Life is full of twists and turns. You might say I was born twisting and turning. My single mom moved my three brothers and me across half a dozen states to give us a fresh start.
I was in grade school at the time, and it wasn’t long before we “graduated” to the projects from one of those “half homes” that was jammed against another one just like it.
If you had a bowling ball, I bet you could roll it from the front to the back and pass by every nook and cranny. But you know what? I wouldn’t change anything about my upbringing. Not one bit.
Because my mother created certainty in our world when there was none to be had. She had a clear vision, a moral compass, and she knew why she existed: to give her boys a better life.
How does a kid get from the housing projects to being a division president in a Fortune 20 company and generating $20 billion in annual revenue while leading 30,000 employees?
By learning how to navigate uncertainty. If you’re not already familiar with this pathway in my book, it’s something I was born into, and it’s a skill that I honed throughout childhood and into my adulthood. More to the point, it’s a skill that you can adopt at work and in life if you want to succeed.
The workplace and work itself have literally been turned upside down by the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, remote work, hybrid work, and returning to work. All the old rules don’t apply anymore. But change is good if we’re willing to embrace the disruptions; they keep us humble and always learning and adapting.
Here are three ideas for navigating uncertainty when life has nothing but unsure footing to offer.
- Know your why
You knew I was going to say it! Knowing your why reinforces your clear vision and moral compass. But a why doesn’t work unless you revisit it every day and nurture it. I like to wake early and prepare for my day by meditating on what’s important and how I’m going to serve my why. If I “pay myself first” by finding alone time, then I have built my reserves to give more to others throughout the day.
- Arm yourself with a clear vision
Knowing your why allows you to have a clear vision of your future. Having a clear line of sight on where you’re headed will help you land on solid footing when something has changed. Use your vision as your armor so that when the unexpected happens, you’re ready.
Rather than ask yourself, “How do I salvage what I had before this change happened?” ask, “How do I adapt and grow from this experience?”
If your sights are set on the long view (e.g., evolving toward a distant goal), then you’re more likely to view disruptions as part of the journey rather than a potential deal breaker.
- Act with a moral compass
Knowing your why also enables you to act with a moral compass. Consider what your boundaries are. What or who do you have in your life that keeps you in check and reminds you what’s important? Do you have your values written down and somewhere prominent, reminding you to be consistent in your behavior?
One idea that helps me stay in check is the difference between an owner and a renter. A renter says, “I’m gonna be here a short period of time. I’m not gonna fix the walls when there’s a scratch. I’m not gonna clean it up.” An owner says, “How do I care for where I am right now? How do I invest in myself and those around me? How do I become part of the solution?
People love uncertainty when it’s exciting, but they’re often at a loss when it’s not. You cannot avoid uncertainty, so why not turn underwhelming news on its head and look for ways to find something positive?
Greet your next twist or turn with a clear vision, a good sense of your values, and a firm grasp of your why. If you remember that certainty and success start in your head, you’ll be less affected by disruptions in your life.
Live your why,