The FBI requires all agents to qualify with their firearm at least four times a year. Part of this training is taking turns arresting fellow agents and putting them in handcuffs. As I tried to handcuff one of the senior agents on my squad, I found he didn’t have the flexibility to place the back of his hands together behind his back. Over time, he had lost a great deal of the suppleness in his shoulder muscles.

While he took a great deal of ribbing by fellow agents, I remember thinking: “If only he’d made the effort to keep limber, he would have more flexibility.”

If stretching and yoga can promote healthier bodies, we need to find similar ways to keep our minds flexible and agile for top performance. Rigid thinking cannot help us adapt when we are faced with the uncertainty of today’s workplace.

As entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, you are required to adapt and move through transitions at faster and faster paces. Whether it is a new assignment, a new supervisor, or a new career—success depends on finding new ways to keep our minds supple.

Mental toughness is the ability to be flexible and agile in the way we respond when faced with the uncertainties of both life and work.

Here are 4 surefire ways you can develop the mindset to move through uncertainty:

1. Overcome Uncertainty By Growing A Little Each Day

When facing uncertainty, you have two choices:

You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…

You can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brainpower of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

2. Overcome Uncertainty By Discovering What Makes You Feel Strong

As an FBI agent, one of the first things I did was surveil the target of my investigation. I analyzed and assessed their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and wants. This gave me tremendous power because I usually came to know more about them than they knew about themselves.

Harness that same power by making yourself the target of your own investigation:

a. Discover your own patterns: What makes you smile? What are you always wanting to do or think about? What can you not help do, think, or feel? Even if someone asks you not to?

b. Keep track of how you spend the next week: What are you doing, feeling, or thinking about daily? Write down everything that energizes you and makes you feel strong. It could be a particular physical activity, or a book you read, or people you meet. Alongside, write down everything that makes you feel less confident or anxious. How many of these do you encounter at work?

c. Compare the lists: How can you start doing more of the things that make you feel strong? And eliminate those that make you feel threatened?

When you find a few things you repeatedly do and love, dig deeper and see what part of that particular activity makes you feel good—and empowers you.

As you transition out of your current situation or move into a time of uncertainty, lean into those things that make you feel strong and keep a wary eye out for those things that do not empower you.

3. Overcome Uncertainty By Mixing It Up

FBI training is relentless and continuous, but this kept our minds flexible and agile so we could adapt to the unknown when confronting an arrest situation.

When a roadblock or obstacle confronts us, we often have no Plan B. Instead of moving around a roadblock in a deliberate and flexible manner, we continue to assault it using the same tactics that have already proven ineffective. Our default explanation is blaming others.

The only thing worse than getting into a rut is staying in one. Often, our patterns of thinking become rigid because we’re fixated on thinking about achieving our life’s goals in one way.

Mix up the way you think. It’s important to combine focused thought with periods of play and scattered attention because changes in your environment, attitude, and behavior influence how you think.

When you’re feeling happy or optimistic, you are more inclusive and more creative. When you are fearful, your focus narrows down to specific details.

Mental toughness is having the flexibility to make a mental shift without remaining stuck in a particular mindset.

4. Overcome Uncertainty By Summoning The Courage To Try New Things

Finding our courage is no small thing, but once we find it, it takes over everything in its path. A flood of courage is exactly what we need when faced with uncertainty.

The goal is to move fluidly between specific and abstract thought patterns so you can flex and bend with the changing circumstances of your life. Start with making small changes in your routine. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or listening to different music can boost your mental agility.

Variety is also good. Try different foods and different methods of exercise. Call a friend and go to a place you’ve never visited. Watch your thoughts become more expansive as you break out of old patterns and develop your brain.

A flexible and agile mindset is essential if you plan to get past the roadblocks and obstacles ahead of you. Remember this: everyone can get smarter about how to overcome obstacles if they work at it.

How have you pushed through periods of uncertainty?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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