How to Navigate an Uncertain Future

by Alli Polin on June 10, 2014

How to Use Personal Leadership to Navigate an Uncertain Future

I get asked all the time how long my family and I will be living in Australia.  Most people are surprised when I answer with what I know today; a contract end date.  Is it possible we’ll stay longer or come home at the end of the current contract?  Yes on both counts.  Both are possibilities that come with their own set of challenges and opportunities.  Clearly, the hardest part about not knowing exactly what’s next is navigating an uncertain future.  However, I know I’m not alone with that challenge.

We’ve all been there…

  • Searching for a new house (Will I ever find the perfect one?)
  • Interviewing for a new job (I really want the job, but am unsure how the interview went)
  • Rumors of layoffs (What if I’m out of work?)
  • Lots of proposals out the door, but no movement (Something has to break soon, right?)
  • Starting a small business (It’s an awesome idea!  Will it ever be profitable?)

At best, when we’re navigating towards an uncertain future, it feels unsettling and likely stressful and at worst it can be down-right all consuming.  Instead of obsessing over what could be, focus in on what’s in your control today.

Three C’s to Navigate an Uncertain Future

Confidence

Most people would agree that trust is a foundation of a successful relationship and confidence relies on you trusting yourself.  Sounds easy, but I know that you may be skeptical.  I’ve heard a ton of arguments in my coaching practice about why people’s confidence is often traded for defeat.

  • You may think that you’d have more confidence if only you had more wins or successes.
  • You may feel more confident when others praise you.
  • You are confident when you trust you’ve got what it takes to figure things out.

Success doesn’t bring confidence along for the ride, confidence is a choice.  Trust you’ll figure it out.  Trust you can survive the storm.  Trust that no matter the outcome, if you fail, you’re not a failure.  Trust, and be confident that there are things in your power today to get you where you want to be tomorrow. Essential to confidence is taking action, instead of biting your nails with a wait and see attitude.

Competence

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it a billion times in the future: leaders are learners.  Competence grows through stretching, trying and learning.  You can read book after book about leadership, management, small business success or how to be the perfect parent, but you need to realize that they’re giving you ideas and tactics to put into play.  You’ve got to do something with the information to build your competence.  Twist it, turn it, customize it to fit you and your life.

When you’re navigating an uncertain future, competence is something to cultivate and rely on through the fire.  Build a Start-Stop-Continue to leverage your competence as you look towards an uncertain future.

Start to fully explore and understand your strengths to call them forth when you need them most.
Stop worrying that you don’t know what to do or how to do it.  How is the easy part of the equation, you can learn.
Continue to build on your strengths and engage with your network.

Competence is within your control yet reality is that you will not be perfectly perfect at everything you need and want to do.  Think in terms of “collective competence” when you’re struggling and turn to your team to compliment your gifts with their own.

Creativity

Uncertain times require us to pull out our creative selves and let go our our reactive tendencies.  Frankly, “the way we’ve always done it” is going to keep you spinning instead of staying focused with purpose.

What would happen if you met each moment of doubt or uncertainty with creativity?  
You’ll move from someone who is a victim of circumstance to a creator of your circumstances.

Stress moves to the front seat and your personal leadership takes a backseat when you believe that you don’t know what to do.  You know what’s awesome about creativity?  You can’t do it wrong.  Creativity is original thinking, playful, joyful and often inspirational.  An uncertain future may be throwing you for a loop but you’ve got what it takes to make the leap – with flair.

Confidence, competence and creativity may not land you the house you put an offer on or stop a planned layoff, but it will move you forward with inspired action starting from where you are today.  Every step forward, no matter how awkward, is still a step; make it with intention.  Why wait?

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz June 10, 2014 at 7:23 am

Excellent points, Alli! We need to move beyond thinking and into doing in order to navigate uncertainty in meaningful ways. The sidelines are not a good place to be, especially if we have been sidelined by certain events or other impacts. Instead, we need to take actions to get back in the arena and find the work, the home, the career, the whatever else to find the right path forward.

Through it call, there may be a 4th C – Compassion. We need to be self-compassionate, not feeling sorry for ourselves but understanding our circumstances. And, we need to accept the compassion of others; those who want to help us get back on a good, solid path.

Thanks! Jon

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Love the addition of compassion, Jon. It’s easy to beat ourselves up about making wrong choices or succumbing to stress instead of accepting the reality of our circumstances. Important to trade pride for compassion and accept support from people who can help and care.

Many thanks for your addition!

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Tom Rhodes June 10, 2014 at 7:53 am

Alli,

Timely, outstanding post. In education they talk about the 3rs’ all which are important for competence for sure. These 3Cs’ are important lessons for not only business but for life itself. They are certainly vital to helping keep the roller coaster of each day on track as weave to the next stop in our journey. You are awesome.
Thanks for all you do.

Tom

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Wouldn’t it be great if our schools not only focused on competence but also building confidence and creativity? It’s not only what you know but your way of being that matters too!

A sincere thanks to you for your support and connection, Tom!

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Joy Guthrie June 10, 2014 at 8:31 am

Excellent 3Cs Alli. I’ve certainly faced all those uncertainties.

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Thanks so much, Joy. I’ve faced ’em too 🙂 Uncertainty can make us feel super stuck or like it’s an opportunity to create the future. I’m working on creating and know you are too!

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Kaarina Dillabough June 10, 2014 at 8:37 am

And I’ll add “care” to the list:) We need to genuinely care about what we’re doing, care for the people we serve, take care of ourselves and care-fully consider options. Cheers! Kaarina

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:45 pm

You know, it’s the fully considering options that sometimes is the most overwhelming – especially when there are many! However, I’m absolutely with you… especially caring for self and others. The unknown, change and transition can be rough and we need to remember to take care to thrive through it all.

Fantastic addition! Many thanks to you, Kaarina!

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Bill Benoist June 10, 2014 at 9:12 am

Hi Alli,

I love the concept of choice you bring forward in your post.

It all comes down to how we choose to look at things. An event will be real, but we have the choice as how to perceive it and our behavior – our emotions – will be based upon that perception. As such, there really is no downside for believing in ourselves 🙂

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Perspective and perception are two things that most people don’t know that they have the power to choose and a shift may not be as difficult as they think. Often, it’s the perspective that’s keeping us stuck and deep in stress even more than our circumstances.

So glad you brought that point forward, Bill!

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John Bennett June 10, 2014 at 9:21 am

Interesting how “c” words continue to be important … In that vein, I’ll add two more: Considerations and Clarity.

Anyone who’s seen my pieces will expect Considerations, the title actually of my blog (http://johncbennettjr.com ). Absolutely, an uncertain future deserves each of our considerations prior to moving forward with confidence, …

And indeed, the other C’s with considerations provide the basis for that move forward being done with Clarity – so very important in my thinking. Note however clarity does not include Rigidity!!! We all need to regularly self-assess and refine our approach to the future as appropriate.

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:52 pm

How funny … I was on your website earlier reading your thoughts on getting to clarity of purpose and came back to see your comment here. Thought provoking!

Considerations and clarity! Considering all options and finding clarity can be a challenge. In the end, clarity is not only truly knowing where we need and want to head but also accepting that directionally correct is often the best we can do.

Great additions. Love how many C’s serve us to be and do better in leadership and life! Thanks, John!

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Matthew June 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

Excellent post Alli! You’ve inspired a blog post… 😉

In addition to your Three Cs, I would suggest what I have just dubbed the 99/1 Practice. Spend 99% of your time focused on the present and 1% thinking about lessons learned and future goals.

The long-and-short of the 99/1 Practice is that it gives 8 minutes a day for focused reflection and planning, six days a week, and a ‘power session’ of 20 minutes the other day.

I believe we will be able to be more present, and less anxious, if we make reflection and planning a daily ritual — and everyone can find 1% of their day* for something so important.

* That percentage is calculated from waking hours only… it puts aside eight hours a day for sleep.

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Interesting! 99/1! I agree that today is in our control and it’s today’s choices that will create our future. Instead of worrying about the unknown, we can mindfully step into our lives and build a bridge to where we most want to go. Definitely echoed in John’s comment clarity… clarity of direction but taking action from here.

Look forward to hearing more about 99/1 and how it unfolds for you and your clients!

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Matthew June 17, 2014 at 9:50 am
chris June 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

So well said Ali and timely for me! I love your point about the three C’s to Navigate an Uncertain Future. We should always focus on what we can control, suit up and show up, and have faith.

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Faith. That’s key, isn’t it? We can work and worry and stress but faith has to be in the mix. Otherwise, why do we keep going through uncertainty?

Here’s to suiting up and showing up! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Chris!

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Johann Gauthier June 10, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Great post Alli!
Our times are very testing to say the least.
I absolutely love your advice and approach to allow leaders to constantly grow and reinvent themselves.
I say YES!
BRAVO!
Johann

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Alli Polin June 10, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Growing, moving, evolving… something you not only talk about but live! Learning is one of the things that lets us see what’s possible and then intentionally leap!

Many thanks to you, Johann!

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Terri Klass June 10, 2014 at 7:24 pm

When we are feeling unsure of which direction to choose it can feel like a burden to make a decision. But once we take action, even if it is only a baby step, we feel more empowered and hopeful.

Your three C’s are fabulous and very helpful. Although similar to confidence, I might add Courage as it can take every ounce of energy and drive to navigate an uncertain future.

Well done and insightful as always, Alli! I also think you know just what to do for your next choice.

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Alli Polin June 11, 2014 at 12:00 am

I agree with you, Terri. Moving forward gets easier with each step and it’s fueled by hope and trust and confidence.

Courage is essential too – especially when we’re frozen with indecision!

I hope that the choice is ours to make. Will know soon enough. Right now, focused on happiness and action where I am today knowing I can tackle tomorrow when it’s here.

You rock, Terri!

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Kelli June 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Hey Alli
I love your tip here..most of us don’t do good with uncertainty. As a freelance writer who has been traveling the last three years, I really never know what is going to happen even a few months from now, and I kind of like it that way. But, I still have my moments when I worry about certain things. What has helped me most is getting more comfortable with uncomfortable feelings–I embrace the uncertainty and don’t let it scare me as much. I just try to focus on the goals I have set for myself and things usually unfold as they should.

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Alli Polin June 11, 2014 at 12:02 am

Kelli –

That’s awesome! Getting comfortable with the discomfort! Big yes!

I feel butterflies often and the more frequent their visit, the more I know it’s a part of the journey. Fear is a poor excuse for stopping 🙂

I love your life’s adventure!! Travel is a part of my self-care to keep on moving forward.

Many thanks!

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LaRae Quy June 10, 2014 at 10:59 pm

You’ve done it again—found real nuggets of wisdom in everyday life!

I agree on all your points, but for me confidence is the essential element in the mix because if I don’t have confidence in myself to land on my feet, I’ll always be worrying about the unknown.

The unknown is always uncomfortable, but if we can change our mindset to one of adventure and discovery, the future can be a fun place to explore!

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Alli Polin June 11, 2014 at 12:04 am

Confidence is essential. Confidence you can figure it out. Confidence that you’ll be OK. Confidence that no matter the twists and turns you can keep going.

I’m ALL for adventure! You never know what’s on the other side of a door until it opens… or you open it.

Thanks for adding your wisdom here, LaRae!

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Lolly Daskal June 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm

LOVE THIS POST

I especially love the way you sum it all up!

Every step forward, no matter how awkward, is still a step; make it with intention.

Lolly

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Chery Gegelman June 17, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Great post Alli!

It reminds me of a conversation I just had with an expat sister…!!! Seriously – It was great to visit with you yesterday. What an encouragement to visit with you and be reminded that our experiences and how we are processing them are so similar! Big hugs to you!

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Margaux Dela Cruz (@Margaux_Dela) August 1, 2014 at 5:21 am

The age-old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” When trapped in uncertainty, one could never go wrong in dealing with creativity. Thanks for pointing out this very important element.

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Alli Polin August 1, 2014 at 7:09 am

Creativity is so often a key element of the way forward – especially when we feel the most stuck and unsure.

Many thanks for adding to the conversation, Margaux!

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