7 Ways Successful People Overcome Uncertainty
Uncertainty is a natural emotion that every person has felt at some point in their life. It’s a physical reaction in our brains that was meant to keep us safe a very long time ago, but it’s become obsolete in modern society.
We no longer have to decide whether or not we should be afraid to enter a cave, or if we need to be afraid of the noise that came from the bushes; at least, not while we’re in a conference room.
Fear has its place, but successful people know how to overcome uncertainty - here are seven effective methods they use.
1. They Meditate
When we feel fear or uncertainty, it’s not the logical area of the brain that’s triggering these feelings.
The part of your brain that is creating uncertainty is the limbic system, which can easily be calmed down through a few deep breaths and rational thoughts.
Successful people understand they need to calm down their limbic system in order to make a rational decision, so they meditate. Those who meditate are able to control their body’s responses to a perceived threat and overcome it quicker than those who don’t.
2. They Think Positive
Thinking positively seems very difficult when you’re in a situation that’s making your heart race and your palms sweaty, but those who are successful know they need to change their viewpoint immediately and start thinking more positive.
One way to do this is to replace all your negative or neutral thoughts about a situation with positive ones.
One way you can do this is to be proactive about thinking positive. If you know you’re going to walk into a situation where you’re going to be uncertain, think about all the things you’re afraid will go wrong. You can even write them down. Then, either mentally come up with or write down all the positive things that will go right in place of what you believe will go wrong.
Thinking positively about the situation before you go into it will greatly reduce your fears.
3. They Stay Focused
Staying focused in the face of uncertainty sounds a lot easier than it is, but if successful people can do it, so can you!
To stay focused when you’re feeling uncertain or afraid, just stay true to what you need to do. That means stepping back from the situation and looking at the big picture to remind yourself of your ultimate goal.
You also need to make do with the information that is available to you in order to stay focused. Successful people know that they can get by on the information they have about a situation.
4. They’re Comfortable with Imperfection
Successful people never strive for perfection because they know it’s impossible.
They understand that if they were to try to be perfect all the time, they would never meet their end goals, which means they would never be successful. Successful people aim to achieve their goals with the idea that they will grow as they move forward.
If you’re constantly striving to be perfect, you’re endlessly worrying about failing, which means you’re consistently uncertain about every step you take.
5. They Know When to Trust Their Instincts
Trusting your instincts is not diving into a situation head first without having the facts; however, it’s not running in the opposite direction the moment you feel fear, either.
Successful people know how to listen to their gut instincts without allowing them to take over completely. They know how to evaluate if their fear is rational or if they’re just responding to a situation because it’s unfamiliar.
If you want to build your instincts and exercise your gut reaction so that you know you can trust it in the future, you need to start out small. Begin with situations that are unfamiliar to you but that you rationally know are not dangerous. When you do this, you’re able to condition yourself to understand when you're just afraid because something isn’t familiar, and when you truly should be afraid.
6. They Have a Plan B
Thinking positive, trusting your instincts, and being comfortable with imperfection are all ways that successful people are able to face uncertainty, but they also have a Plan B.
Most people are so focused on their first plan that they don’t bother creating a second one in case something goes wrong. For example, you plan out a business meeting that relies completely on a projector. When the projector breaks, you’re left with nothing. A successful person would have a Plan B, such as a printout they could hand out to their audience, as well as one they could work from.
Whether you’re making your plan for a business, a meeting, or just an interview, you should always have one. Just remember not to dwell too much on the ‘what if’ statements, or you’ll psych yourself out entirely. Planning out your contingency plan should only take as long as it took you to make your main plan.
7. They Know How to Just Breathe
Lastly, successful people know that sometimes they just need to breathe.
Taking in a full deep breath helps calm down the autonomous nervous system that controls your stress levels. Successful people know that when they take a moment to breathe before they walk into a situation that makes them feel uncertain, they’re allowing their body to relax. When you’re relaxed, you’re able to think more clearly.
When you’re under a lot of stress, you tend to take in shallow breaths that overload your body with oxygen. This was useful when we were trying to run from lions, but it’s not useful when you’re trying to form coherent, rational thoughts. In order to calm yourself down, regulate your breathing by counting to five as you inhale, holding that breath a few seconds, and counting to five as you exhale right before you go into the situation that makes you feel uncertain.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
Overcoming uncertainty is not like trying to find a mythical creature. Everyone can do it; you just have to know the tricks and techniques to get yourself started. Once you’re able to look your uncertainty in the eye and move past it, you can begin to be more confident and successful in all your endeavors.
About the Author
Janet Miller is a work at home mom, health practitioner and yogi. She writes regularly for JenReviews, MindBodyGreen, The Huffington Post, Fast Company and The Muse.