"I can compare clarity to pruning in gardening. If you are not clear, nothing is going to happen. You have to be clear. Then you have to be confident about your vision. And after that, you just have to put a lot of work in." ~ Diane Von Furstenberg
We live in volatile and uncertain times for sure. With so much change affecting the way we live and work, it’s easy to assume that uncertainty is the only certainty. Under constant stress we can develop a mindset and pattern of behavior that allows uncertainty to pervade every part of our lives. We begin to see ourselves as victims of circumstance and cede control in every situation.
Take a common example: You’ve been in your current role for a number of years. You’re really good at it, and your manager loves you for it. You’re getting great performance reviews every year and your peers are always giving you positive feedback. You are sure that this year you should finally get that promotion. But once again promotion time comes and goes with no word on that new role. You begin to wonder what you’re doing wrong, to lose confidence and develop elaborate conspiracy theories as to why you’re being passed over yet again. Your work starts to suffer as you’re caught in a downward spiral, becoming a victim to circumstances perceived to be outside of your control.
For many of us, it is somehow easier to make those assumptions, to fill the void of missing information with elaborate theories as to why something is happening, than it is to actually go and find out why. We spend a great deal of time and energy worrying about all the possibilities, and we let the fear of discovering the real answer prevent us from asking the often very simple question. “Why?”
If you find yourself stuck in this anxious cycle, try the following:
- Do an ‘anxiety audit’ – make a note of all the things you’re worried about
- Categorize each item on your list as either ‘inside of my control’ or ‘outside of my control’. Try to be as honest with yourself as you can here. If you’re not sure, imagine drawing a picture of the situation. If it made sense to put you in that picture, then it’s probably within your control to some extent. Something like your career is definitely within your control, whereas the next government policy on freedom of movement during a pandemic is definitely outside of your control.
- For everything outside your control, do your best to let it go. Often the simple act of writing it down can release some of that tension, and consider working with a counsellor or therapist if you’re finding that hard.
- For everything inside your control, ask yourself this simple yet powerful question: “What can I do to gain greater clarity about this situation?”
When you’re faced with uncertainty about something that falls within your control, the path towards greater clarity is always the best option, even if doesn’t lead to the answer you were hoping for. Knowing is always better than not knowing, because with clarity comes choice, and with choice comes empowerment.