Oh hello, uncertainty! We meet yet again. It seems like you return more quickly every time. Webster’s dictionary defines uncertainty as “not known, not certain to occur, and not clearly identified or defined.” Depending on the lens that you’re looking through, uncertainty can take on many forms.
I used to loathe uncertainty. Every time it crept up, whether it was deciding if I should leave my role, which city to relocate to, or just what to have for dinner, I’d feel a heaviness creep over as an unknown approached. Being a Libra, indecision and difficulty facing uncertainty was already mapped out in my astrological chart.
When uncertainty arises, we often immediately go to the endless what-ifs, hypothetical situations and those terrifying worst-case scenarios. Yet, what if we looked at uncertainty from a different perspective? What if we switched out those lenses? How about looking at uncertainty with wild curiosity and awe of the vast realm of possibility it provides? How about asking yourself, what can I create here? As Margaret Drabble said, “when nothing is sure, everything is possible.”
Easier said than done, though. It can be challenging to go from the analysis paralysis of uncertain scenarios to embracing possibility. Here are a few tips to help shift this perspective from overwhelm to lightness.
1. Keep an Open Mind
Keep an open mind but don’t allow yourself to get trapped in analysis paralysis. Stay open to the opportunity it provides but don’t get caught in the overwhelm of breaking down every possible outcome in detail. If you feel it’s necessary to go through potential scenarios, give yourself an analysis time limit. For example, allow yourself 15-30 minutes to map out the possible outcomes and then stop. Maybe even rip up and throw away the paper after. You don’t want to dwell on negative outcomes or worst-case scenarios. You want to avoid consuming yourself with what is out of your control. This next tip can also help prevent the downward spiral of analysis.
2. Focus on Acting ‘As If’
Rather than focusing your attention on the endless ‘what ifs’ of potential outcomes, redirect that energy to acting ‘as if’ you have your desired result. If you are uncertain about leaving your role to find another, don’t focus on how long the job search could take or potential rejections. Instead, focus on how it would feel to be in a role that you love and enjoy. Visualize how this would look and feel to you and concentrate on that feeling.
If you are uncertain about whether to go for a promotion, avoid thinking about negative scenarios that could play out. Instead, focus on how it would feel to land the promotion, expand your impact in the organization, increase your income capabilities, etc.
While uncertainty can often breed fear and doubt, acting ‘as if’ is a great tactic to combat this and focus on your desired outcome.
3. Loose Planning
When faced with uncertainty, make loose and flexible plans for your desired outcome. Focus on what you can control and plan around that. Loose planning provides the flexibility to adjust as the scenario can change or evolve. Loose planning was one of my key takeaways from 2020 after the pandemic impacted my work/travel plans, just like the plans of many. It involves creating plans around what you can control.
For example, rather than booking flights and planning locations far out in advance, I’ll book a flight to my next destination and an accommodation (Airbnb) for a month. This allows me to get to my next destination, feel it out and decide if I want to stay longer or move on from there. Also, given the limitations on travel, I am only booking places where it is currently possible (in my control).
Let’s take another example of the uncertainty of a job search. Rather than starting with a detailed plan of the exact role title, the date you need to start by, etc, focus on the first step in your control. Update your resume or start a resume dump of experience. Block off time on your calendar for the job search. Reach out to someone in your network to connect and get the conversations started. Focus on the first step and loosely plan how you’d ideally like your search to go. Set a target date for this new position but leave room for the possibilities that uncertainty provides. You’ll likely be surprised at how your ideal role can evolve in the process.
Rather than getting caught up in fear of the future unknowns, ground yourself in the present moment. It’s great to plan ahead, yet as the past year has taught us, nothing is certain. Dwelling on the future only takes peace away from the present.
Mindfulness is a great tactic to bring you back to the present moment. Focus on your breath and practice deep breathing. Expand your awareness by taking note of your surroundings. Take note of what you see, hear, feel and smell in that moment. As soon as you feel yourself thinking ahead, bring yourself back to the present.
5. Find Calm
Relax! Whatever brings you calm, do that. Maybe it’s getting some fresh air, exercising, meditating, or just lighting a candle and taking a few deep breaths. Uncertainty can lead to a great deal of stress and anxiety. Know yourself and what provides you calm in stressful times. For some, this may be alone time and for others, it may involve connecting with others. Find your calm.
6. Trust Your Intuition
Finally, trust yourself and your inner guide. In times of uncertainty, we often look to everyone else for answers or guidance. While it can be helpful to seek advice or outside opinions, don’t forget that only you know what is best for you. Connect within, what is that gut feeling telling you? Follow and trust your gut.
The more I’ve learned to embrace uncertainty, the more magic that has followed. From the adventure of moving to Buenos Aires to my current lifestyle as a ‘digital nomad’ where the next destination is never quite clearly defined, uncertainty has become a close friend rather than a foe. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you embrace it a bit more yourself. After all, uncertainty is a catalyst for change.
So hello, uncertainty! It’s great to see you again. I can’t wait to see what exciting surprises you have in store this time. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help navigating uncertainty, we’re here if you need help!