By Maria Church, PhD, CSP, CPC
Leaders are often expected to have all the answers. Adding to the difficulty of this high expectation is that it is regularly self-imposed. If you do not have the answer to a leadership challenge, you may feel inadequate or uncertain and vulnerable. We expect to be frowned upon in the workplace … or so you may have been taught.
Are you really never supposed to experience uncertainty as a leader? All of us are wired to weigh scenarios and struggle for the best decision. You are composed of all the good, bad, and ugly that comes with being a human – not the Hollywood version of leaders who ride into the scene to save the day. With your humanity, you will sometimes – make that many times – feel uncertain about your abilities.
So, how do you work with uncertainty and vulnerability without going crazy? These five steps will assist you during times of self-doubt.
Embrace Uncertainty and Vulnerability
Reach into any doubts and fears you have and pull out all the anxieties. A lot of leaders bury this uncertainty, but this strategy only works for a while (if at all). More often it will manifest itself through illness, ulcers, or worse. Why do you think people in leadership roles are so stressed, obese, or addicted? It is because their feelings get buried and numbed.
In addition to the health consequences, when you numb your “bad” feelings – such as uncertainty, vulnerability, doubt, and fear – you also numb your “good” feelings of joy, peace, and gratitude.
Do not worry about the future or live in the past. The only moment anyone gets to live in is the present one. Don’t waste it. The nature of uncertainty is that the future is unknown. Time spent fretting about what might happen is an exercise in fiction.
Learn to embrace uncertainty. Uncertainty and vulnerability are where creativity, joy, and beauty are found. Walking through the door of uncertainty and vulnerability is full of endless possibilities because this is the location of your true, authentic self. Peace is found in authenticity.
Stay in Your Lane
When you start to compare yourself to others, you set yourself up for failure. You can be as successful as someone else, but you cannot be somebody else. The only thing you can be is the best version of you – your best, authentic, and true self.
When you see others who are dealing with uncertainty with more ease, instead of going to a place of comparison pull away and observe. Has this other person tapped into the present moment? Are the creative juices flowing for that other person? Are they peaceful because they are authentically in touch with their fears, concerns, or excitement about possibilities? Observe, learn, and know that you will find the most peace when you aren’t pretending but are authentically you.
Nothing brings you into the present moment faster than gratitude. When you practice gratitude, you are reminded of the blessings and opportunities that surround you. The funny thing about being in a state of gratitude is that when you focus upon that for which what you are grateful, you receive more. Yes, more.
That which occupies your mental and spiritual focus shows up in all aspects of your life. Therefore, if you are focusing on those factors that make you grateful, you will have more of those results showing up.
The converse is also true. If you focus on worry, fear, and scarcity, get ready for more worry, fear, and lack. Your thoughts are a powerful force, so be intentional and strategic about where you put your focus.
Be Loving and Truthful with Yourself and Others
Be gentle and graceful with yourself and others during times of uncertainty. When you practice loving kindness, you will find patience, grace, and empathy. Tell yourself the truth about how you are feeling and be prepared for both positive and negative feelings and thoughts coming back to you. Honor and acknowledge all responses you receive and intentionally shift to more supportive and loving feelings and thoughts. How do you shift? Do what gives you joy and be present to fully enjoy that activity. The only certainty we have is the present. What is certain is what gives you joy. It really can be that simple in what seems like great complexity.
If you choose (yes, it is your choice) to embrace uncertainty, stay present in the moment with gratitude, and give yourself loving grace, you will find tremendous opportunities to help shape a future that you may not have otherwise dreamt possible.
Maria Church, PhD, CSP, CPC, is a speaker, consultant, and executive coach. As CEO of Dr. Maria Church International in Scottsdale, Ariz., she specializes in organizational culture, change agility, and leadership development. Church can be reached at DrMariaChurch.com.
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