As an accountant you deal with risk and uncertainty every day as part of doing your job.  You are called on by bosses and clients to make predictions about how various trends will affect their financial success, based on constantly changing information, in an ever-changing world.

As a mom taking care of your family’s needs 24/7, you also have to deal with countless things that you are unsure of.  With every new stage in your children’s development, comes even more uncertainty about how to handle your role as mom.

It’s not just death and taxes that are certain; uncertainty is also a certainty.  Since you will always be challenged by things outside of your control, I suggest that you learn how to master uncertainty, in order to bulletproof your career and manage your life.        

This week I’m going to discuss why your CPA Mom brain hates uncertainty, what creates uncertainty and how to master it. 

 
 

Why your CPA Mom brain hates uncertainty

A study once showed that uncertainty is more stressful than knowing something bad is definitely going to happen.  For example, it’s more stressful wondering whether you will make it to your meeting on time, than knowing that you’ll definitely be late; it’s more stressful to wonder if you’re going to get the promotion, than being relatively sure it’s not going to happen.

The study showed that the certainty of a negative outcome creates less stress than the uncertainty of a positive or negative outcome.  If you know there’s no way you’re getting to the meeting on time, then there’s less action that needs to be taken to make it happen; however, if you’re uncertain, then more action is required because there’s a chance that you could make it.

The reason your brain hates uncertainty is because it sees it as a threat to your survival.  It values control above all other capabilities and when uncertainty is present, it floods your body with stress hormones, preparing you for a fight or flight response.

Before you know it, you wind up driving erratically to get to the meeting that’s still a possibility, because your brain fears the failure of not making it on time.  Or you find yourself unable to concentrate because your brain fears the possibility that the promotion isn’t going to happen, making it easier to make more mistakes at work.

Your CPA Mom brain not only scans for good and bad consequences, but it actually predicts the odds of those consequences.  When your brain interprets a situation approaching a 50/50 chance of failure or success, it will get the loudest and release action-taking hormones to keep you safe. 

Between the nature of uncertainty that comes with the accounting profession, and general uncertainty that comes with being a mom, you may be feeling its effects in the form of overwhelm, stress and burnout.  Since your accountant’s brain is working at a higher, problem-solving capacity than most non-accountants, understanding and mastering uncertainty can be a major component of adding value to your career and your ability to manage your life. 

 
 

What creates uncertainty 

Even with an extensive knowledge in your field of accounting, it’s impossible to exactly describe or predict what will happen in the future.  You may use statistical probability to advise clients or to analyze data, but there’s always a lingering fear of being wrong.

Uncertainty is fueled by the very nature of change and since you cannot avoid it, you end up fearing it.

Of course no one likes to be wrong, but being wrong is particularly dangerous and worrisome for accountants.

The fear of making mistakes or being wrong, can have detrimental effects for clients.  As the world gets more unpredictable, you are called upon even more to handle the uncertainty that clients feel.

As humans, the need for certainty is why we take marriage vows or sign employment contracts; you are trying to remove uncertainty from the equation of your life.  By putting certain things in place, you believe you can have better control of the outcome.  

The catch-22 is that with the striving for good, also comes the possibility for bad.  For example, going after career success also comes with the chance for failure; trying to have love in your life also comes with the chance for loss.    

What actually creates uncertainty is not the changes or the circumstances in your life, it’s the fear of what you might think and feel in the future.  When you believe that your thoughts and feelings are dependent on a certain outcome, you will be uncomfortable with uncertainty and feel the need to control the outcome. 

For example, when you feel anxious about your next promotion, it’s because of what you believe you will think and feel if it doesn’t happen.  You are already anticipating the disappointment and shame you will feel at some future moment in time, creating even more angst. 

The bad news is that no matter how intelligent you are or how hard you work, there will always be gaps in your knowledge and things outside of your control.  The good news is that what is within your control is the secret to mastering uncertainty.

 
 

How to master uncertainty

If you had a crystal ball or were able to predict the future somehow, you probably wouldn’t be an accountant; you’d be sitting in a mansion that your weekly lottery winnings afforded you.  But, since predicting the next Powerball isn’t likely, getting a better handle on uncertainty is your best bet.

Mastering uncertainty is achieved when you manage and master you mind.  There will no longer be the need to anticipate or avoid any outcome, because a managed mind knows what to do.

Since uncertainty is the fear of the unknown, then managing your mind is the key; how you think and feel about any outcome, doesn’t just happen TO you, it happens FROM you.  When you know how to choose your thoughts and feelings on purpose, you can decide ahead of time without needing certainty.   

You may not know what’s going to happen in the future, but you can always decide what to think, feel and do about it now.  With a managed mind, there is no need to fear a bad outcome because you are in charge of defining everything that happens in the future.

For example, you don’t need to fear the uncertainty of getting the promotion, because your future feelings of pride or shame were always going to be created by your thoughts, not by the promotion.  The truth is that the promotion might not happen, but you can decide ahead of time that no matter what, you will feel pride. 

An unmanaged mind believes that people, places and things are responsible for how you feel, how you act and the results you have in your life.  A managed mind has the power to create what you want, independent of circumstances.  

What makes something in the future better or worse than something else, is what you decide to make it mean.  Not getting the promotion can be the better outcome when you decide it is; by mastering uncertainty there is nothing that’s gone wrong and nothing to fear.

If there’s something you’re currently uncertain about, start by being curious about what you could choose to think and feel about it.  Play around with the idea that all outcomes and situations are neutral, until you define it by what you choose to think about it. 

When you get comfortable with uncertainty, there is nothing to be worried about.  To get comfortable, ask yourself the following:

 
 
  • Why do I need to know the outcome?
  • If the “worst” happens, then what?
  • What am I afraid I’ll think and feel?
 
 

By recognizing that you have the power to choose how you want to think and feel about anything, you can begin to master uncertainty.  The only certainty that you ever need to know is that, no matter what happens, you have the power to manage your mind.

The ability to manage and master uncertainty is one of the most important skills you can develop in the ever-changing world of a CPA Mom.  You will be surprised how much calmer you feel, how much more productive you become and how much better you will feel both professionally and personally.

 
 

Summary

  • A study once showed that uncertainty is more stressful than knowing something bad is definitely going to happen.  
  • What actually creates uncertainty is not the changes or the circumstances in your life, it’s the fear of what you might think and feel in the future.  
  • When you believe that your thoughts and feelings are dependent on a certain outcome, you will be uncomfortable with uncertainty and feel the need to control the outcome. 
  • Since uncertainty is the fear of the unknown, then managing your mind is the key because how you think and feel about any outcome, doesn’t just happen TO you, it happens FROM you.
  • With a managed mind, there is no need to fear a bad outcome because you are in charge of defining everything that happens in the future.