The current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has left us with much uncertainty about our future, jobs, finances, home situation, health and education to name but a few. A lot of the difficulty dealing with the situation is because our brains are hardwired to make much of modern life difficult. On the bright side, if you know the right tricks, you can override your brain’s irrational tendencies and handle uncertainty effectively.
Fear not! There are proven strategies that you can use to improve the quality of your decisions when your emotions are clouding your judgment. What follows are eleven of the best strategies that successful people use in these moments.
1. They Quiet Their Fear Reaction
Uncertainty causes fear, and fear inhibits good decision-making. People who are good at dealing with uncertainty are wary of this fear and spot it as soon as it begins to surface. In this way, they can contain it before it gets out of control. Fear brings about irrational thoughts and in return (more) irrational fears. To label these as irrational will help the fear to subside. Then they can focus more accurately and rationally on the information they have to go on.
2. They Stay Positive
Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking by focusing your brain’s attention on something that is completely stress-free. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. It is easier to have positive thoughts when it is going well as opposed to you being stressed. You can reflect on any positive thing that happened previously or that you are looking forward to, no matter how small.
3. They Know What They Know—And What They Don’t
When uncertainty makes a decision difficult, it’s easy to feel as if everything is uncertain, but that’s hardly ever the case. Take stock of what you know and what you don’t know and assign a factor of importance to each. Doing this and identifying as many of these as possible, takes away their power.
4. They Embrace That Which They Can’t Control
Your need to want to be in control can backfire when you see everything that you can’t control or don’t know as a personal failure. People who feel like they’re at the mercy of their surroundings never get anywhere in life. Successful people live in the real world. They know that the only thing they really control is the process through which they reach their decisions.
5. They Focus Only On What Matters
Almost every decision contains at least a small factor of uncertainty—it’s an inevitable part of doing business. Learning to properly balance the many decisions on your plate, however, allows you to focus your energy on the things that matter and to make more informed choices. It also removes the unnecessary pressure and distraction caused by a flurry of small worries.
6. They Don’t Seek Perfection
Emotionally intelligent people don’t set perfection as their target because they know there’s no such thing as a perfect decision in an uncertain situation. Think about it: human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently, instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.
7. They Don’t Dwell On Problems
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. Emotionally intelligent people don’t allow themselves to become preoccupied with the uncertainties they face. Instead, they focus all their attention and effort on what they can do, despite the uncertainty, to better their situation.
8. They Know When To Trust Their Gut
Often we make the mistake of talking ourselves out of listening to our gut instinct, or we go too far in the other direction and impulsively dive into a situation, mistaking our assumptions for instincts. People who successfully deal with uncertainty recognize and embrace the power of their gut instincts.
9. They Have Contingency Plans . . .
Staying on top of uncertainty is as much about planning for failure as it is about hoping for the best. Successful people know they aren’t always going to make the right decision. They know how to absorb and understand mistakes so that they can make better decisions in the future. And they never let mistakes get them down for too long.
10. …But They Don’t Ask, “What If?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, and there’s no place for them in your thinking once you have good contingency plans in place. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control.
11. When All Else Fails, They Breathe
You have to remain calm to make good decisions in the face of uncertainty. An easy way to do this lies in something that you have to do every day anyway – breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing trains your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and quiets distracting thoughts.
Bringing It All Together
The ability to strategically manage ambiguity is one of the most important skills you can cultivate in an increasingly uncertain business environment. Try the strategies above, and your ability to handle uncertainty will take a huge step in the right direction.
Information derived from TalentSmart (Travis Bradberry, PhD)