We’re pleased to bring you a guest post by Sandra Crowe, a leading thinker in dealing with difficult people and situations and author of Since Strangling Isn't an Option and I didn't Sign up for This! 7 Strategies for Dealing With Difficulty in Difficult Times. If you have a subscription, watch her videos on the Leadership Development Channel.
By Sandra Crowe
Most of us have a fair degree of uncertainty in our lives. Simple questions such as “Will the gas in my car last through the end of the week?” to more troubling ones … “Will I have a job next year?” hover deep in the forefront of our thinking and create worry and concern no matter what your situation. Given that, here are five tips for reflecting about uncertainty in your life:
- Make it ok to live in the “not knowing.” As humans we want to “brace” ourselves for “what’s next” and pad our punching bag for the next hit. We want security, control, and approval and knowing gives us some kind of reassurance, even if it’s bad. I have a coaching client who was experiencing reorganization in his company and he couldn’t sleep at night because he didn’t know if it meant he would have a new boss, be forced to take on new duties, or have to look for a new job. The “new” factor was overwhelming as his sense of security was deeply threatened. When we worked on getting him to see, do and be in what was in front of him (and not what may/may not be), it changed everything. From there we played out all the possibilities and created a strategy for dealing with all of them. He now sleeps better and puts one foot in front of the other.
- Ask what it is you are afraid of (really). More than the fear of the unknown, break down what your core enemy is. Is it that you’ll have to learn to deal with someone or something new? Is it that you won’t be able to keep up? Is it that you will lose control of something you already have? Then ask yourself “How realistic is that?” Look for evidence to the contrary. Haven’t you had new things to learn before? Didn’t you adapt to your new boss last time? Be careful of the yes, but. “Yes, but that was different.” You will find excuses popping up to justify your fears. Don’t let them have the front seat. If the questions you ask yourself determine your destiny, then maybe what you should be asking is “Who could I become as a result of this learning?” or “What would I do with this newfound knowledge?” or even “What doors could this open?” When you see the possibility it creates, the fear becomes insignificant and the possibilities limitless.
- Move out of fear and into vision. As you ask these questions, notice how a vision for what’s possible emerges. Fear and vision can’t exist in the same thought. As you begin to think about what you can create or what positive things could be in store for you, you can begin to strategize instead of feeling paralyzed.
- Ask how others have done it. If you want to create vision but don’t know how, ask your network. Use social media sites and ask how people have found new jobs, handled a boss, or solved a problem. If an issue is within the organization, ask others who may be in the know, network, or ask someone who knows someone. Use it as an opportunity to make connections for knowledge or positioning or as a stepping stone to something you hadn’t considered yet.
- Act. Whatever you do, make sure you do something. Being stuck in the fear is not only paralyzing, but also reinforcing. Dig yourself out of the fear conversation by setting a number of actions to challenge yourself. The challenge will move you out of the fear and your life will be full of exciting new possibilities!
Doing all this won’t get rid of the fact that you don’t know, but will help you better prepare and offset the angst you have around it. Once the angst is down, you will be better positioned to do what you need to do from a place of greater peace and acceptance. From here, you’ll make better decisions, be more available for others, and feel better about that which you do not or may not ever know. Dealing with uncertainty in uncertain times can open the door to new learning and excitement. See it that way and watch your life change!