How do we Face Uncertainty? With Agility and Resilience

How do we Face Uncertainty? With Agility and Resilience

Ana Patterson

Texas storms can be unpredictable. They can arrive unexpectedly and deliver high winds, flooding rain and varying amounts of damage. In Texas, locals take the weather in stride, understanding that changes in weather can be harsh, but are also temporary. Hence the popular phrase “if you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes.” 

Last spring a thunderstorm ripped through our property in the middle of the night. The next morning as I assessed the damage, I noticed a large tree taken down by a lightning strike and debris scattered across the pasture. My heart sank as I thought about the vegetable garden that my husband and I had just planted. I was convinced that I would find the tender plants destroyed. To my surprise, the plants had survived! The young plants had stalks that were flexible enough to move with the wind and rain but not break. In a few days they were standing upright and thriving again. 

As a business professor, a concept that I frequently shared in class was that the only constant in business is change. Going one step further, it is safe to say that the only constant in life is change! In uncertain times there are many opinions regarding the best way to manage change successfully. However, managing change proves difficult because it is rarely something you can plan for. Much like the weather, change is an external force that is out of our control and we may not see coming.

As I considered the outcomes of the storm, I realized that two attributes existed among the plants that survived, agility and resilience. There are lessons to be learned about the importance of agility and resilience as we face a world that is filled with uncertainty and unexpected change. 

Agility is essential when facing uncertainty and it requires flexibility, creativity and the ability to pivot. It can be difficult to let go of “Plan A” when time and money have been invested. However, when circumstances change it is essential to evaluate and adjust. Holding onto a plan that doesn’t work can prove detrimental. 

Agility alone is not enough when facing change. Thinking back to the vegetable garden the plants didn’t break because the stalks were flexible, but what kept them in the ground was a root system that was strong enough to handle the storm. The roots of the plants played a vital role in their resilience. 

Resilience can be defined as toughness or strength that provides the ability to recover quickly from adversity. It is developed over time as we face challenges and learn to grow through them. Resilience may be rooted in prior experiences, personal beliefs and faith. 

How do we thrive despite constant change and the storm of uncertainty? I will take a lesson from my garden. Focus on building resilience to remain grounded while being willing to think creatively to solve problems and pivot to stay agile. Agility and resilience can work together to support thriving growth through uncertainty.  

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