Uncertainty Exhaustion

Find fifty minutes in the coming days and invest in yourself by watching FranklinCovey’s On Leadership podcast conversation with Mel Robbins. After more than two hundred interviews in this series, I was riveted. Captivated. I found myself mesmerized by her wisdom—wisdom about life in general.

My life and I bet yours as well.

At one point in the interview, Mel speaks to the fatigue and continuing uncertainty we’re all experiencing related to the pandemic, which seems, at this writing, to be far from over. Mel’s insights aren’t necessarily profound—they are simply validating. She says things that we’re all thinking and feeling but need someone’s permission—apparently for me, Mel’s—to give voice to.

During our conversation, Mel essentially legitimized how I, and likely a few billion others, are feeling about twenty months into the grip COVID has on us. Regardless of where you sit politically, ideologically, religiously, scientifically, financially, medically, educationally, socially, geographically, and demographically, none of us can deny the carnage humanity has faced from this virus. Likely exaggerated by some and minimized by others—all to our collective emotional and mental detriment.

An adage we’ve all heard by now is “We’ve all been through the same storm, but we weren’t all in the same boat.” Very true and something to keep in mind the next time you offer up your opinions on the topic without care for the other person’s perspective or experience. And when I say “you,” I mean “me.”

Mel greatly validates something I’ve been quietly unable to put words to: my exhaustion with the uncertainty. When will it be over? Officially or unofficially. Who else that I know will die or struggle with their compromised health? Who in my family will be exposed and to what end? When can I schedule my over-due colonoscopy because elective surgeries are backed up? Will my income be affected, positively or negatively? Perhaps less importantly, when will my furniture arrive (ordered nine months ago) and how will I eat a bagel without cream cheese? Let’s not even address the maple syrup crisis (can you even use the words crisis and syrup in the same sentence without sounding disconnected?).

How do I maintain treasured relationships when at dinner, some of my closest friends and family members state their opinions about some aspect of the pandemic and it takes every ounce of restraint not to literally walk away from the table in disgust? How do I continue to delicately navigate the ever-awkward social dance of talking with someone I think I know well as we carefully wade into the topic of COVID, then quickly learn we’re not on the same page—or even reading the same book?

I’m emotionally exhausted with the uncertainly. Depressed is likely more accurate. Conflict on planes. Political hats being worn in church (really? Your mother didn’t teach you to take off your hat in church, of all places?). Different masking rules city by city. Vaccination cards are required to dine. Vaccination cards are being counterfeited. Healthcare workers quit and, in extreme cases, take their lives due to fatigue and despair.

Me thinking I’m right. You thinking you’re right.

Where does it end? I don’t know and neither does Mel. But it just took hearing her tell me it was okay, normal even, to feel exhausted. It was liberating. Like the feeling you get when you’re deflating a pool float and you bend the nozzle just right and the air finally comes streaming out.

I guess Dr. Covey was right when he said the most basic human need is to just feel understood.

Thanks, Mel. Dr. Covey would have adored you. I sure do.


Don't let change cause unnecessary stress among the individuals in your organization. Here are six ways your leaders can help their teams handle stress during times of change.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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