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Embracing uncertainty

TIGNUM Thoughts

April 28th, 2018
By Scott Peltin

When I think of the skills that make up a Performance Mindset, there is one that most people rarely think of but is one of the most critical. It's so critical that some call it a mentality - an entire way of thinking. This skill is the ability to embrace uncertainty.

Over the years, I have seen clients do some pretty crazy things simply because they could not embrace uncertainty. They have taken jobs they didn’t want, they have married people they didn’t love, they have said yes to projects they didn’t want to do, and they have sacrificed opportunities to learn and grow.

As human beings, there is nothing the brain hates more than uncertainty. Throughout history, we have created myths and stories to try to explain the unknown just so we could have some kind of certainty in a world of certain uncertainty. Our brain creates binary choices so that it won’t have to deal with the middle ground, which is unclear, uncertain, and often ambiguous. Unfortunately, this pattern of thinking prevents us from being able to challenge our own bias, explore unknown territory, try the untried, and lead us to actually discover a new solution. Without learning how to embrace uncertainty, we really can’t become more creative or personally achieve our full potential.

As with the development of any Performance Mindset skill, there is no magic recipe for developing the ability to embrace uncertainty. So, rather than present 3 quick and easy steps, here is a process of thinking that has helped many of our clients:

  • _Raise your self-awareness to recognize the feeling you experience when uncertainty raises its evil head. What do you feel? Where do you feel it? What is your first reflexive reaction? Do you run? Do you poll everyone else to get their opinion because you're falsely thinking that they must be more correct than you?
  • _Make a list of some of your previous experiences where you had to face uncertainty. What did you learn? What surprising outcomes and benefits did you experience? How are you different or better from that experience? Where would you be had you avoided that experience? How are you better equipped today than you were then to deal with future uncertainty? Personally, when I reflect on the experiences that I wanted and planned for and those that I didn't want or plan for, I find it was often the latter which shaped me to be who I am today.
  • _Ask yourself, "What is the best and worst outcome of this uncertainty?" This helps you put boundaries on your uncertainty even if they might be a little hyperbolic. You'll find that you can deal with the worst outcome and get excited about the best possible outcome.
  • _Ask yourself, "What would it look like if I were to embrace this feeling of uncertainty? How would I act; what would I feel; how would I move forward?" The latest research shows that you can actually retrain what we previously thought were pre-wired emotional responses to things like fear, anger, uncertainty, and more.
  • _Reflect on how you performed while embracing your uncertainty. This reflection is where we rewire our brain with this new skill to make it easier to embrace uncertainty the next time and the time after that. You may be asking yourself, "Why would I face this lesson again if I am already learning it?" The answer is simple... because you are human. It's the same reason why you would continue to practice a song on the piano after you've already played it once; it's a skill that you need to continue to develop and can't be mastered after just one successful attempt.

A Performance Mindset is made up of skills which are practiced, developed, and improved. The skill of embracing uncertainty is a big one, so keep an eye out for your next lesson/opportunity. The ultimate demonstration of being at a high level of this skill is when uncertainty presents itself, you quickly recognize it, take a few breaths, smile, embrace it, and tell yourself, “I’m okay. I got this. I know I will figure it out as it unfolds.” One day you may look back on this situation and find that it was actually one of the most positive and impactful experiences of your life.


As always, I'd love to hear what you think.

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