None of us like uncertainty. Our reaction to our recent pandemic confirms this. Our natural reaction to uncertainty is to either convince ourselves of the only certain outcome possible (to give us comfort while not knowing how things will really turn out) or to freeze and be crippled by it. We treat uncertainty that confronts us as an occasional occurrence that creates great fear in us.
Yet what really is certain in our lives? That we will be the same weight five years from now? Will we stll have the same job two years from now? We will not face any major health problems in the next 18 months? That no loved one around us will die in the next five years? When you stop to think, there is very little in our lives that is certain. Yet we live each day as if this were true.
At the extreme, someone who is a creator or builder consistently challenges uncertainty with a confident defiance to not fail. We essentially do the same thing every day without bringing attention to this. For we enter all new things with an optimism that things will work. Our new job will work for us. Our impeding marriage will be great for our entire life. The neighborhood we are moving to will be better than the one we are leaving. Or assuming the project we are undertaking will have great impact. Our optimism hides the uncertainty that is inherent in almost everything we do.
But we are not consistent when it comes to facing uncertainties that are visible to us. That confront us. We only see great risk of failure or significant error. These are the types of stories we create in our mind. We don’t want to be wrong. Forgetting that life never allows us to be always right. So we freeze or run from difficult problems that are not easily solvable. We choose comfort and safety rather than challenge. We quickly abandon the optimism that is necessary to sustain our resilience during uncertain times. Doing nothing seems to be safer in the moment.
The practical need for facing uncertainty visible to us, lies in the realization that tomorrow will come in spite of us. Once we accept this statement as truth, the best any of us can do is to explore the many possibilities of futures we might face. Making them explicit for one of them or a combination of them most likely will occur. Both good and bad ones. Creating competing futures no longer seems as fearful but possible. Then crafting different paths through them. Our decisions and actions will vary depending on the outcome. But they will be thought out and planned for in advance making us more agile and resilient during our journey.
Our thinking becomes more pliable when we apply it to options we don’t believe in ahead of time. Exploring with curiosity how we might react differently if things turn out bad versus good for us regardless of the measures used to define this. For there never is one right answer. Only more effective ones than others that sometimes take different paths to reach the same outcome. For there is always more than one way to get somewhere.
The challenge of not having enough information feeds our uncertainty leading to inaction. The lack of curiousity to explore how we might respond towards different outcomes leads us to being powerless. Counterintuitively robbing us of any chance to have impact by forcing us, of our own will, to not be prepared.
We will never change the fact that we will not always be right. What we can change is understanding the practical need to face uncertainty and a way to work through it when confronted. We can be more nimble and de-risk our next choices when we fully explore and embrace possible outcomes ahead of time that may very well turn out not to be true.
This process is an attempt to make explicit the uncertainties in a situation by constructing multple scenarios (all possible at the beginning) and then laying out our possible approaches to each. As new informaton arrives, some scenarios will begin to appear more likely. Understanding, we will never have perfect information before needing to decide on a course of action.
For difficult problems always need our attention rather than our fear or indifference. Understanding how we might act in a scenario we don’t believe will appear, brings a deeper wisdom to what we ultimately choose to do next given more information. Powerful leverage against the fear of uncertainty. Raising the probability of a positive outcome in our favor along the way.