4 Ways to Combat Uncertainty in Work & Life

4 Ways to Combat Uncertainty in Work & Life

The original post was published here on one of the best women’s business blog: Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling.

“If you aren’t in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret.” Jim Carrey


The uncertainty in life is paralyzing, is suffocating, is scary, is unknown. Unfound territory and unstepped moments – we are not sure what is next for you and me ….

The uncertainty of when we will meet someone special, or if/when we will have a baby, and if/when we will have a second baby, and when we will find a better work situation, and when we will feel better, and when the cancer will go away, and when someone we love will feel better, and if we will get into that school, and when our money situation will improve, and when we will sell our house, and when we will just get to relax – sit back and watch .…

Uncertainty has so much energy packed into that space – the space between me typing and what will happen in the next 24 hours. So, we wonder, worry, occupy our time, watch TV, wondering when the next thing will happen. And then, right when we stop wondering-thinking-watching the phone – we get that phone call, we meet, maybe, that person, we get a glimpse of what might be next, and we perk up, we settle down and think – okay – it’s all going to be okay .…

So, uncertainty is for sure in this life — and we know when we chase it and try to control it – that never works. And hiding doesn’t work either – because when the time comes for change – it will happen TO YOU whether you like it or not …

Enter uncertainty stage left — now what? I’ll be honest – I don’t like uncertainty .… I don’t enjoy waking up and wondering if what I am doing is right and if my soul’s desires will actually happen.

Yet, there is so much I AM CERTAIN about … and so here is what I know for sure in this moment:

I am certain that I am love and life

I am certain that I can help others

I am certain that I am supported all the time

I am certain that my children and husband and I are healthy now

I am certain that I will have the day that I create/make

I am certain that any stress is something I create/make

I am certain that there is beauty in this day

I am certain that I am a writer

I am certain that I am a musician

I am certain that I have fears

I am certain that I am blessed

I am certain that I am energy

I am certain that I AM

We want to push ourselves to the edge and work hard for something that matters. Yet, we always have uncertainty of what is really next, if what we are doing right now will work.

It is VERY counterintuitive – when we have the SPACE of uncertainty – we are not supposed to freak out – but we do.  

What IS this SPACE: no e-mail, no Facebook, no likes, no replays, your kids are sleeping, you are awake, space is alone and quiet, and space is right now. How you show up literally RIGHT NOW determines the energy you are giving out. Your fears on your kids, worries, anxieties, fear of rejection, fear of unknown…

So look at what we do with SPACE – we fill it up … because, if we don’t, what are we then? How do we define our selves if we don’t have a job to show up to – if we don’t have a paycheck – are we unwanted souls? The unemployed? Who are we to be in this moment when we feel the tension between uncertainty and possibility?

You see, unemployment rattled me to the core, to my knees. Everything that was certain to me – was not certain anymore in a moment. Where would the next project would come from? When would the next opportunity show up? Pounding the pavement every day with no clue if what I was doing mattered ….

But it does matter … showing up matters for your life and work … showing up and accepting you for YOU – for what YOU feel and your fears and your talents – that matters.

So what do we do with the space of uncertainty?

Personally, I’d rather make it happen. Check my phone, refresh my e-mail, do more and more, feel “in control” of what is next. Fill space with action. Can’t I just work harder and get the answer faster? But here is the catch. I want the future to happen before I am really ready. How I deal with uncertainty right now is the test. When I am looking for the answer, watching the phone, checking e-mail, doing more research, searching the Internet for answers – I am not aligned. I am certain when I get into control mode I am missing the miracle, the possibility, the opportunity to co-create.

What if the answer isn’t up to me? What if I just need to show up no matter what and focus on what is possible?  

The universe is quite funny sometimes. As I type this article, my phone is immersed in a bag of rice. How did it got wet? It fell from the bathroom counter where my 3-year old was brushing her teeth this morning – into yes … yep … the toilet. Two seconds went by and I grabbed it … and it looked unharmed. So I dried it off, let it sit there, and got the kids ready for school. And then I came back, and the phone was off and non-responsive. I freaked out. Besides the cost factor, I was upset because of pictures from the holidays that have not been downloaded. Pictures that may be gone. Most websites are telling me my motherboard thing is likely fried. Others are saying there is hope.

In the car on the way to school, I said to myself the following, over and over and over and over:“I am grateful, I am blessed.” Because I really am. And if the pictures are gone, I am still grateful and blessed. It’s a new moment now. And soon I was singing with my 3-year old a song about the phone in the toilet and well – all was and IS WELL. It’s a phone. They are pictures. That’s it. But don’t get me wrong – we are ALL human. Every setback is a test and it is human to be bummed out about that job, a wet phone, a flu, a hurt back, a traffic jam.

How fast can we shift our focus? Move our attention to the moment? Be aligned and attuned with all that we really are in this moment? 

I know courageous people who have faced serious uncertainty in their life. These people had fear, faced fear, dealt with fear, still have fear. When you face serious uncertainty, all you have is the moment.

My friend Sam Shelley has faced serious uncertainty in his life with both bipolar and MS. Sam is the author of “Don’t Dwell,” is a mindset mentor, and shares his meditation and yoga practice inthis recent blog post:

“The only thing I know for certain is that I can control how I react and respond to my thoughts. That sounds so simple, but it wasn’t easy.   It took time to see that I had thoughts, but I was not my thoughts. Through my five-minute daily practice I was starting to get separation from my thoughts. It took a lot of vigilance to stick with the practice. My thoughts were in my face, yelling, and screaming at me that I wasn’t good enough or wasting my time. These thoughts were impossible to ignore at times, but the more I ignored the mind the quieter the mind became.”

Sam has shared with me that when we are in fear, worry, and anxiety about the future – the key is to get back into your body. Run, walk, sit. Feel all the sensations around you. Notice the sensations in the moment. Breathe. Receive a breath.

Uncertainty is really the bridge to possibility.

Jonathon Fields talks about uncertainty in this guest blog post on ZenHabits:http://zenhabits.net/fearfuel/.

“If you want to spend your time on the planet not just getting by, but consistently creating art, experiences, businesses, and lives that truly matter, you’ll need to proactively seek out, invite, and, even, deliberately amplify uncertainty. Because the other side of uncertainty is opportunity.

What if there was a way to turn the fear, anxiety, and self-doubt that rides along with acting in the face of uncertainty–the head-to-toe butterflies–into fuel for brilliance?” 

Jonathon shares a number of ways to use uncertainty as a stepping-stone into opportunity. My favorite from Jonathon is his suggestion to use reframing. Jonathon writes:

“Reframing is a process that asks you to suspend negative storylines, explore if the story you’re telling is the only one and, if not (which is inevitably the case), construct or frame a new storyline that empowers you to experience an uncertain circumstance not as a prime for failure and inaction, but as a signpost for meaning and opportunity.”


When you are faced with uncertainty:

  • In this moment, what ARE YOU CERTAIN ABOUT?
  • What do YOU GET TO DO TODAY?


The reality is that we are certain we will always face uncertainty … and as one of my favorite people Marianne Williamson always says at the end of her talks …

… and so it is … and so it is ….



Kara Smith is a talent development / HR leader and is the founder of the Soul of Work project: www.soulofwork.org, a think tank and not for profit learning lab.  The mission & intention of the Soul of Work project is to bring best practices, tools, and practical insights from thought leaders to help professionals get hired, build more sustainable economic fulfillment in both work & life, and do their best work.  As part of this mission, the Soul of Work project is dedicated to actively fundraise and donate to aligned non-profit organizations.  Learn more here: www.soulofwork.org/giving.  Kara is a working mother who believes we do our BEST work when we align work with our life.