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  • Jayne Reah

Embracing the Unknown - Practical Tips for Thriving through Uncertainty & Change

Trying to control the uncontrollable is exhausting.

I have engaged in countless conversations with clients about the pain of trying to do just that. We live in a society that teaches us to take control of everything around us, career, kids, health, family, relationships, our finances. So much of our life has been about stability, predictability, safety, and certainty! It’s not surprising that most of us struggle with uncertainty; the lack of control this brings can lead to stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By adopting new skills and mindsets we can not only learn to coexist with uncertainty but thrive within it.

We need to be adaptable, open to change, to pivot our thinking and be willing to adjust plans and strategies. Central to this approach is cognitive agility - the ability to adapt, embrace change, pivot our perspectives, and flexibly adjust our plans and strategies. Our Coaching Programmes focus on the skills and mindsets needed to thrive through uncertainty and today we share a few of those practical strategies with you to get you started:

1.Control the Controllables: Focus on What You Can Influence

In a world where uncertainty exists, it's crucial to distinguish between what we can control or at least influence, and what is beyond our grasp. Instead of wasting energy on the things we can’t control like interest rates or the weather, we redirect our efforts towards the things we can actually do something about. Tools like the Circle of Concern help us identify where to focus our energy and efforts. It’s a powerful tool for understanding and managing what we can control, influence, and what lies beyond our influence.

Here's how to use it:

Draw three concentric circles on a piece of paper, with the smallest circle in the centre and the largest circle on the outside.

Label the innermost circle "Circle of Control," the middle circle "Circle of Influence," and the outer circle "Circle of Concern."

Within the Circle of Control, list down the aspects of your life or situation that you have direct control over. These are things you can change or influence through your actions.

In the Circle of Influence, jot down the factors or circumstances that you may not have direct control over but can still exert some influence or impact on.

Finally, in the Circle of Concern, write down the external factors or circumstances that you may be worried about but have little to no control or influence over.

Once you've identified what falls within your Circle of Control and Circle of Influence, focus your attention and energy on those areas. For anything outside of these circles, practice letting go and redirecting your energy towards actionable steps within your spheres of control or influence.

By visually representing what you can control, influence, and what lies beyond your influence, the Circle of Concern helps you prioritise where to direct your efforts and mental focus, ultimately reducing stress and increasing effectiveness in managing uncertainty.

2. Cultivating Optimism

Optimism is like a shield against the chaos of uncertainty. Research consistently shows that folks with a positive outlook handle stress and unpredictability better. Take it from Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman—focusing on the good stuff not only boosts job satisfaction but also ramps up employee engagement. So, why not start a daily gratitude journal? It's a simple practice that helps us focus on the positives, no matter how small, and that mindset shift can make a world of difference when facing the unknown. Try building a daily practice of jotting down three things you're grateful for. These can be small victories, moments of joy, or even challenges that have helped you grow. By reflecting on the positives, you cultivate an optimistic mindset that can carry you through uncertain times.

By training our minds to focus on opportunities and solutions rather than dwelling on problems, we can significantly improve our capacity to tackle the unknown.

3. Embracing the Growth Mindset: Turning Setbacks into Stepping Stones

A growth mindset is a game-changer when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. Instead of letting setbacks knock us down, we see them as opportunities for growth and learning. So, next time you hit a rough patch, try saying to yourself, "I can learn from this." It's amazing how that simple shift in perspective can empower us to overcome obstacles and emerge even stronger.

4. Accepting the cycle of change

Embracing the ebb and flow of life is essential for our growth and resilience. Life is not a linear path; it's filled with highs and lows, ups and downs. Accepting this inherent rhythm allows us to cultivate a deeper sense of resilience and equanimity.

The 'This Will Change' exercise serves as a powerful tool for embracing life's fluctuations. By repeating the mantra "This will change" during moments of both joy and sorrow, we gain a profound understanding of impermanence. Whether we're riding the wave of success or weathering a storm of challenges, this simple reminder grounds us in the knowledge that change is the only constant.

Whenever you find yourself in a particularly positive or negative state, repeat the phrase,"This will change." For example:

"I feel so energised today – This will change."

"I feel so tired today – This will change."

"The weather is dreadful – This will change."

"The weather is gorgeous – This will change."

"The business is growing fast – This will change."

"Business growth is slow – This will change."

Whether it's illness, weather, energy levels, or team dynamics, this simple reminder grounds you in the understanding that nothing remains the same, making change normal.

Final Thoughts

Embracing uncertainty isn't about trying to delete it from our lives—it's about accepting it as part of the journey and finding the opportunities it brings. It takes practice, patience, and a willingness to see things differently. So, I encourage you to give these exercises a shot. With a bit of acceptance, optimism, and a growth mindset, you'll not only weather uncertainty but come out the other side stronger than ever.

And, if you're looking for more support on navigating uncertainty and honing your leadership skills, check out our 1-1 Coaching and Coaching Skills for Leaders programme. They’re packed with tools and strategies to help you thrive in the face of ambiguity and change.

Author: Jayne Reah

Jayne is our Work Stories Co- founder and resident executive coach. To find out more about Jayne click HERE

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