Executives in 2021 nominate FOFO, over FOMO, as a constant and nagging fear. If the Fear Of Finding Out is leading you to strive for tighter control over yourself, your outputs, your team, or your work life, read on.

Distraction, avoidance and control are common ways we humans deal with heightened levels of anxiety created by large doses of uncertainty. No, this is not another article on how to cope with anxiety. This important topic is beyond the scope of this article.

This is an article on how to refocus on your most important goals and aspirations when everything in your environment is driving you towards short-termism and doubt.

Humans are goal-oriented beings. At any point in time we are either moving towards or away from something. Sometimes we are conscious of being thus driven, mostly we are not. When we are confronted with heightened uncertainty, we create unconscious goals designed to move us away from the uncomfortable – feelings being generated, and towards things that we think will make us feel better, even if only temporarily.

Feeling in control is something most executives like to experience. At times like this it is tempting to generate feelings of control by focusing on immediate or short-term issues, albeit issues not necessarily linked to medium term productivity or growth for you as a leader, nor for your business. In the short term you feel more in control, but you are not really moving in the direction of your aims and ambitions.

When it comes to realising our highest ambitions, we can come a cropper if we remain unaware of the competing goals we harbour. Executives find themselves beset by such cross-currents all the time, and now, probably more than ever. A common example of such struggle, we hear, is the desire to spend time coaching or developing staff, but “I am way too busy.” A desire to coach staff conflicts with the goal to get lots done.

So how can we stop spinning our wheels and ensure we can still chart a course towards personal and professional goals that mean something to us? We need to head for higher ground. If we are only ever moving towards or away from something, it helps to set up your own framework of what matters to you in the highest and most inspired sense. Maybe for you that is constant learning, experiencing novelty or challenge, working to share your knowledge, or perhaps being part of something that can make a difference, however you define that.

Our behaviours, and the motivations that drive them, sit nested within larger and higher goals that actually link to our values and purpose. When you know what you want to do, how you want to do it and why, it creates a navigation system within you. Knowing the answers to those questions can help you determine where it is you want to head.

Your essential purpose is a statement about yourself, why you exist and what contribution you want to make. It helps to consciously establish your personal brand and enables you to take actions towards creating that brand. Your choices and behaviours can operate in service of creating personal brand value or destroying it.

Times of uncertainty are tricky terrain, there is no question. Yet you can still take action and navigate with a guidance system generated by what it is you want your leadership to represent. It is worthwhile taking some time to re-establish this inner knowing. If nothing else, it can help you reorient priorities and reset your shorter-term goals that link you to your higher ambitions. It may also give you a sense of direction. Inner knowing and a sense of direction may yet be more agile weapons to combat the anxiety and doubt that uncertain times generate.

Lidia Ranieri BBus, LLB, MSc (Coach.Psych)

Listen to the extended PODCAST here.