The “Either / Or” Approach to Dealing with Uncertainty

It’s easy to fret and lose sleep when dealing with uncertainty. We worry whether a new job is going to work out, or whether a relationship is on the verge of completely breaking down.

Instead of worrying endlessly over how things are going to turn out, try to simplify it this way. It will either work out, or it won’t.

If it ends up working out, then all this worry is unnecessary is you were worried over nothing. And if it does not work out after all, then all this worry is also unnecessary. Worrying would not have changed the final outcome anyway.

In either case, it makes more sense to spend your time and energy on making sure you’re better off no matter what happens.Then, whether it works out or not, you are in a stronger position in the end.

Example 1: Dealing with uncertainty in a new job

Here’s how it works when dealing with uncertainty about a new job. If your new job is going to work out, it makes sense for you to learn the skills that will help you work better. These include networking with colleagues to learn more about the job. Then, when you end up staying in the job, you have the knowledge and contacts to do better in it.

But if your new job does not work out, your efforts to network will still put you in a better position. You can look for a new position by leveraging on your contacts. Also, you will be more effective in job interviews by showing that you have inside knowledge of the industry.

Either way, you would be better off spending your time and energy networking. On the other hand, sitting at your desk and worrying will not benefit you in either scenario.

Example 2: Dealing with uncertainty in relationships

The same thought process applies to dealing with uncertainty in relationships. Either the relationship will work out, or it won’t.

If it works out, you will end up with a stronger relationship if you take the time to talk things through now. This helps to achieve a better understanding of your partner and yourself.

If the relationship is doomed to fail, you are still better off talking things through. The effort to talk things through would still leave you with a better understanding of why things didn’t work out. This will be a useful lesson to bring to your next relationship.

Either way, you should learn to calmly talk things through with the intention to understand better. This is the opposite of what most people do, which is talking only to point blame and try to change the other person.

Simpler outcomes lead to simpler strategies

Simplifying the possible outcomes to only two – it will either work out or it won’t – can simplify your coping strategies as well. You only need two strategies – one to deal with each outcome. Even better, find the one strategy that makes sense for both outcomes, with just one course of action that will stand you in good stead no matter what happens.

For the new job, networking will stand you in good stead whether things work out or not, so get out there and network instead of fretting. For the relationship, learning to communicate effectively will improve your current and future relationships, so start communicating rather than yelling.

Face uncertain outcomes with clear and certain strategies

So there you go. Either things will work out or they won’t. In either case, go out there and do something now to make tomorrow better than today.

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