Dealing with uncertainty

How To Deal With Uncertainty by Violet Dhu

My husband Peter is planning a trip to Melbourne to run some workshops and this trip has been on again and off again and now on again due to COVID-19. Even though it is on again, there is uncertainty in his ability to return to WA and he may have to self-quarantine.

Uncertainty can be debilitating to an individual and an organisation. It can lead to paralysis of decision making and action. It can reduce people’s capacity to be productive and we can become fixed on the immediate situation and lose perspective. And this may lead to poor decision making.

If your attitude to uncertainty is that you need certainty and predictability, then you are more likely to use worry as a tool. We know that worrying gives us an illusion of certainty. We may think it prepares us for the worst, so there are no surprises. We know that certainty is an impossible thing to achieve in life. Benjamin Franklin said that “In this world, nothing can be certain except death and taxes.”

What can you do to deal with uncertainty?

You can self-coach yourself through uncertainty. Self-coaching for uncertainty is about building your tolerance for uncertainty and resilience to the unexpected. Here are some strategies to develop your self-coaching capacity around uncertainty.

  • Reframe uncertainty, move past “being stuck” and look for possibilities. We feel less stuck when we focus on the options and choices, and when we look forward with greater optimism and with possibility in mind.
  • Move past imagining extremes like “either or outcomes”, “black or white thinking” or “wrong or right”. Think of uncertainty in terms of probabilities. With probabilities, we can have contingency plans and plan B’s to ensure that if the unexpected arises, we are prepared and expecting it. 
  • Immunise or inoculate yourself. Taking risks and putting yourself into situations that would generally heighten your uncertainty will allow you to see that uncertainty is not so bad. With an innovator’s mindset, this idea would be expressed as “try something new, fail fast, fix fast”.
  • Learn to tolerate and deal with uncertainty. The ability to better deal with uncertainty is the key to decreasing your worry and anxiety.
  • Remember Benjamin Franklin’s quote and accept that there is always some degree of uncertainty in our day-to-day life. We can add to this the serenity prayer. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”. This is another great mind set for dealing with uncertainty which we can use as we self-coach ourselves.
  • Show up strong. How you show up throughout this uncertainty matters. Your actions and behaviour can impact others around you during uncertainty. One of the keys to uncertainty is to remain calm while under fire. How do others see you showing up? What can you do to show up stronger and more confident? This self-audit will help in your dealing with uncertainty.

Well Peter is looking forward to his Melbourne trip. He knows what could happen. He is feeling confident and positive. He has booked his flights with flexibility. And he has cleared his diary for 14 days in case he needs to self-isolate on his return. Does he know what is going to happen? Not really. So which tools and strategies can you use to deal with uncertainty? Learning to be a good self-coach around uncertainty and resilience is a great strategy to have.

So which tools and strategies can you use to deal with uncertainty? Learning to be a good self-coach around uncertainty and resilience is a great strategy to have.

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