"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." ~ Winston Churchill
"Business is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight." ~Henry R. Luce
Uncertainty is incredibly uncomfortable, but as a leader in today’s organizational environment, it is a persistent reality. Simply looking at the speed in which technology, processes and competitive landscapes changes ensure that uncertainty will be a regular environment that leaders will immersed in. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a proactive stance and grow your way beyond this often debilitating state of mind.
Utilize these five tools when uncertainty creeps into your mind and eventually, they will become second-nature:
Learn More About the Situation
Ignorance is at the heart of uncertainty. One of the reasons that you may be uncertain how to proceed in a situation is because you lack adequate knowledge to make an informed decision. Take the time to investigate the matter from another angle, or at least a little deeper. As you are performing your research, make notes of the pertinent information you encounter.
Create a Plan
If you know what you are going to do, then uncertainty ceases to exist. No matter what the situation, you can develop a plan that will help to relieve your stress and give you more confidence as you move forward. This may be somewhat easier said than done, but with practice you can get better at building flexibility into the plan to adjust to new information.
A plan will stop your mind from playing loops of outcomes that may or may not occur and allow you to focus your attention on other matters.
Have a Bias Towards Action
Great leaders are prone to taking action quickly. Uncertainty can feel a lot like walking through a fog bank where you aren’t sure where to go. The only way to get past it is to go forward. In this case that is action. As you take one action after the other you gain more information and the fog slowly clears.
Couple this with the fact you are taking your mind off of worrying about various outcomes and instead concentrating on an activity and the benefit of action is multiplied.
Calm Your Mind
When you experience uncertainty, you likely have accompanying physical symptoms associated with fear and nervousness. These issues have a negative impact on cognitive function, which may leave you in a negative, unhealthy loop where you feel sick and uncertain continually.
Whether it is listening to music, taking a few soothing breaths or even meditating, it is important to be able to hit the “reset” button so that you can see the issue clearly and are able to tap into your creative ability. A state of fear doesn’t help with either of those.
Do Something Physical
Another way to hit that “reset” button is to do something physical. While you may not initially think that going to the gym is going to help you get through a situation that you are uncertain about, it can. Your uncertainty can trigger the fight-or-flight response, which releases adrenaline and other chemicals into your body.
Since fighting is obviously not a good solution and you cannot run away from your problems, you need to find an alternative way to release the tension in your body or it will affect your thinking.
The idea is to move your body, get your blood and lymph systems stimulated and to enjoy yourself. Do whatever it is that you find enjoyable that will stimulate your body.
Practice Confidence Building
In some ways, confidence is the opposite of uncertain emotions in that the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. Because of this, you need to find ways to increase your confidence outside of the situation which creates feelings of uncertainty.
Change your internal self-talk to positive and empowering messages. Think back to all of the successes that you have had in the past when dealing with uncertain situations. Take up the habit of learning new things and meeting new people (often uncomfortable and with an uncertain outcome). The more confident and self-assured you feel, the easier it will be for you to handle any situation that life throws your way.
Practice these suggestions diligently and you’ll find it easier and easier to deal with the uncertainty that every leader deals with on a regular basis.
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