Thriving in 2024: Discipline & creativity as your anchors

By Mohan Dhall
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As we step into 2024 with hopes of new possibilities, the unsettling reality of uncertainty looms large. In a world grappling with a changing climate, political upheavals, and financial volatility, the pursuit of certainty becomes a paramount concern for families.

In the face of unpredictability, the question arises: How do we navigate the turbulent waters of uncertainty?

How to bring certainty when there is uncertainty?

All families seek to live in an atmosphere of peace and safety. At the start of 2024 we celebrate the New Year as bringing new possibilities and new experiences. We commence with hope. Hope however can steadily erode as we experience things out of our control: a changing climate, political uncertainty, financial unpredictability, natural events that remind us of our smallness.We crave certainty and predictability, but the opposite occurs when we least expect it.

How do we use what we have learned to manage uncertainty?

There are various ways we can empower ourselves to manage at times when we live with uncertainty. These include having strong routines, making changes that induce discomfort, managing thinking, blending physical activity with challenging goals, being still, managing down time and being creative.

Strong routines

If a person has strong routines that they consciously follow, then they will have structures to rely on when other things feel out of control. Strong structures require self-discipline. It means shaping how things are set up so that even when we resist trying to be strong, we find it easier to start. Surpassing times of low motivation can keep us going steadily.

Routines need to adapt to circumstances. Accordingly, when things are done may alter over time. A 5.30am start for a morning jog may suit in summer but a lunchtime jog in winter may be more practical.

Making changes that induce discomfort

Human behaviour is premised on doing things repeatedly without thinking. This reduces cognitive load as we do not have to keep making decisions each time we do anything. Having strong routines can induce a danger that we become too fixed and self-centred. The routines can become the only source of strength.

In order to break this pattern making changes that induce discomfort pre-empt being forced to adjust from a position of no choice. Making even small changes that induce discomfort help us to learn. Adjusting to something new, inevitably makes us stronger, more accommodating and also more insightful. We get to know ourselves better and stretch our limits. Knowing ourselves better is the basis of knowing others better too.

Discomfort reminds us that comfort and luxury is the provenance of a few and can be a trap to living a full and insightful life.

Managing thinking

Uncertainty that induces anxiety needs to be managed. Reminding ourselves that we are okay, that we are strong enough, that we will find a way are all important. This is particularly the case when we feel buffeted by things outside of our control that impact us negatively.

Affirmation of this kind helps to calm the mind and shape adaptability. Timely reminders can energise when we feel enervated.

Blending physical activity with challenging goals

When there is uncertainty, we can feel unsure what to do. This can make use freeze and feel powerless. Physical activity involves movement and movement counters passivity. This is because energy is expended in changing something. A dynamic system is continually adjusting and palpably alive.

Coupled with challenging goals, physical activity becomes purposeful even when other things might seem confusing.  When events cause us to question why things occur or what the meaning is, then having a challenge that builds resolve can help.

The focus and strength to take on a challenge is a resolution. It brings order. It demonstrates determination to bring focus to effort and exercise control – as far as is possible.

Being still

Insight can come from the stillness we find in disciplined activity or from the time we spend being still and otherwise unoccupied. Stillness can make people feel restless which is itself an insight.

Being still can reveal song lines arising in our thoughts. Those lines may provide important insights into the source of anxiety or uncertainty. Listening to our thinking is important, whether it is sung or is the voice talking to us in our heads.

Reflecting on dreams can also bring insights personal to an individual’s situation and circumstances.

Everything can be meaningful if viewed from the lens of learning, opportunity, and growth.

Managing down time

We can also inquire as to the purpose of waiting. Of being between things. Attending to things we oftimes forget to consider the spaces between things we do. We forget the importance of inquiring into the purpose of “the down time.’

Managing down time brings attention to the times when restlessness and waiting can take hold. Instead, we can assess the nature of uncertainty that accompanies this time between times.

Being creative

Creativity occurs within constraints. It is a practice that requires freedom within defined parameters. Being creative means making something new. The act of making, or building up, is one which counters uncertainty because it is an active endeavour that seeks to solve and resolve. It is, of itself, empowering.

Built things can be quickly broken down, but the act of making, of creating, last beyond that which is made. The intention, the effort, the energy input never can fade. They become a part of us even if the thing produced stands alone, falls or fails.

Creative practice can be an aspect of all lives. In terms of managing things outside of our control, creative practice can bring opportunities to see patterns, make meaning and realise connections.

In a changing world, we need to believe we have the power to adapt, to cope and to thrive. These practices can be helpful when outside forces might seek to overwhelm. The new year commences with resolve. With discipline strategies can bring strength and steadiness when what is known becomes a stranger.

(The views expressed are personal and those of the author’s)

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