When I was asked to share my own experience and tips with you about how I deal with uncertainty, I have to confess I felt… well… uncertain.
Uncertainty is consuming a lot of energy during this covid-era, as it is touching the population on a global scale. It is affecting cohorts who have never been confronted before with such an upsurge of doubt – people who always enjoyed a good stability, or even sought for constancy throughout their lives. But so many others have always had uncertainty as a constant in their lives.
So, I would say that uncertainty is relative. I would even dare to say: it is positive. A certain sense of insecurity has always created new developments for the one who embraces it as an opportunity. When we accommodate, we lose out on resilience. We forget we have the capacity to rebound in every situation. What if this period is a great “wake-up call” which we can seize to transform a dozing society into the strongest generation ever (even if nothing is forever)? Stay positive.
Uncertainty has always been part of my life, consciously or subconsciously. Coming from a very stable family, I enjoyed a privileged upbringing, despite my childhood carrying the stigma of a country transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. For many years, Portugal carried the weight of political, social, and economic instability, trying to cope with the mistakes of the past, and making new mistakes in the future. But around me I saw a nation of people who never gave up, full of hope, struggling, accepting, being complacent and having cohesion throughout the country. Above all, enjoying each other’s company, symbolically around a coffee and a pastel de nata. We need to get out of the habit of imagining worst-case scenarios or trying to control the outcome. To manage uncertainty, we can acknowledge what is causing it, and then channel our energy. Avoid dwelling on things you cannot control.
I have always had the courage to face the unknown and surpass myself. My academic choices were not common for a girl. I became one out of 9 women amongst almost 200 men graduating in Electronical & Systems Engineering from the University of Lisbon in 1987. I passed on a few attractive jobs proposals to come to Switzerland, freshly graduated and newly married to my husband, who was still a student. No Swiss roots, no network, no job, no experience, no German, limited French, but full of trust in me and in my future. I had a little piece of paper in my drawer saying: “When God puts Work into your Life, He expects you to put Life into your Work”. Through dedication and hard work, my professional path turned out to be a wonderful adventure! Do not be afraid of the unknown.
It was not all roses. Often uncertainty just came my way without being invited. Unexpected, unwished, unanticipated, unfair, unreal. But I realised I came out stronger after each hurdle or challenge. The toughest battle I had to face was the imminence of losing my newborn baby due to a serious health condition. You feel impotent and powerless. But such strong moments of truth teach you to relativise other obstacles coming your way. Do not take every drawback as a personal failure. Build resilience and embrace what you cannot change.
I had moments in my life when I was overwhelmed by emotions. Allowing your heart to break down when life gets hard is in my perspective not a sign of weakness; it is allowing your humankind to exist. Just unwind, take a moment for yourself and give yourself time to heal. And then stand up, shake the dust off your clothes, move on and face the future. Be kind to yourself.
Often, we are so deep into problems that we forget to lift our heads. Look at all the beauty, kindness, joy and life which surround us. Enjoy the company of the people who love you, forget the ones who do not deserve you. Make the best of your health condition. Be proud of who you are, and where you are. Remember what you have overcome, your past successes, the experiences which make you who you are today. Consider the time you have in front of you and chase your dreams. There is so much to be grateful about. Focus on what matters.
I never settled in my comfort zone. I always searched for new challenges, took the risk to fail and to start all over again. I moved countries several times carrying my whole family around. I changed jobs, got promoted, gained more responsibility, and I always strove to develop myself as a leader and as a person. I never stopped learning and perfected my education in several directions. There are times where your own resources are drained, and you need a self-renewal. The times we are currently living in are well suited for introspection, precious moments to recalibrate your vision and set the goals you want to pursue in life. Reflect about the tools you will need to lead your best lives, both at a personal and professional level. Invest in yourself to unleash your full potential.
But above all, keep your North. No matter what circumstances we are living in, independently of any external factors or life experiences, we should stay true to ourselves and to our values. Compromising our principles to minimise uncertainty is not worthwhile.
The path we are walking together now is there to shape us, so we become who we should be – as a human being, a professional, a friend, a parent. Accept the ride and enjoy it. Everything will turn out the perfect way – just the way it should be.
Believe in you. Trust in the future. Have faith.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
– The Bible, Hebrews 11:1
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Do you have a single word, colour or image that represents the way you deal with uncertainty?
Faith. Believe in you. Trust in the future.