Embracing uncertainty? Can you? Do you relish the opportunity it might invoke or are you the “worrying type”? Could you make it your friend?
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It’s a bit of an outlook thing, isn’t it? Some deal with it better than others. Some think it’s a “wiring thing”; part of their personality (suggesting there is nothing they can do about it). Others believe its a choice, one which they have control over, and are willing to excercise.
There is no doubt that our conditioning can become part of our wiring and hence part of our belief system; one that becomes so entrenched in what we think and how we think, that for us it has become a reality. However, what I have learned both personally and from the hundreds of clients I have coached, the starting point isn’t what matters. It’s what you want to believe and hence how you want to behave going forward that matters. Embracing uncertainty can be learned and the value of its benefits can be most significant. This is what I wrote about in “The Price and the Prize”, whereby if you think the prize is worth the pain and effort of the price, then you’ll see the value in wanting to change that behaviour. And if not, you won’t, period.
You see, in my work as an executive life coach, what we often focus on in the client / coaching relationship towards “Raising Your Game”, is to identify inappropriate thinking and unsupportive behaviour patterns that hold us back from being the best “we” that we can be. In most cases my clients aren’t aware of these patterns. They just know that despite working and trying so hard, they still aren’t where they expected to be. And often wonder what might be preventing that success or holding them back. Can you relate?
And once some of these unconsciously held behaviour patterns or Habits are recognized, it really isn’t very difficult to “re-wire” that thinking into really successful thinking and hence successful outcomes. This is what I wrote about in “Overcoming (Personal) Obstacles”. And in most cases they look back and wonder why they wrestled with those perceived obstacles for as long as they did.
The inspiring outcome is the “Personal Breakthroughs” that inevitably follow.
What Does Embracing Uncertainty mean?
I have found “embrace” defined as: an act of accepting or supporting something willingly or enthusiastically.
And “uncertainty” to be defined as: something that is doubtful or unknown; the situation which involves imperfect and / or unknown information.
In that context, embracing uncertainty to me means our ability to enter into any situation with confidence, not having to know exactly how we are going to master the expected necessities, but that they will come when required.
Can Embracing Uncertainty Be Learned?
I believe embracing uncertainty can be learned. In the context of what I spoke about before, why is this relevant and how do we go about making the desired changes so as to invoke the expected outcomes?
- First of all we need to identify some of the inhibiting behaviour patters, habits and inappropriate thinking. Having addressed this now, many of you will already have an inkling of what these might be. Working with your coach will have you recognize them pretty quickly.
- Next we need to excercise a choice that we want to make a change, and make a firm decision to do so.
- Then we need to set some goals that will help us focus the right attention on the necessary behaviour changes, but supported with a solid belief of the value of doing so. Depending too much on your willpower to do so will probably set you up for failure. Why? Because we are so human. Using the principles embedded in “Want To Turbocharge Your Goals?” will go a long way towards breaking through any such age old and well rehearsed barriers.
A Personal Example of Embracing Uncertainty
In “Trusting Oneself” I wrote about when I was being trained as a coach we did 10 one hour telephone coaching sessions where I was the coach, a fellow trainee the client and a third fellow trainee the observer. We each played the other roles in 2 further 10 session “triads”, so 30 hours of training coaching practice. I remember in the first 4 or 5 of my 10 sessions as the coach, I was armed and surrounded with all my books, files, printouts etc from all the theory stuff which I nervously laid around me on the phone so I could do the best possible job for my client.
Well ahead of the 5th or 6th session I realized how much I was depending on these “crutches” and decided I’d have a go without them. I sat only with the telephone plus paper & pen and had an incredible coaching session. One where I just trusted in myself that what I would need to do a great job would “come to me” when I needed it. It did, and served as a major breakthrough for me. One in which I crossed a threshold from being a coach trainee into being a coach.
It was nothing other than a decision to have a go and to excercise a choice. It allowed embracing uncertainty. You see, my client didn’t have or expect a script. It was my left brain trying to protect me from failing that I needed to overcome. So I made the call. And from that point on, saw myself as a great coach.
From that point forward I realized that with all my life experience and all my business experience, plus the experience I would gain from every coaching session would equip me perfectly to do justice to any expectation a client could to bring to the table. And if there was something I couldn’t help with, I would offer to research it and come back to them. Or I would refer them to another professional that could deal with that requirement.
I can tell you that after almost 10 years of coaching hundreds of clients, my ability to embrace uncertainty has accompanied me all the way and today is absolutely an unconsciously held competence. You see, it is an attitude. It is a belief. It is truly trusting oneself.
And now I relish each impending coaching session, which by having learned the art of embracing uncertainty, I can be curious what might come out of this session, knowing that we are going to get an great outcome. Every time. Without having to know in advance any what or any why or any how. Very, very liberating and very, very powerful. And the benefactor of that approach is always the client.
In “Dealing With Fear” I suggested that worry is using your imagination to create something you do not want. It’s almost a self fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it? Yet, would you agree with my that the majority of things we worry about actually never manifest? Worry is the opposite of embracing uncertainty.
Another Personal Example of Embracing Uncertainty
The second example is a more recent one. I have just spent a week in South Africa together with my brother to assist my 94 year old father to transition from his retirement village cottage into a single room for his dedicated age care. Whilst he intellectually understood the need for this move, he was emotionally not ready for it and very strongly rejected the notion. In the weeks preceding my trip, I admit to having allowed this situation to “get to me” somewhat emotionally and I was a quite apprehensive when I boarded my flight to get me there. Why? Because I couldn’t see how we were going to master this situation without “bulldozing” my dad’s wishes and our relationship intact.
However on the flight I realized what I was doing, and simply enabled my thinking to rather dwell on trusting myself (and my brother) that the right approaches would present themselves and the right outcomes would come. Why should this be any different really to any of my coaching sessions? Maybe because this was so much more personal?
Anyway, the process developed each day with great empathy until it was all done and we achieved the right outcome for our fathers comfort and secure future being. Again it was embracing uncertainty that allowed it to play out without the normal “angst” that can undermine such difficult emotional situations.
What’s Holding You Back From Raising Your Game?
Think about it. What might some of the perceived personal and professional obstacles be that might be holding you back from playing in the rooms you are denied at present? Could it be that you lack the confidence perceived to be necessary to holding your own amongst more senior players? This lack of confidence in such situations is more widespread than most of us think. Our ability to mask such inadequacies has usually been very well developed the more senior we get. But it is often a “silent robber” that denies us certain outcomes we aspire to, often without us being aware of the unconsciously held forces at play here.
Or perhaps you feel you need to have “all your ducks in a row” before you have a go? My experience has been that whenever I encounter a so-called perfectionist, that this approach is ever prevalent.
You know how strongly I advocate good preparation, don’t you? I’m not suggesting anything against that. What I am suggesting is that if your quest for preparation becomes obsessive or exaggerated, that this will prevent you trusting in yourself and embracing uncertainty.
You see, a pre-requisite for embracing uncertainty is the confidence that we are equipped with what we need for any or most situations. And if we perceive a lack of such confidence, that’s quite normal. However, most people won’t do anything about it. Only a few will have the courage and the willingness to admit that they could use some help. Those are the ones that executive life coaches will be able to assist and guide to some of the most incredible breakthroughs.
So if you feel you might be one of these select few, why not email me at with any questions and let’s see how I might be able to help you find some greater clarity around those? Go on, what have you got to lose?
You might also want to read (or listen) to topics mentioned above by clicking on these further links:
David Grieve says
Interesting blog – don’t over emphasise preparation in emotional situations as this may not help you resolve the situation to the best outcome which in your case is very important. Embracing uncertainly allows in some instances a more suitable outcome and backs your judgement. I have a similar situation with my parents who are in a position like your father – moving house to a retirement village in their mid 80s. The pressure and uncertainty of the ‘new’ and over analysing what has ‘gone wrong’ such as why is slow like selling their house, not gettind the prices they want for their car, holding a garage sale, decluttering etc has made it difficult for them (and me and my brothers) to get them to concentrate on the things that matter and they can control.