One of the primary drivers of burnout and stress among leaders is living under the constant pressure of having to make decisions without always having 100% of the facts. The more you can get comfortable in working through ambiguity, and acting upon what you do know, the more resilience you can build from stressful indecision.
Currently, how comfortable are you with ambiguity? Take this quick quiz to find out.
For each statement, rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 5.
1 = LEAST LIKELY 5 = MOST LIKELY
1. I don’t like working on problems that lack a clear-cut solution or outcome. 1 2 3 4 5
2. I prefer having all the data before making a decision. 1 2 3 4 5
3. I have a strong need to finish everything I start. 1 2 3 4 5
4. The best way to solve issues is to apply tried-and-true solutions. 1 2 3 4 5
5. I can balance many activities that are up in the air and still focus on getting results. 1 2 3 4 5
6. It’s important to get the “why” and the history before taking any next steps. 1 2 3 4 5
7. I prefer details and specific directions before acting. 1 2 3 4 5
8. When under pressure, I am less efficient and productive. 1 2 3 4 5
9. Changes mostly result in rework or additional time needed to complete my work. 1 2 3 4 5
10. I can comfortably shift gears. 1 2 3 4 5
11. It upsets me when there’s a sudden shift in priorities and my work is affected. 1 2 3 4 5
12. I am afraid to fail and proceed cautiously as a result. 1 2 3 4 5
Add up your total and see how you scored on your ability to handle ambiguity.
Score: 12 to 23= Excellent 24 to 35= Good 36 to 47= Fair 48 to 60= Low
Ways to Deal With Ambiguity
Make small changes: Train yourself by making small, low-risk decisions. If you normally reread an important email three times, send it after two reviews. Break up habitual behaviors. If you normally have the same thing for lunch or eat in the same place try something new and go somewhere different. Make a point to do something every day that is out of your normal routine.
Stop the fearful thinking: Many people struggle with ambiguity because of the fear of the unknown. Write down your source of the fear. Is it what others will think if you make a mistake? Fear of failing? Fear of being reprimanded?
Focus on past success: Because life is always uncertain, you already have a track record of dealing with ambiguity. Focus on the positive ways you have dealt with uncertainty in the past and apply what you’ve learned to any issues you’re facing now.
Control what you can: Concentrate on what you can control, even if it’s simple tasks like running errands, meal planning, exercising, or choosing to take some time each day for an activity you enjoy.