U is for Uncertainty

I couldn’t decide which topic I should write about this month.  Whether ‘U’ should be for ‘unconscious bias’ i.e. the way we make decisions based on our values, experiences or stereo types without being aware that we’ve even done it.  Or whether it should be for ‘unintended consequences’ as we’ve all done something and not fully thought through or anticipated the impact it would create.  And then been surprised or even annoyed when the results were very different to those we expected.  However, in the end I decided to use U for ‘uncertainty’ as there is a lot of it about at the moment with Brexit at this side of the pond and Donald taking the reins as the new president in the United States of America.

When we’re feeling uncertain it means that we have doubt or suspicion about something or someone.  We often feel anxious and a little sceptical which may mean that we retract into our comfort zones as it’s a place we feel safe.  However, this can actually increase our uncertainty rather than reduce it.  When we stay in our comfort zone we don’t have to challenge ourselves or think differently, we just continue to do the same things; sometimes thinking we’ll get different results the next time!  And what we end up doing is becoming more internally focused, getting more worried about what we can’t do rather than what we can do.  If we are feeling uncertain we need to find ways to continually look forward and outward.  When we’re in this modus operandi it may feel a little stretching, but it often helps us to see the issues from a totally different perspective and become aware of opportunities available to us.

Years ago, I started to read Stephen Covey’s work about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and there were a number of models that I started to use as part of my repertoire.  Those of you who have worked with me will know that one of my favourite models is the Circles of Control and Influence.  During times of uncertainty they are an excellent framework to use as they make you focus on the things you can do rather than those you can’t.  And when we’re feeling uncertain, it’s amazing how we waste time worrying about the activities for which we have not control.  So if you’re having one of those moments, here’s a practical way to get you focused!  Write down all the things that are concerning you.  Then next to them put whether they are out of your control, in your influence or totally in your control.  It’s amazing how few will actually be out of your control, but if they are, don’t spend any more time worrying about them.  Start working on those things that are in your influence or control and you never know ….. later down the line you may find that those activities you believed to be out of your control, are actually more achievable than you thought!

And if you’re feeling a little uncertain of what 2017 may have in store for you, why not spend some quality time thinking about what outcomes you’d really like to achieve throughout the year?  Ideally write each activity down on a post it note or a scrap of paper.  Don’t put any restrictions on your ideas, just keep on writing them down.  This may be a process that you do over a period of time rather than an afternoon.  Once you have all your ideas at hand set them out in front of you.  Some may be related to business, others to do with family and friends.  Start to put them into the different categories and label them.  Then look at what you have in each section.  Do some of your ideas link together?  If so, can you write an overarching goal that incorporates them both?

Once you have completed this stage, take each one in turn and define what impact each one will have.  This is where you need to decide what criteria you want to use as impact can be both negative and positive.  For example, you may have an idea that will make you lots of money, but another impact may be that it weighs heavily on your relationships with others or even your health?  Work through each one systematically and decide on their priority on your list of things to do.

When you have your list of meaty goals, check to make sure they’re realistic.  If it’s going to be too much of a stretch, you may want to get rid of some or reduce the level of outcome. It’s then time to decide on the timeline for each one.  Create a completion date for each outcome towards the end of the year and then carve each one up into quarterly and monthly pieces.  This will help each goal feel more manageable and help you to keep focused and on track.  Write these into your diary or even onto a wall planner so that they are visual.   I also like to note down all the people who could help me make it more of a success.  It’s more fun involving others and they may see some of the things that you hadn’t anticipated in your own planning.  That’s it .. you’re ready to get started.

Although we can’t control what’s happening elsewhere in the world, we can all take responsibility for controlling and influencing what’s happening in our own sphere.  And by being proactive, we can reduce our own levels of uncertainty. Last year I came across this illustration which I love for its simplicity, but also because of the message.  Remain focused on where you want to get to but remember there will be some challenges on the way that will take you off course.  Wouldn’t life be dull if we could predict everything that would happen with certainty?!

So let’s make 2017 an amazing success.  Stuff it with fun, good health and lots of collaboration so that we help one another achieve our desired results.

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