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How can you deal with uncertainty?

Our brains are hardwired to react to uncertainty with the flight or fight response – something we’ve been wired to do since the beginning of man.

In our every day lives, this fight or flight response can hold us back from pushing boundaries and having new experiences. We see this a lot in our problem-solving work: think about the CEO making decisions in an uncertain economic environment or an employee who is uncertain about their future in the company or a business owner trying to cut through a very competitive market. This ambiguity and uncertainty can prevent us making quick decisions or investing in something a bit different. 

In today’s environment, it’s even more important that we become comfortable with this ambiguity and uncertainty. 

Here are a few steps to help you develop your ability to deal with uncertainty.

Be agile

We all like the safety of some structured and well-thought-out plans, but more often than not, life has different plans in store for us. We can’t control external circumstances – all we can do is control our response to them. Through the Future Skills Assessment, we’ve seen that some of the people who are best at this are people with an entrepreneurial mindset. Our work with businesses and government is based on methodologies that ask people to flex their ambiguity muscle. It heavily relies on an agile way of working. Test fast, fail fast, pivot and do it all again until you succeed. We’re big fans of always working in an agile way and this is even more important in uncertain times. 

You can’t afford to panic when the plan you invested so much time and resources in gets thrown up in the air. All you can do is think and act quickly, to find an alternative path. What does plan B, C or D look like? We call this your adaptability quotient and simply, it’s purpose is to look at how adaptable you naturally are.

You can practise your adaptability muscle by adopting a more agile way of responding to any of the curveballs life throws at you. Create cards with potential scenarios and start rehearsing. You didn’t get the job you wanted, you missed your flight, you didn’t get the investment you pitched for – how can you respond in an agile way?

Re-adjust your focus

Many of the factors that cause so much uncertainty in our lives are out of our direct control. We have very little control over things like economic recessions, natural disasters, pandemics, breakups or other people’s actions. What we can control is our reaction to these situations. Instead of panicking, focus on the actionable steps you can take. What decisions can you make now that are going to have the biggest impact on your current situation?


Next time you are getting overwhelmed because of an uncertain situation, stop for a moment and readjust your focus. If the problem is too big, break it down into smaller chunks and focus on the most pressing aspects first. If it helps you can write this down too. Learning to recognise how different situations are impacting you, is the first step to dealing with them successfully.

Confidence in your skills

Think back at all the uncertain situations you’ve been through so far. You’ve always pulled through, and you will again. It’s time to start being confident in your skills and your capacity to adapt to unexpected situations. Start by becoming more aware of what your strengths and blindspots are (if you are not sure where to start, take our free Future Skills Assessment). Once you’ve identified your less developed skills, you can start to make a plan to build them. Start by setting up small, achievable goals, before moving up to bigger ones.


Stop thinking about all the “what if’s” scenarios and start thinking about what you would do in case any of those scenarios becomes a reality. This simple exercise can be surprisingly helpful to boost your confidence.

Manage your wellbeing

In uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to look after your wellbeing. Uncertainty can cause stress and anxiety. Take time out for yourself and manage your energy wisely. Make sure to check-in regularly with yourself. How often do you wake up tired and reach out for that comforting cup of coffee to keep you going? We’re so used to keep pushing through, that we forget to pause and recharge.


Here at CHQ we always do a quick temperature check at the start of our weekly team meetings. We simply go around and we each pick “red, yellow or green” depending on our energy level – it’s a simple ritual, but really effective to help us tune in with ourselves and with the wider team. You can apply the same at an individual level by keeping track of your energy levels in a journal.

What’s your natural tendency when dealing with uncertain situations? Take the Future Skills Assessment now to find out.

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