Dealing with uncertainty the optimist way is not about thinking that everything will be ok. It’s about deciding to put all your energy and effort into creating the best possible outcome with what you have.
By definition, uncertainty is a situation where we don’t know the outcome, but nowhere does it say the outcome has to be negative. Nonetheless, most of the feelings associated with uncertainty are negative, often involving stress, anxiety and the feeling of powerlessness.
To look at it from an Optimist perspective, we need to consciously challenge the core of what we believe makes uncertainty a negative force. Then seek to change the feelings associated with it.
Looking at uncertainty through the Optimist lens
There are many moments in our lives where we have been uncertain about the outcomes. Starting a new job, moving to a different country, bringing a new baby in the family, or creating our own company. However, even though we were probably scared in these circumstances, we were also excited about it.
The main difference is that you chose to put yourself in these situations, whereas now you didn’t have a choice. Nonetheless, even if we didn’t choose our situation, we can still decide how we react to it.
Looking at uncertainty through the Optimist lens means accepting the situation as it is while adopting a positive attitude. The aim is to increase the possibilities of a positive outcome by concentrating on what’s under our control.
How to change the lens
- Replace fear of the unknown with expectations from the unknown
We can’t stop our feelings, but by managing the thoughts that led us to them, we can gain some control over them.
When you start feeling fear or doubt creeping into your psyche, consciously choose to imagine positive outcomes. This way, we will trick our minds into feeling excitement and expectation.
- Stop thinking about consequences and look at the opportunities
Every change comes with an opportunity. If we are willing to adapt, we can find ourselves in an even better situation than we were before.
For example, think about people who have said, “I got fired, but in the long run, it has been the best thing that ever happened to me”. Can you be that person who sees opportunity when others see despair and challenge?
- Be prepared
Being positive doesn’t mean being unrealistic. It means being aware of every possible outcome, even the worst-case scenario, in order to convince your mind you are prepared to deal with it.
“What happens if the CEO, COO, and CFO all fall ill at the same time?” Orlikoff offers a great example at The Diligent Institue Virtual Panel about “How Are Corporate Boards Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis?”
- Stop fighting change
When someone decides to start a new business, they believe that the wins outweigh the losses, so they adapt positively to change.
To thrive through uncertainty, we need to accept change as the norm and believe we are resilient enough to make the necessary changes to provide a positive outcome.
- Show vulnerability
Showing vulnerability as a leader is a courageous act that tells people you are willing to show up and keep fighting even if you don’t know the outcome.
Our vulnerability usually is seen as a weakness, but as Brené Brown says, “vulnerability is where creativity and innovation are born.”
Whether it’s due to our own choices or not, the reality is that uncertainty and change will always be part of our lives. We can’t stop change, but we can control how we react to them.
Look at how communities and companies have come together through this crisis; we call that thriving through change.
Let’s start thinking about uncertainty and change as an opportunity to be something better, even if we can’t see the full positive effects yet. By repeating to ourselves that we are willing and ready for every possible outcome, we are looking at uncertainty “the Optimist way.”