Looking Foward in the Face of Uncertainty - Blog Top Image

Looking Forward in the Face of Uncertainty

The Way We Always Have

Do you remember? About a year ago today, we were planning. Dreaming. Hoping. Looking forward to what 2020 had to offer. We knew little to nothing about the pandemic or what disruptions it would bring. We hadn’t the slightest inkling of the scale of the economic, personal, or mental distress that 2020 would lay at our feet. We looked forward, with hope. 

Some of the plans we had for 2020 would move forward. Some would morph into something else entirely. Some would be set aside out of necessity or impossibility. But knowing none of that, we planned. We met the New Year with hope, with anticipation, with dreams, with plans.

Now, on the very threshold of this new year, we look forward again. Some look forward with an aching loss over what 2020 took away. Others look forward with fervent hope of something different. We see vaccines on the horizon. We dare to hope to see each other again face-to-face and spend time in the company of friends and colleagues without fear for each other’s health. We anticipate routines and habits re-forming, supplemented with some of the amazing technical solutions that we gleaned this past year.


But what if?

What if 2021 brings more of the tears and the loss and the pain that 2020 brought so mercilessly?

What if the plans we create for 2021 don’t materialize?

What if we must mold our dreams for the future into something else, something unexpected?


What we’re asking here, with this series of “what ifs”, is how to move forward in the face of uncertainty. We’re hesitant to let ourselves get our hearts set on what the future could bring, just in case the future brings something else.

But for every single year of our lives, we’ve faced January 1 with absolutely no certainty about what the year ahead would hold.

Why should 2021 be any different?

We’re admittedly a little more skittish than we might be at the end of most years, yet we have no certainty about this next January, or February, or July, or October than we would any other year or month. 


So how do we plan?

How do we hope?

How do we dream?

How do we look forward in the face of uncertainty the way we always have?


We take stock in our priorities, our needs, our hopes, our dreams.

Application: What matters to you, as you wrap up this year? What are your top 3 priorities? What do you need to accomplish or to be able to say is true by the end of the year? What do you hope is true by the end of the year?


We set a goal of some sort.

Application: Whether it’s a professional goal, a person-development goal, a financial goal, a wellness goal, what goal can you set for yourself for this upcoming year? Do you need smaller, incremental goals to help you get there? Then set those as well. Is this year’s goal already an incremental goal on your way to something greater? Then remind yourself of the greater vision and the “why” behind that vision so you have a clear reason to pursue this year’s goal.


We make the best plan we can with the information available to us.

Application: Using the information currently available to you, what’s a reasonable way to accomplish that goal you just specified? What actions do you need to complete? What changes do you need to make? What milestones or deliverables do you need to achieve? By when do you need to achieve them? What resources do you have at your disposal to help you get there?


We create contingencies, backup plans, risk-mitigation strategies, and plans to implement those as needed.

Application: Identify a handful of things (not fewer than 3, not more than 7) that might prevent you from achieving your goal. What distractions, disruptions, disappointments or missteps might get in your way? What impact would those have on your goal? Prioritize those based on probability, factoring in what you know now, and the level of pain it could cause in relation to achieving  your goal. Then make a plan. How will you reduce the likelihood that they happen, or how will you reduce the harm they cause? What’s your plan B, your alternate route, your other option to achieving your goal?


We surround ourselves with those who can encourage us, cheer us on, keep us on the right path, help us see when our path is not right.

Application: Identify one to three people who can help you. Look for people who are running a similar race, for whom shared encouragement might be useful. Look for people who have been there before, people whose insight will be given easily and happily. Look for people who can hold you accountable or help remove barriers or carry water when you need it. Share your goal with them, and the role you’d like them to play on your journey toward accomplishment.


My friends, we have no guarantees of tomorrow; we have no promise that 2021 will be entirely free of challenges or setbacks--in fact, we can be fairly certain that the opposite will be true. But we do know that we have a better chance of achieving goals when we set them. We know that there are multiple ways to accomplish the same thing. And we know that together we can achieve greater things than we could achieve alone. 


On a very personal note, I would also add that I am confident that, regardless of the steps in the journey, the overall destination of the path I’m on is one of hope, of a future, of things working together for good. And even if things don’t work out quite the way I wanted them to, I know that there’s One in charge whose ways are greater than mine, and so I continue to do the best I can, putting one foot in front of the other, planning with hope, and facing uncertainty with the confidence that comes from being loved and diligently living life abundantly. If you’re ever interested in visiting with me about these very personal notes, please reach out. I’d love to hear from you.


Topics: Faith, Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! contactus@yourclearnextstep.com


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