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Embracing Change and Uncertainty: A guide for Young Professionals

Technology is propelling workplace and social change at a rapid pace. In a world where change is the only constant and uncertainty lurks around every corner, you are left with one pivotal choice - to either thrive amidst the chaos or be left behind. Embracing change and uncertainty is essential for personal and professional growth in today's dynamic world. In doing so, you will uncover a new frontier where your ability to adapt and thrive to change and uncertainty becomes one of your greatest assets.

Let’s dive deeper, what does tolerance of change and uncertainty actually mean?

Tolerance of Change: What it Is and Why it Matters

Change is constant and unpredictable. Tolerance of change is an attitude towards newness and different ways of working. It involves viewing change as an opportunity rather than a threat, whether it arises from external forces or intentional improvements.

Seeing opportunity in change is a skill that can be learned. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What could you possibly gain from these changes?
  • What didn’t you like about the previous situation?
  • What potential learning opportunities could come about from the change?
  • How can you use this change to get what you want?

When confronted with change, we often focus on what we have lost, as opposed to what we stand to gain. Change can be seen as a challenge to pursue rather than a threat to avoid. The challenge viewpoint produces thoughts, emotions and actions that support a constructive reaction to the change enabling you to adapt more quickly and easily.

Tolerance of Uncertainty: What it Is and Why it Matters

Tolerating uncertainty is your ability to cope with the fact that you don’t know how things may turn out. We can’t see the future, so we can never be sure what exactly is going to happen.

It’s common for most people to be a bit uncomfortable with uncertainty. We like to know that the restaurant we’re going to serves good value food, that at the party we are attending there will be people we know, and that our desired outcomes will be achieved through our decisions. This knowledge makes us feel more comfortable.

Learning to be more tolerant in the face of uncertainty starts with knowing that even if you thought you were certain about the future, there is always the risk of change that can bring about uncertainty. If you can draw on past situations where you have successfully traversed uncertain times, you can use the confidence from those successes to help you with the present situation.

Six Strategies for Leading Through Change and Uncertainty

This is summarised from an HBR Article, I think you will find it useful:

  1. Embrace the discomfort of not knowing

Our brains are hardwired to see change and uncertainty as a threat, it’s physiologically normal to feel stress and anxiety when faced with unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. Avoiding these feelings is a natural human tendency, it can become a significant barrier to learning, future growth and performance.

We must learn to acknowledge and embrace the discomforts as an expected and normal part of the learning process. This shift in mindset can help ease the pressure of knowing it all and having all the answers.

  1. Distinguish between complex and complicated

Complex and complicated represent critically different circumstances. Complicated challenges are highly technical in nature and difficult to understand. When experts are consulted and the challenge is broken down into discreet parts, solutions can often be derived.

Complex challenges contain many interdependent elements, some of which may be unknown and may change over time in unpredictable ways. An action or change in one dimension may result in disproportionate and unforeseen outcomes. As a result, solutions to complex challenges result from trial and error and require a willingness, humility and the ability to act, learn and adapt.

  1. Let go of Perfectionism

In a complex environment, the context is continually shifting so aiming for perfection is futile. Instead, aim for progress, expect mistakes and recognise that you have the ability to continually course correct as needed.

  1. Resist over Simplifications and Quick Conclusions

It’s tempting to oversimplify complex challenges so they feel less daunting and intimidating. Many high achievers have a bias for action and therefore become frustrated when facing challenges that don’t present an immediate solution. Learn to balance your desire for quick resolution through a disciplined approach to understanding the core problem and your own biases.

  1. Zoom out

It’s easy to get stuck in a challenge by being too immersed in it. Try zooming out to allow yourself to get a holistic view of the situation. Doing so gives you a broader perspective and illuminates unexamined assumptions that would not otherwise be visible. This more holistic perspective allows for greater adaptability and course correction as larger patterns become observable, potentially revealing unforeseen obstacles and solutions.

  1. Don’t try to Solve the Challenges Alone

You don’t have to solve all the issues yourself. When the solutions to small challenges are known, going at it alone can be an effective solution. As your career progresses, your workload increases and more complex challenges arise where the full scope of issues, inter-dependencies and solutions aren’t clear. Cultivate the practice of intentionally reaching out to your network for insight and perspective.

Final Takeaways

Building tolerance for change and uncertainty is not something that can be learned by simply reading this blog post. The best advice I can give you when you are confronted by change or uncertainty is to take a few moments to observe what’s happening around you. Look around.

What are people’s attitudes towards the situation? Who sees opportunity? And who feels threatened? How are the leaders communicating with the team? What questions are they asking? What information are they gathering before making decisions? How are they articulating the basis for which they make their decisions?

You will notice that there are some people who avoid responsibility and some who actively seek it out. You choose which one you want to be.