How to make uncertainty your best friend instead of your worst enemy

In 2006 I wanted to set up my own business. But something was holding me back: a deep-seated fear of uncertainty. I lay awake imagining everything that could go wrong: losing all my savings, never finding any customers and feeling like a complete failure. Luckily, I had a great coach. He asked me to list everything I was worried about. Then he asked, “What would happen if everything turned out all right?” Suddenly it hit me. Uncertainty can go both ways. It was time to step out of my comfort zone and into my impact zone.

My biggest lesson since then has been this: success rarely comes without uncertainty. Whether you’re starting a business, changing careers or beginning a new relationship, there will always be risks and unknowns. There’s no point trying to eliminate uncertainty.  Instead, learn how to manage it. Here are my favourite two ways to do this.

Challenge your brain’s reaction to uncertainty

Remember, your brain is built to avoid risk.  It’s constantly scanning for threats and seeking to ways protect you. But sometimes this ‘negativity bias’ can work against you. When your brain reacts to uncertainty by triggering your fear reaction, challenge it. Ask yourself these three questions.

  • Is this fear based on facts or is it just my brain trying to keep me comfortable?
  • What opportunities might I be missing out on if I let this fear hold me back?
  • What are the potential benefits of accepting uncertainty right now?


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Expand your time horizon

During a fear reaction, your brain focuses on the short-term.  That makes sense because it’s trying to protect you in the here-and-now. However, it also means you may be missing out on the bigger picture. When faced with uncertainty, try expanding your time horizon and creating a vision of how you want the future to be.

Ask yourself these three questions.

  • How might this situation look in a week? In a month? In a year?
  • What are my ultimate goals and how does this uncertainty fit into them?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice potential long-term success for short-term comfort?

So the next time uncertainty comes knocking at your door, don’t greet it with fear. Open the door, invite it in and spend time learning to love it. Just like a stray cat, it might turn out to be a source of great joy and opportunity.  And if you need any further convincing, just look to some of the most successful entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders in history. They all have one thing in common: they willingly embraced uncertainty and used it to their advantage.

This article was created by Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a leadership trainer and success coach. Her mission is inspiring talented people to become leaders who make a difference.  Since discovering her passion for training and development, Eleanor has trained more than 60,000 people. She delivers face-to-face workshops for corporates, online masterclasses for leaders and Positive Psychology retreats for trainers, HR practitioners and leaders.