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Jul 23
The Certainty of Uncertainty

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Author: Georgina Barrick

Death and taxes. Life’s only two absolute certainties, according to Benjamin Franklin.
Human beings have lived with uncertainty for millennia – which doesn’t mean that we’ve got anymore used to it. 
Quite the opposite, in fact. But, in uncertain times like these, the only thing that’s certain is that more uncertainty lies ahead. We can’t change, manage or control this. But, we can moderate our response to it…

We live in an age of unprecedented uncertainty, where everything seems unpredictable.
Since 2008, the global economy has been shaky, susceptible to shock and lacking in resilience. 
We’re working harder and longer than before, often for less. Political upheaval is the norm – think Brexit, global trade wars and a world leader who governs by Twitter. The effects of climate change are widespread and frankly scary – flooding, drought, our beleaguered oceans. 
Social media makes us more connected than we’ve ever been. Yet, we’ve never been more disconnected from what really matters. And, as a result, many of us are suffering the effects of stress-induced illness. Mental illness in the workplace seems on the rise.
Most days, merely consuming the news requires a deep breath and a stiff drink. 

Yet, as the world becomes more unpredictable, we’re mostly coping – and many of us are thriving. It’s true that periods of massive change, while alarming, also create opportunity.
Uncertainty induces anxiety, stress and frustration. But, it also brings challenge, which leads to growth, satisfaction and strength. It’s cliched, I know, but challenge helps us understand that our limits aren’t limiting and, out of this understanding, we build resilience and become open to possibility. 
So, how do we get this right?

Acknowledge that uncertainty is a part of life…
Total certainty is an illusion. We’d like to believe that we have total control over what lies ahead. But, the truth is that, while we have some control, it’s far from total. Accepting that uncertainty is a natural part of life – and doesn’t necessarily mean that things are going wrong – can help to ease our anxiety around change.

Understand that uncertainty doesn’t (always) equal a bad outcome…
If you’re a worrier (and many of us are), it’s likely that you mostly equate uncertainty with a bad outcome. However, ‘bad’ is just one of a few possible outcomes – along with ‘neutral’, ‘good’ and ‘excellent’.  
You could accept a new job that turns out to be a bad career move. It’s also possible that a new job could energise your career and expose you to new learning. 
Try to steer clear of ‘better the devil you know’ thinking and be open to all outcomes. 

Control what you can…
So much of life is out of our control. 
We can’t single-handedly grow the global economy or rein in the bad behaviour of world leaders. 
However, this doesn’t mean that we have no influence over how life pans out. 

Rather than focusing on what you can’t control (which heightens anxiety), focus on what you can. 
Or, as the Serenity Prayer says, accept the things you can’t change and have courage to change what you can – while hoping for the wisdom to know the difference. 

A good idea is to start by determining whether you have ‘no control’, ‘some control’ or ‘total control’ over what is making you anxious. Then, focus only on what is in your control. 
Another idea is to take action and, in small ways, give yourself options. Learn a new skill, monetise your hobby, save money or network to build new contacts. Small shifts can make a big difference and give you options (and breathing space).  

Take care of yourself…
It should go without saying that, in a stressful world, self-care is vital. 
Make time for exercise. Get good sleep. Meditate. Seek out support. 
If you’re running on empty, it’s very hard to see the wood from the trees.

In a world where uncertainty is the only certainty, it’s still possible to thrive. As Eckhart Tolle said, ‘When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.’
May you be open to possibility.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

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