Moving through uncertainty with determination and confidence

This entry was posted on 18 June 2021.

When things change dramatically, they rarely, if ever, go back to ‘normal’. Disruption demands that we let go of the past and step into a new way of being.


In her book Future-Proof Yourself, human-potential and parenting expert Nikki Bush provides simple but effective lessons and frameworks to help you future-proof yourself to win at both work and life. Here are her answers to some of the most common questions around dealing with disruption.


Q. What’s the difference between being rescued and empowered?


A. When someone rescues you, they want to fix you and make things better. With disruption and loss you can’t be fixed. The picture is broken and you need to create a new one. You are changed. You can’t go back to exactly the way you were before. We need to focus on empowering people by helping them to raise themselves up. They are responsible for creating their new future.


Of course, we can help, be of assistance, provide some support or scaffolding for the process. You do not travel alone but ultimately choosing life or death (literally and figuratively) lies with only one person – you. When we rush in and rescue others, all too often we disempower and minimise them, holding them in a victim pattern which is not healthy or useful to anyone, least of all, themselves.


Q. How is it possible to keep perspective when things get tough, dark and challenging?


A. Just as there are two sides to every coin, change and disruption bring both collateral damage and collateral beauty. Elizabeth Lesser writes in her book Broken Open, that there are sparks to be found in the shards of your most broken moments, and it’s true.


I recommend you do my Collateral Damage Collateral Beauty exercise. Fold a piece of paper in half and on the left hand side of the page make a list of all the collateral damage as a result of whatever you are going through – anything at all. Then, on the right hand side, write down all the collateral beauty. You will be amazed at how the beauty always outweighs the damage, if you are curious, open-hearted and awake. You have to let it in. If you block it out you become bitter and buried as a victim of circumstance. You may get stuck and frozen in time, unable to pull yourself out of the darkness. Do the work!


“With patience, determination and practice we can improve our competence.”


Q. Will things go back to normal?


A. When things change dramatically, they rarely, if ever, go back to ‘normal’. The way things used to be and the way things are will never be identical. The way you were and who you are now are different too. Disruption demands that we let go of the past and step into a new way of being. It’s like a chemical reaction: nothing is ever the same again.


Think of the tides and the wind: we don’t control them, but we can learn how to harness their power to work for us. When the wind comes up at the beach, on a dam or lagoon, the fair-weather bathers disappear, and the adrenalin-junkie kite surfers and paragliders arrive, game to take on the wind and the tide. Just like them, we can learn new skills to deal with change. With patience, determination and practice we can improve our competence. We can build our confidence and gain a sense of control, even when everything feels out of control.


Q. How has the pandemic and the work from home trend impacted us positively?


A. The shift to work from home is providing many people with an opportunity, for the first time, to see the possibility of a more integrated life over which they actually have more control. While working from home is the current reality, it will become working from anywhere when restrictions ease, and we will see rigid adherence to the nine-to-five workday and the five-day work week fall away too. What companies will pay for is someone with skills, expertise and the right attitude to get the job done on time and to the required standard. It will be none of their business what you do with the rest of your time.


Q. What is driving the increase in employee engagement since the start of the pandemic?


A. During the pandemic there has been an interesting rise in employee engagement and productivity, since many people have shifted to working from home. I think it is worth looking at what might be behind it. Dipstick polling research I conducted during my virtual presentations with organisations I worked with in the past year showed a rise to 70–80 percent employee engagement versus previous figures of around 10–15 percent.


From my perspective, there seem to be four main drivers at play here:

  • Fear – protecting our jobs so we put in extra time and effort
  • Control – we default to over-control when we feel out of control
  • Attention – the need to be noticed
  • Mastery – work from home put us on a new learning journey we need to master, acquiring new skills and perhaps making us more adaptable and employable.


“We have to adapt and be flexible to cope with the twists and turns of a normal life.”


Q. Why does change make us feel so uncomfortable?


A. Whether we like it or not, change is unavoidable in our personal and professional lives, as are external disruptions due to the convergence of multiple technologies that have all been accelerated by COVID-19. If you think you are experiencing a speed wobble, you probably are, and that’s because you feel you may be losing control. Control is a myth. Control is an illusion.


Change brings with it fear of the unknown and fear of risk, but also the excitement of new adventures and possibilities – yes, you read that right! There will be mixed emotions as you let go of life or the world as it was, to embrace life as it is and will become in future. Put another way, you have to work with the world as it is, not as you wish it could be. This requires thinking differently – out of the box, constant learning, unlearning and relearning, problem-solving and extraordinary communication in a multitude of different ways.


Q. Are feelings of loss due to change normal?


A. Absolutely! In fact, we as human beings, go through change and loss more regularly than we think, we just don’t see it. I am referring to things that disrupt our lives from changing jobs, moving towns, kids going to new schools, going in and out of relationships, death, divorce, loss of health, wealth, a business, a friendship and much more. All these things push us into a process of adjustment to a new normal, a new way of being in the world. We have to adapt and be flexible to cope with the twists and turns of a normal life. No-one’s life unfolds in a straight line – nothing good or bad lasts forever!


It’s important to understand the seven stages of adjustment and transition and that you don’t necessarily work through them in a linear way either. With any kind of change – by default or design – there is a need to let go of what was and accept what is. It is only through acceptance of the many paradoxes and ambiguities of life that we can truly live in the present, not remain stuck in our past or frozen in fear about a future that we cannot see. Self-leadership is the key.


For more on Nikki Bush, visit


by Nikki Bush


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