Right now many of us are facing lots of uncertainty. When ambiguity surrounds you, it's easy to go numb, to get stuck seeking answers when facing lingering questions. I don't have answers right now either. Mostly I have questions.
Even if you aren't affected by uncertainty at the moment, I promise you will be at some point, maybe not too far in the distant future. Uncertainty always looms when you work for yourself, you never know when it might come. And when you're a solopreneur, the entire business rests on you; you just don't have the luxury of crying into your artisanal beer when uncertainty strikes So this post is for you too.
Uncertainty is a familiar friend for me. I've been laid off multiple times, twice in the middle of a recession. I've faced months of tests waiting for a medical diagnosis. And when you work for yourself, there will always be surprises and things will happen that you never imagined. As a result, I've learned a few things about how to face ambiguity.
Here's my checklist for handling uncertainty. I hope you find it useful.
First things first.
Self-care is the first thing to go but really, it should be the last. Don't shove your head into a bag of chips every day. Knowing you should take care of yourself isn't new, but let's be honest, those chips are so darn easy to reach for in times like this. Find ways to support yourself: hot yoga, writing, reading poetry or even just taking a few minutes to enjoy a biscotti with your coffee as a friend does.
Uncertainty can make us feel like we need to rush but resist it. Slowing down allows you to stay calm, respond to changing information and make better decisions. You don't have to make ten decisions all at once. Or even two decisions. Just take it one decision at a time.
Slow down but don't stop.
Resist the urge to stop everything. Keep moving. Taking action always feels better than being paralyzed by indecision. You don't have to make huge leaps; just go slow and steady. Find one tiny thing a day you can do.
Listen to your instincts.
Uncertainty can erode your self-confidence by making you less sure of yourself. Don't let fear do this. When you're emotional, take time to let your mind quiet before making up your mind, or tweeting about it. When you get quiet, your instincts will tell you what you need. Here are some solid tips to finding calm focus.
Keep it simple.
When the sand feels like it's shifting beneath your feet, resist the urge to complicate. Elaborate plans are likely to overwhelm and weight you down. Instead, simplify. Focus on what's most important and let go of the rest.
Build emotional resilience.
Fear can make us avoid what's going on. Be careful not to get lost in a maze of distractions. Acknowledge what's happening, but get up every morning; continue doing your work. Always remain hopeful for your vision of the world.
Know your vision.
Ambiguity can make you question yourself or worse, make you lose hope. Hope is critical for well-being. Remind yourself of your values and why you chose your path. Anytime fear or anxiety strikes, come back to the image you want to see in the world.
Loneliness can come to you fast in these times. Be careful not to isolate yourself for too long. Reach for your community, there's such power in it. Embracing your community will remind you that you're not alone; this will fuel you. The benefits of strong relationships isn’t just fluff, it’s backed by research.
Write it out.
There are few better allies in tough times than your journal. Writing allows you to get your thoughts out of your head so you can sift through them. Write down ten things you can do right now. Then write down ten good things that might come from whatever you're facing. Write down your concerns. Write down ten things you're proud of that you did today. Journaling won't give you all the answers you need, but it will get these thoughts out of your head, and this will make you feel better.
When we get scared, we tend to hold on even tighter. A clenched fist and jaw aren't going to help. It's time to let go. Get rid of anything that brings you down. Forgo negative people. If the news depresses you or whips you into a frenzy, stop watching. And whatever you do, don't worry about that one person on the internet. You have someone else who is more important right now, and that's you.
What are your tips for handling uncertainty? I'd love to hear them.