Seeing beyond short-term uncertainty

Gary Dean
Gary Dean

By Gary Dean, managing director of strategic consultancy, Truffle Pig Consulting Co.

It seems almost as predictable as a New Year’s Day hangover that we start 2024 in uncertain times.

It has been a long time since I was able to write the first article of a new year with only exuberance for what lay ahead; but let’s be honest, uncertainty is an inherent aspect of life.

In today’s rapidly evolving world, navigating through unpredictable situations is increasingly becoming the default position, for all of us in business and in our private lives.

As we sometimes bemoan the perceived difficulties we face, we perhaps should balance our worries against those who cannot see or plan for uncertainty coming and be mindful of a true perspective of what we believe we must deal with.

Whether it’s economic volatility, unexpected personal challenges, or global disruptions, short-term uncertainties can, and often will, blind us from seeing the bigger picture.

To ignore uncertainty is unrealistic, but in this short article I will try and outline how to keep your focus on the horizon and not get derailed by the temporary fog.

Understand that uncertainty is inevitable:

Recognising that uncertainty is a natural part of life can help you avoid excessive worry. Challenges and unforeseen events have always existed, and they always will. The key is not to eliminate uncertainty but to learn to move through it.

Establish a long-term vision:

Setting long-term goals can act as a guiding light. By understanding where you want to be in five, 10, or even 20 years’ time, will ensure that temporary setbacks can be seen as minor hiccups rather than insurmountable obstacles.

Educate yourself:

Knowledge is power, there can never be a debate about this.

Dante wrote ‘Knowledge comes of learning well retained’, which I take to mean don’t just learn, practice.

By educating yourself about potential risks and understanding the broader context, you can navigate uncertainty with more confidence. This includes staying updated on current events, industry changes, or even personal growth topics that can enhance your competence and capabilities to deal with change.

Personally, I am still formally educating myself with research and study at 57 years old, for no other reason than the quest to keep improving.

Focus on what you can control:

There are countless elements outside of our control. However, by focusing on actions and attitudes within our grasp, we can retain a sense of agency and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

If you recall the original words of Winnifred Wygal, often known these days as the Serenity Prayer:

‘Give us the serenity to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know one from the other.’

Modern Day poet Ivan Nuru said it more simply:

‘If it’s out of your hands, it deserves freedom from your mind too.’

Stay flexible:

Rigidity can be a hindrance in many things, in uncertain times its negative influence can be magnified.

Flexibility allows you to adapt to changing circumstances, find new opportunities, and pivot when necessary.

Practice mindfulness:

Stay with me on this, it’s not crazy stuff, try it and see if it helps you.

Mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing exercises can help anchor you in the present moment.

In turn, this can reduce anxiety that often comes with uncertainty and help you make clearer decisions.

Be where you are, not where you think you should be.

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek support:

Talk to mentors, friends, or professionals who might provide different perspectives. Sometimes, just by voicing your concerns it can offer clarity, saying something out loud can often open the potential solution to yourself from self-realisation.

Remember, you’re not alone in your experiences.

Review and adjust regularly:

As you navigate through uncertain periods, regularly review your progress and adjust your strategies. This ensures you stay on track and can refine your approach based on new insights or changes in circumstances.

Celebrate small wins:

Recognising and celebrating minor victories can, and will, boost your morale, and that of your team, and provide the motivation to keep pushing forward.

Maintain a growth mindset:

Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. By viewing setbacks as learning experiences, you can transform uncertainty into a path for personal and professional development.

While short-term uncertainties are unavoidable, they need not dictate our lives.

By adopting a forward-looking approach, seeking knowledge, and maintaining flexibility, we can rise above the fog of uncertainty and keep our eyes firmly on the horizon.

Remember, it’s not about avoiding the storm, but learning to dance in the rain.