Wrangle the Unknown like a Pro


In March 2020, I made a career transition. I was out of a job, financially stuck, not to mention just getting out of a two-year relationship, so the thought of moving to Georgia and starting fresh felt like the right move.

I was excited to experience this new region of the country. I was also excited to start a new job in my field of Sport Psychology, but I would be lying if I said I did not experience an equal amount of doubt. There was a level of uncertainty that I had not accounted for – moving 2,000+ miles away from home, being 1,000 miles from the closest person I knew, working with a population I had no clue about – I started to question whether I was going to make it or end up back on my mother’s couch in California.

As with any transitional period, whether a new career, moving, or trying something new, there comes a level of uncertainty that can cause your self-confidence to take a plunge. In these situations, you may not know from where to pull the confidence that is your best chance at success; one thing to leverage is your strengths during transition to increase certainty in your abilities, as well as your overall ability to handle the unknown.

What is Certainty?

Certainty is derived from the word confidence, which is defined as the degree of self-assurance about our capabilities to execute a particular action. There are four areas where we can pull certainty from: personal experience, physical state, vicarious experience, and persuasion. Personal experience is related to your past accomplishments and failures. Physical state is related to your interpretation of how you are feeling physically. Vicarious experience is related to watching someone else, and persuasion is related to your internal self-talk or statements from other people.

When faced with unfamiliar leading to uncertainty, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull from the four experiences I’ve outlined. In fact, you may not have the experience to pull from all four, and if your mind is not ready to perform and is lacking confidence, your body will respond in similar fashion. To fight this, we leverage our strengths to build confidence in times of uncertainty.

Leveraging Your Strengths

There are three categories to look at in terms of your strengths and abilities: physical, mental and interpersonal. Physical abilities are related to your behaviors or actions, such as having a strong lower body or high endurance. Mental abilities are more cognitive based, such as self-motivation or high-level focus. Interpersonal abilities are your people skills: being open-minded or an effective communicator. Create your own exhaustive list for each category. The more exhaustive your list, the more you can potentially pull from when faced with uncertainty. Even if you only list one per category, you can still leverage that strength to increase your confidence and your ability to handle the unknown.

Once you complete your lists, work on a statement for each category on how your strengths can help build certainty in your skills. For example, my statement as I started my new career in Georgia was, “I have not worked with soldiers before, but I know the information and can use my open mind to learn about this population.” Your statement can be related to a particular category, or a more general sense of how your physical, mental or interpersonal abilities can help increase your ability to handle uncertainty.

Final thoughts

You may not have the luxury of experiencing all that life has to offer. You may be faced with new situations – and these new scenarios may test your level of uncertainty lowering confidence in your abilities. Embrace the uncertainty. It can be the fount of strength from which you can draw. Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. By leveraging your strengths, you not only build confidence in times of uncertainty, but you also increase your ability to handle the unknown. Trust yourself and trust your abilities to defeat any challenge.