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Businesses, especially startups, are inherently uncertain. From the viability of a business idea to investor decisions to how users will react to your latest product feature, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. Externally, political, technological and competitive uncertainty are also a concern.
Research has shown that uncertainty in business is a constant, and a leader’s ability to tolerate and manage it will greatly support the success of their company. However, repeated exposure to high levels of uncertainty can send entrepreneurs into an emotional rollercoaster that can affect their self-image. Early-stage and first-time founders run the risk of being broken by the twists and turns of the rapidly changing business environment.
More exciting, however, is the uncertainty that some—especially serial entrepreneurs—have associated with startups. And their ability to tolerate these uncertainties and adapt accordingly to the changing environment has helped them succeed. You too can learn to do the same by incorporating these four attitudes into your life:
Related: 3 Ways to Overcome Uncertainty About Your Business’s Future
1. Avoid micromanaging your team
Delegate some of the confusion. There are so many steps involved in building a business. Most of these actions involve quite a lot of uncertainty. And it’s easy to get caught up in anxiety attacks trying to figure out how things could go wrong.
It could be a marketing campaign your team is trying for the first time, or a new product your company is working on. Instead of being actively involved in these activities and interfering with every move the team makes, you can take the stress out of the process and focus your energy where it’s needed most.
Research conducted by Harvard Business Review finds that micromanaging a team can significantly increase a boss’s stress and anxiety levels. Just sit back and let the marketing or product team worry about the uncertainty surrounding their roles. You will thank yourself for it.
2. Accept what you cannot control
When it comes to business, there are so many things that happen that are beyond the control of the entrepreneur. It could be some government policy changes that threaten the survival of your business. Maybe a key employee quits to spend more time with his family. Whatever it is, there’s probably nothing you can do to change things. And you have to accept it.
Yes, that’s easier said than done. Most likely, you will feel cruel when you are in this state. It’s fine. Feelings make us human and you don’t have to deny them. University of Utah Health Psychiatrist Maria Reyes says recognizing and acknowledging our feelings about circumstances beyond our control is the first step to managing uncertainty-related anxiety.
Also, you may need to get out of the situation a bit. Taking a step back helps you get a better idea of what seems like an obstacle to your success. Some entrepreneurs use this time to step back, for example, by playing golf or engaging in various types of hobbies. You can try it.
Related: 4 Things Leaders Should Do First When Facing Uncertainty
3. Be grateful (for the little things)
Gratitude is an antidote to the negative emotions caused by uncertainty, psychologist Guy Winch wrote in his book. Emotional first aid. Gratitude has a happy effect on the mind. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These hormones are associated with happiness, higher self-esteem and motivation.
Try to take short breaks to reflect on your experience. Identify the little things that often go unnoticed and imagine how life would have turned out without them. It could be as trivial as filling up your car at a gas station the day before. If it’s helped you move forward even in the slightest, then it’s worth expressing your gratitude.
Something as simple as being grateful, if you do it repeatedly, can help you develop a tolerance for uncertainty because you believe that there will be good things to be grateful for.
Related: How to practice gratitude as a business skill
4. Make contingency plans
Starting a business requires making assumptions and following your gut. Most of the time these assumptions are wrong. At worst, verifiable market research data can look so wrong when reality sets in. If they were always right, I think uncertainty would be the least of every entrepreneur’s problems.
So when you make assumptions and plan for success, it’s important to plan for failure. What would you do if reality made your assumptions viable? What is your Plan B and Plan C?
You have to figure them out. According to the report prepared by Harvard Business Review, in times of uncertainty, the best entrepreneurs create contingency plans that can allow them to quickly change course. This is especially useful because most fatal conditions are beyond the host’s control. Talk about a change in market trends and, as in 2020, a pandemic.
Related: 6 Strategies You Need to Lead Your Business Through Uncertainty
It’s very easy to get caught up in the need to control your future and that of your company. And knowing that some things just aren’t meant to be can be upsetting. This is understandable. You’re not alone. Many have learned to live with it. And you can too.
The best approach to dealing with uncertainty is to stop resisting change and accept what you cannot control. Also, reduce the uncertainty you have to deal with by delegating some of them while planning to recover from potential setbacks.
Most importantly, remember to stop and appreciate the little things you experience along the way. As with most processes, building a tolerance for uncertainty is a rewarding journey. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to be grateful.