I’ve been reading a lot of material lately that discusses how to face uncertainty. My friend and coaching colleague, Marian Guinn (an expert in coaching and consulting for non-profit leaders), then told me how she periodically and intentionally “disrupts herself.” She seeks out something outside her comfort zone to challenge herself to new heights.
I was pretty impressed by this process, and agreed to think of something in the coming year that would take me out of my comfort zone. I hope to decide on my challenge soon.
In conversations with many of my clients, we discover that fear of uncertainty is at the root of their issue. Though uncertainty isn’t fun, facing it head on can make us better. If you want support as you step into uncertainty in the coming months, sign up for a coaching discovery call. I’d love to work with you on your journey to greater skill and confidence!
When we don’t embrace risk and uncertainty, we can be reluctant to ask for things that benefit us (e.g. promotions, raises, good project work) because we’re afraid of the answer, we avoid new opportunities unless we have complete confidence we can succeed in them, and we may even fail to apply for jobs unless we’re certain we have 100% of the stated requirements.
I see it in many clients (women far more than men) and have to admit that I, too, can be pretty risk averse. Uncertainty is just not fun.
Randall P. White, PhD. reminds us that though uncertainty is uncomfortable for everyone, it can also be a catalyst. In his research he has also detected a pattern:
“Successful executives share an important skill: the ability to effectively engage uncertainty by heading toward it.”
Dr. White also believes that our tolerance for uncertainty can be improved.1
My approach to dealing with risk and uncertainty is simple: Take a deep breath, then step forward and try it.
I realize that we don’t need to try everything, especially those things that could harm us or put us in untenable positions. I, for instance, never plan to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, no matter how much my confidence might increase having done it. But there are a few scanning questions we can ask ourselves before taking that step forward:
Is my fear of this based on reality or assumptions? In other words, do I have any evidence that bad things will happen if I step into this uncertainty or am I just scared?
Will this step forward, if successful, take me closer to my goals and ambitions?
Do I have a solid foundation on which to lean in to this new experience? For example, does it play to my strengths, do I have a support network, do I have a reasonable (although not guaranteed) exit strategy?
What’s the worst that could happen? And if it does, how would I realistically handle the outcome?
There are many benefits to taking intentional steps into uncertain situations:
We learn from them.
We develop new skills.
Our confidence increases.
We get closer to our goals.
We are a role model for others.
In the coming weeks, what is one thing you can do that will stretch you, make you a bit uncomfortable and flex that uncertainty tolerance muscle? It is with repeated trials and successes (or failures and learning) that we gain skill and confidence.
1 “Positive Psychology in Coaching” by Sandra L. Foster, Ph.D. and Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D.
Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide one-on-one executive coaching, seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling professional lives. Visit our website for upcoming programs, articles, and resources to advance your career.
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