When Life Throws You Curve Balls: How to Manage Uncertainty
If you are currently facing uncertainty in your life, don’t fret.
Uncertainty is something that can be managed by taking the right approach. Here are my three best methods to manage uncertainty.
1. Focus on the things you can control (and don’t worry about the rest)
The first method is to focus on the things you can control while ignoring the things that you can’t.
In every situation you are in, there are always factors that you can control and factors that you can’t control. What are the factors that you can control? Focus on them.
What are the factors that you can’t control, but which you can influence through their contributing factors? Focus on them too.
Idea: To Shift from External to Internal Locus of Control
The idea behind this approach is to shift from an external locus of control to an internal locus of control.
An external locus of control refers to a state where you perceive the external world to have more control than you.
For example, if you feel that the economy, the government, and other people have a higher influence than you over your happiness in life, you have an external locus of control.
An internal locus of control refers to a state where you perceive yourself to have more control than the external world.
For example, if you feel that you have a bigger role to play than your environment in your happiness, achievements, and success, you have an internal locus of control.
People with an internal locus of control tend to be happier, more empowered, and more solution-oriented than people with an external locus of control.
When it comes to uncertainty, you should adopt an internal locus of control.
Bring certainty to your situation by focusing on the things you can control and working on those things. As for the other things you can’t control, let them go because worrying about them isn’t going to help you achieve anything.
2. Live your life as you would, independent of the uncertainty
The second method is to live your life as you would normally, independent of the uncertainty.
Ask yourself: “What would I do if this situation/problem did not exist in my life?” Then, do that.
Example: Apprehension surrounding unconfirmed job
Years ago I coached a client who was a very successful investor with his own investment company. Apart from managing his company, he was in a part-time stint with a global technology firm, Firm X, which had the potential to be converted into a permanent job after six months.
The job, if offered to him, would be a high profile role with a high compensation package. It would be a once-in-a-life-time opportunity which he would jump at.
As my client neared the end of the stint, he felt apprehensive as the founders of Firm X did not indicate any interest of hiring him for the long term. Despite his efforts to get face time with the founders, the meeting kept getting postponed due to their busy schedules.
Herein laid the dilemma: What should my client do?
Should he keep following up until he receives an answer on the job offer? The risk was that he might come across too pushy, which might jeopardize his chances of selection.
Should he just wait around for the founders to revert on the decision? However, what if they never did?
Would that be the end of his relationship with Firm X?
The reason why the uncertainty had bothered my client so much was because he really wanted the job, to the point where he had put his personal plans on hold, in anticipation that he would get the job. Hence, when the job offer became a hazy notion, it threw his life off balance.
As my client worked on his personal goals, the uncertainty with the job offer stopped bothering him. While he still did not receive any updates with regards to the pending job offer, he was at peace with the situation.
After a couple of weeks, as fate would have it, he was offered a full-time job with Firm X after all.
3. Bring certainty to the important things (and let the other things go)
In every situation, there are always things that are important to you and other things that are less important. The third method is to bring certainty to the important things and let the other less important things go. Since the latter items are not so important, it wouldn’t really matter what comes out of them.
Example: Migrating to an unknown country
Let’s say you have just migrated to a new country. You are unemployed. You have no friends in the country. You have no income since you are unemployed. You have no fixed accommodation and you are merely living at a hostel at the moment. Your savings can only last you for another week. Your life is in a state of flux and everything is up in the air.
What do you do?
In the face of such great uncertainty, you should focus on stabilizing the most important areas of your life.
For most people, these would be financial security and getting a fixed accommodation.
For financial security, you can secure your finances first by doing some quick, odd jobs. You can also consider borrowing money from your friends back home and returning it once you get a job.
The objective is to tide you over in the short term while you figure out what you want to do in the long term. You can take your time to look for a job that matches your aspirations once your short-term financial issues are addressed.
With your finances in place, you can look for a fixed accommodation. Look up craigslist, check the classifieds, search Google, or approach the hostel owners for help. Dedicate a couple of weeks for apartment hunting and don’t stop until you find a place that meets your needs.. During this period, don’t worry yourself with other things.
Final Words about Uncertainty
I hope you have found the three methods useful in managing uncertainty. At the end of the day, uncertainty isn’t a bad thing. Some of you might find uncertainty unnerving and might resist it.
However, know that it is through uncertainty that the best ideas are created, the best characters are molded, and the best lessons are learned.
Today, I’m more passionate about thriving in the face of uncertainty. I no longer worry about things that are uncertain. Instead, I focus on living in the present and enjoying every moment I’m in. I work through whatever uncertainty that is hindering me in my goals, but basically uncertainty no longer bothers me like it would before.
Learn to embrace uncertainty and you may well feel the same way one day.
About the author: Celestine Chua
Celestine Chua is life coach and founder of Personal Excellence. Her life purpose is to help you achieve your highest potential in life. Check out this original article and more great articles at her website Personal Excellence.