I have noticed a lot of people have a really difficult time living in the gray zone. What I mean is, when they don’t have a clear path, clear goals and can anticipate what is next, they crumble under the pressure of the unknown.

In organizations this has been precipitated by changes in how business is being done, hence the proliferation of change management processes and experts over the last 15+ years. Yes we do live in a time of constant change and we are functioning at a speed never before imagined. And this is the new normal.

But what I want to explore is how to manage ambiguity in your life by focusing on the only thing you truly have control over – YOU!

I was working with a client who was in the middle of a relationship with no real commitment from either partner, an undefined future career course, and constant shifting of rules and expectations at work. Consequently his attitude and productivity at work was suffering. He felt he wasn’t able to move forward.

We laid all the “unknown” issues on the table, so to speak, and examined each one closely. It was then that we noticed a theme emerging; he was living in the gray zone; no black and white to be seen.

This made me really curious. I knew he liked to have clear goals, but I thought he was a spontaneous person. What we realized together is that if he were to make decisions that put himself and his needs first, that would be the first step in moving him into the black and white zone. He can’t control the change and ambiguity around him, but he can work on establishing clarity on those things where he does have a choice.

His action plan included committing to his relationship, deciding on a career path (knowing that it could change in the future) and reconceptualizing his approach to work. Sounds simple, right? But when we are in it we do feel overwhelmed and stuck.

If you find yourself languishing in the gray zone here are 3 key steps to move you forward with certainty:

  1. Look at the things closest to you. Are you clear about what you want? Have you made decisions about them? If not, now is the time.
  2. Understand that with most things, especially in our work, we don’t have complete control. Pick out 2 or 3 things that you do have a say in and focus on them. Let the other things flow past.
  3. Write down a list of the things that are ambiguous in your life. Now shorten the list to include only those things causing you angst. What would it take to gain clarity about them? Set a plan to take action on them. Hint: this may mean deciding if they even have a place in your life, or if it is time to remove them.

This may seem hard at first, but remember, you are the boss of you! It is up to you to manage your life. How you do it will keep you out of the gray zone and into the black and white realm of relative certainty.

Are you being held back by the gray zone?