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How to cope with uncertainty

We are living in turbulent and changeable times – but how can we deal with, accept and even embrace uncertainty, using it to transform our lives? Associate Editor Anita Chaudhuri investigates

Lately, I’ve had the weird sensation that life has been put on hold. I want to book a trip to New York, but keep putting it off, in the hope that the currency exchange might improve. I want to sort out a legal issue, but have been counselled against doing so right now. ‘There might be a change in the law soon, but there might not,’ said my adviser. I’d like to start a new project, but maybe the time isn’t right, what with the gloomy and capricious economy. In short, currently, my life is paralysed by uncertainty. And it turns out that I’m not alone.

THE ‘I DON’T KNOW’ MINDSET

‘Right now, everything is uncertain. It’s like the whole world is just a complex mess,’ says Simon Hague, founder of the coaching group Where’s My Lunch. ‘There are so many conflicting things we have to try and make sense of, both personally and in business. Uncertainty is the only certainty we’ve got right now.’ This is reassuring, but what can we actually do about it? ‘It’s about having a mindset shift. We need to learn to accept that uncertainty is a fact of life, now more than ever before.’

Hague suggests that one frequently overlooked source of daily uncertainty comes from online communication. ‘So many of my clients are struggling with this. They check their email or social media several times a day, and they have no idea what’s awaiting them.’ I’d never considered it before, but this is the reason I find checking email so stressful. For one thing, the lines between personal and professional have become utterly blurred. My daily emails could easily contain messages about an important contract, a family birthday or a notification about my new Hoover warranty.

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