How Well Do You Sit With Uncertainty?

How comfortable are you with uncertainty? If you’re like most of us, you probably find it easier to function when things are settled.
Here’s a quick quiz to test your tolerance for uncertainty. On a enjoy uncertaintyscale of 1 to 5, where 1 means no problem and 5 means my palms start to sweat and my heart beats faster, how do you react if:
  • Your partner changes the plans at the last minute?
  • You have to ask a difficult question, and you’re not sure how the person is going to answer?
  • Your phone says you have a voice mail, but you can’t check it for an hour?
  • Your boss asks to meet with you without saying why?
  • You see your best customer at lunch with your competitor?
  • You see your spouse at a coffee shop with an attractive co-worker?
If most of your answers were three or higher, I suspect you spend a good bit of time anxious and worried.
Uncertainty is a fact of life, and lately it’s become the new normal.
We may have spent the last few decades deluding ourselves into believing that we were in complete control, but recent events have been a big wake-up call for all of us.
Whether it’s uncertainty about your job, your savings, your property values, your romance or your kids, very few of us can say, “My life is set, and I know exactly what the future holds.”
The truth is nobody knows how their life, career or relationships will play out. We never did, and we never will.
The challenge is in learning how to create success in the face of uncertainty. In order to do that, you have to master the duality of setting goals AND remaining flexible at the same time.
We’re all familiar with the overly rigid planners who have a conniption fit anytime something threatens to derail their carefully scripted agendas. You probably also know someone who drifts from thing to thing, feeling as though they have no control over their own lives.
Neither of these two extremes creates success or happiness for anyone. You can’t accomplish much without goals, and when you’re too attached to your plans, you can’t adapt to change.
Mastering the duality of setting goals and being flexible requires that we learn to sit with uncertainty.
Said another way, you don’t have to wait until everything is settled before you start showing up for your own life.
You don’t have to wait until your company, department or job is secure before you start doing your best at work. You don’t have to know the outcome of a conversation in order to start one. You don’t even have to know what you’re doing tomorrow in order to enjoy today.
When you let uncertainty about the future – be it the next five minutes or the next five years – make you nervous and afraid, you waste the opportunities you’ve got right now.
You’ll miss your chance to love your family, excel at your job, experience a new horizon, or write that business plan — you know, the plan that will inevitably change, but the one that will get you moving today.
Life doesn’t stay still. You can try to control every element of it. But you’ll usually just wind up frustrated and anxious.
Accepting uncertainty doesn’t mean being passive or lethargic. It means confidently setting bold goals for yourself, and also knowing that things will likely change.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, columnist, keynote speaker and business consultant. The founder and principal of McLeod & More, Inc, she specializes in sales and leadership training. Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth, has been cited as the blueprint for “how smart people can get better at everything.” Visit for a short video intro.   Copyright 2010 Lisa Earle McLeod.  All rights reserved.