the UK, it feels like we’ve had a decade of stress.
Starting with the Brexit vote, then a world of Trump and Johnson kick-started culture wars, culminating in the covid pandemic which was the pinnacle of uncertainty in our lives.
Since then, we’ve had the cost-of-living crisis, and nothing in this country seems to work anymore, our industries are on their knees and the quitting culture is dominant.
There seems to be no let-up in the weight piling onto our shoulders and minds.
Never in my life have things felt so uncertain and unpredictable.
In fact, that word UNCERTAIN has cropped up in every area of people’s lives.
In our careers, the threat of A.I, relationships, the work- life balance, health, home, security, stability…..
Everywhere I look, people are being paralysed by self-doubt and a lack of direction.
People are yearning for trusted leadership, to be empowered, to gain confidence and direction. To live their best lives, to thrive, not simply survive.
A few months ago, an old friend Sam Conniff – a former colleague and someone I’d worked with in my MTV days – reached out to me explaining that he had set up a program around uncertainty. Many corporate businesses have been sending teams to try it out – including Netflix, Apple, Nike and Nestle, and Sam invited me to try it out.
It’s a set of online sessions both live and pre-recorded for five hours in total.
(Truth be told, I love self-reflecting workshops that help us understand who we are and why we behave the way we do. In my next lifetime I may retain as a psychologist!)
Also, I knew that anything Sam had put his hand to would be progressive, provocative, pirate and risky. I’d worked with him in my MTV days on the ground-breaking Dubplate Drama which was the world’s first interactive digital and on-air drama.
Sam is a rule-breaker who challenges the status quo, and with his partner – Lead Scientist Katherine Templar-Lewis – they’d developed another ground-breaking way at looking at life’s uncertainties and making our world better.
So whilst I’d been hearing about the UNCERTAINTY EXPERTS PROGRAMME for months and was dying to try it, I just hadn’t been able to get the time to partake.
Then suddenly various stable areas in my life became unstable.
For the first time in my life, things were totally out of my control and my day-to-day activity depended on other people and the universe. I was living every day minute by minute with no stability or certainty.
I needed assurance that I was able to power through this chapter with resilience and I knew the time had come for me to find the time and accept Sam’s invitation.
I reached out to Sam explaining my current ‘wading through treacle’ chapter, and he replied with the most gracious, warm, welcoming email inviting me to join the next cohort of UNCERTAIN people.
The UNCERTAINTY EXPERTS programme’s purpose was to transform our uncertainty from a negative to a positive.
To understand the science and story of turning uncertainty into opportunity.
‘’The Uncertainty Experts programme brings together psychology, neuroscience, CBT, empathy design and emerging technologies to create a show like no other, an evidence-based intervention into Uncertainty’’.
Uncertainty Experts is a unique and transformative personal development experience bringing together neuroscientists from UCL to create the world’s first interactive documentary scientifically proven to increase Uncertainty Tolerance.
The live sessions are led by the two Uncertainty Experts Sam and Katherine. The pre-recorded sessions include a set of incredible people who have overcome adversity.
The episodes are exciting, well shot, dynamic, futuristic, engaging and gripping. (Not surprising then to learn that they are created by Netflix producers).
To make the positive change we would take a journey of two self-assessments and watch three masterclass episodes with complimentary extra episodes. That’s it.
UNCERTAINTY EXPERTS IN ACTION
So here we were on the programmes launch night, where I met 20 of my other uncertainty colleagues – my squad – my uncertainty crew- and we were talked through the different chapters of uncertainty, why people want to be certain and how this program would help us deal with areas like fear, fog, and stasis.
Once the launch was over, we’d unlocked our online pre-assessment.
Feeling excited and slightly nervous, yet curious and excited about what this pre-assessment would be like, I dived in.
It involved some multiple-choice questions about how we felt about different areas of our lives.
It also included a fun jeopardy-style game blowing up balloons via your laptop keyboard – but tap that space bar too many times and the balloons could explode and you lose all your accumulated points! (I’m hard wired to be competitive and win so this was a moment of jeopardy!)
The aim was to gain the highest score, but as there was no logical gameplay involved it truly was down to a ‘’whatever’’ attitude. All so uncertain and anxiety inducing!
How did it make us feel? On self-reflection, it was silly to get worried about something that was totally out of our control. The lesson was learned. Sometimes you just have to let life lead you, take some risks, shrug it off if they don’t succeed and keep it moving.
After the pre-assessment we had unlocked the first episodes about FEAR, FOG & STASIS that we could watch, and the first episode was about fear. In this section of the programme, various uncertainty experts talk to us through their experiences of Fear. their journey and overcoming it.
During the episode titled fear we learnt about how to make our fight or flight response step down, and step more into our resting and digesting energy, we also learned how to be grateful.
This masterclass was full of all the F Words. Fight, flight, fear, fawn, freeze, fold, f*&*!
The session broke down the science of why we crave certainty, and what happens to our brains when we lose it. I learned how to flow like water and pivot to meet uncertainty, rather than fight it. It was clear that this would lead to less anxiety, and more joy and contentment. If I can only learn to acknowledge and embrace it moving forward!
We were asked to find an object that we were grateful for. It’s not the most sentimental object, but I am grateful for my phone. It allows me to live an empowered life via communication, safety, knowledge, memories and more.
We were asked to silently talk to it for 30 seconds and tell it about all the things I was grateful for it for. The experts showed us how emotions like gratitude create a dopamine hit in our brains. So as a group we all had a unified dopamine hit together. ‘’Group drugs’’ defined differently. LOL
The pre-recorded uncertainty experts’ stories were fascinating and humbling. A group of people who truly embraced the uncertainty in their circumstances to push through to ultimate success and breakthrough. These people included:
MORGAN GODVIN – A young woman who went to prison accused of her best friend’s death and managed to stay positive during her imprisonment leaning into the gratitude and empathy she had for her daily blessings
MARK DEMPSTER – a former Glaswegian smuggler who is now a trauma specialist and works in Harley Street with politicians around anxiety and addiction
KARL LOKKO – A former gang member one of the most notorious Gang members in London who is now runs a black business incubator and is an entrepreneur
(See the full set at Uncertainty Experts website)
We learnt about Safety behaviour, which are the negative things that we do when we are anxious scared or angry. We might be aggressive, swear, shout, overeat, drink too much, take drugs…..
As soon as you recognise ‘’safety behaviour’’, we can stop it. (Mine are working out, keeping busy, eating, and …enlightening moment….having a slight ‘’saviour complex’’. I realised I try and help others save themselves, so I don’t have to save myself!
IMPOSTER SYNDROME IS A MINOR UNCERTAINTY
I loved the exercise where we were asked to make a list of things that we do within our comfort zone, and then other activities in our ‘’stretch zone’’. We made small steps to get fully into our stretch zone, so that in a few months, when we look back in retrospect, all the things in our stretch zone, would be in our comfort zone, making room for more new things in my stretch zone! Make sense? I found this exercise incredibly exciting!
What else could I do to stretch myself?
I learned that there’s something about uncertainty that boosts your productiveness and your consciousness.
We were shown that research from Harvard University shows that uncertainty and anxiety put the brain in a top state for learning and growth.
UNCERTAINTY EXPERTS’ SUMMARY
I like to think that I have a high resilience and tolerance for challenges. This programme helped me understand the tools and emotional mental ride we experience when things are not in our control.
It highlighted why a welcoming embrace of uncertainty is critical.
One lesson leapt out at me:
A high tolerance level enables you to live your best life, meet new people and have a socially active happy life.
Low uncertainty levels lead to us being more susceptible to populism and conspiracy theories.
The course enabled me to recognise my own accomplishments. (Even writing that last sentence made me cringe). I recognised that I HAVE MOVED THE DIAL! I HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO PEOPLE’S SUCCESS. (Still cringing!)
So next time you have a fear around uncertainty or fear of something happening, think about the missed opportunity… what opportunity will you miss that you may come to regret?
Grip the fear with both hands and leap forward through the journey.
It reminded me of a quote I have on my fridge magnet. ‘’ Fate whispers to the warrior “You cannot withstand the storm” and the warrior whispers back “I am the storm”.
At the final assessment and graduation ceremony, we learned that as a group we scored high on bravery and resilience, but low on decisiveness.
It made us realise that Connection is the way out. Connection to people, places, and conversations will always make us more resilient.
The programme was a journey I appreciate for many reasons. The sessions and timings made it easy to take part even if you’re mega busy as there are various time and date options. There are numerous reading materials and videos all collated and shared. They make it easy to recognise positive and negative habit forming.
Everything about the way society works makes us demand control and certainty, so this course made me realise it’s ok to simply lean in and embrace uncertainty. I thought I was already resilient and i think this course made me shrug and say ‘’ok so I don’t know what’s next and i can’t control it- but whatever happens, happens and I’ll be the best I can with what I have’’.
I encourage you to check out the UncertaintyExperts.com site and try out their quick free resilience tests. Go on! Be curious….
We can all thrive in uncertain times……if we can learn to consistently explore the benefits of uncertainty.