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Tuning into the Wisdom of Uncertainty

Business executive tuning into the wisdom of uncertainty

Cursing inanimate objects

I like to start my day with inspirational reading. Something that gets me dialed into the potential and possibilities of life or the day ahead. Sometimes it's a chapter in a book I'm reading. Other times it's a daily meditation, devotion of sorts. This time it was the latter, so granted, the author only had a page of writing to inspire me. But this day, there was no inspiring me. Quite frankly, they pissed me off. The line that had me cursing my Kindle - "tap into the wisdom of uncertainty." WTF does that mean? I said out loud. I guess I'm lucky my husband had already left for work, and no one was there to question my sanity. I suppose my sanity is intact since my Kindle didn't answer back.

But the intensity (and the language) of my gut reaction shocked me. It wasn't like I had that reaction after reading the entire page and was frustrated that the author didn't define it (which he didn't, by the way). Instead, I was agitated the minute the words rolled past the screen of my mind. Like how dare he say there is wisdom in uncertainty. That's bull 💩. But deep down, I knew he had dropped a truth bomb in my lap. A truth bomb that I needed to examine and detonate carefully. As it's been said

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. -G. Steinem

If there was such a thing as wisdom in uncertainty, I knew it would be helpful to figure it out. Because, let's face it, the usual fret, worry, anxiety, and irritability over matters of uncertainty just aren't that effective. 🤦🏼‍♀️ And uncertainty, since the pandemic, has seemed to become a 24/7/365 reality. So I knew I could use the lesson and thought you might as well.

No stranger

Like you, I'm no stranger to uncertainty. Work projects, partnerships, and profitability seem to provide an abundance of negative feelings about uncertain outcomes. Family issues take feelings to a whole new height, or should I say depth. I was already struggling with a few of the former issues when I felt a nudge. I was in North Carolina, and my daughter had been sick for two weeks in Florida. She had gone to the doctor on Monday and got antibiotics for an infection, but she hadn't bounced back and seemed to get worse. Wrapping up things as quickly as I could, I was headed back home. Still, almost 10 hours away, I received the call they were admitting her into the hospital. If the feelings of uncertainty were already warming up, Life had just added gasoline to the fire. It was a frantic (internally) but slow (externally) 12-hour drive home. Arriving home late in the evening with no changes or results from a day of tests and treatments didn't help me sleep well that night. I felt very fortunate that after a couple of days, all was well, and a minor issue was resolved. Yet I was left pretty frazzled. Was it watching two toddlers for 12-hour days, two days straight? While that's challenging, I had the sneaky suspicion that it was the emotions of the event that had done me in. In reflection, that's when the lessons on embracing the wisdom of uncertainty began to download.

The truth is, no one is a stranger to uncertainty. It's not the uncertainty that throws us for the loop. After all, as the old cliche goes - there's nothing certain but death and taxes. So if there are only two things in life that are certain, then there are thousands, if not millions, of things that are uncertain. So uncertainty isn't our problem. Uncertainty and life are quite synonymous. Uncertainty is just the means of delivery the Messenger often uses. The wisdom the Messenger has been trying to deliver since the beginning of time, and which he has been persistent in knocking at our door (to the point of exasperated annoyance) to get the message, is about our emotions. It is in our emotions that we tap into the wisdom of uncertainty. And as far as my research goes, these leading articles on how leaders effectively deal with uncertainty don't discuss it much. If at all.

6 Keys for Tapping into the Wisdom of Uncertainty

Understanding the wisdom found in uncertainty involves self-reflection. A task that requires an inordinate amount of discipline and intention. Two skills that every leader benefits from. In fact, this practice of self-reflection was noted in the Business Wire study of CEO's world-wide as "jumped to be among the top of CEO priorities as they become increasingly self-aware, realizing that the key to prosperity is to improve the human side of their leadership."

“CEOs recognize that today’s unprecedented business complexities require a significant shift in leadership – and that change must begin by looking inward with new levels of self-reflection and personal development. This isn’t self-indulgent naval gazing; it’s what our teams, organizations and stakeholders expect of our CEOs”

So let's lay out what it is we need to reflect on when those pesky emotions arise out of our daily delivery of uncertainty du jour.

W is for What it reveals

The emotions that arise in times of uncertainty carry a message. Understanding what they reveal involves some time of reflection and introspection. Once you've identified the emotion, often just sitting with the question, "What does this "emotion" reveal?" will provide the answers you seek. A few other questions I've found useful include: does it reveal any unhealthy attachments, misdirected priorities, or aspects of work/life that are out of balance? One such example was revealed during the pandemic. Many businesses scrambled to elevate their digital experience to customer needs. However, this was a need that had been around for years. It wasn't new, but the pandemic moved it to priority #1.

I is for Impermanence

Uncertainty shouts from the mountain tops - all of life is impermanent. Nothing remains the same. Everything changes. Yet we want our strategies to stay on track. We want the way we work always to work. We want to be in control of change. When clearly, every stat on change management reveals we are not. The Buddha has some great wisdom on impermanence that is beneficial to helping us regain our inner stability in times of uncertainty.

Nothing is permanent. Everything is subject to change. Being is always becoming. Change is never painful. Only resistance to change is painful.

This brings us to the next wisdom to reflect upon in uncertainty.

S is for See the future you want to create

Being is always becoming. Who do you want to become thru this uncertainty? As a leader, as a corporation, as a team - who do you want to become? See the future your want to create. Do not focus on the fears that you want to avoid. Always remember your focus determines your reality. Or, as Tony Robbins always says

Where focus goes, energy flows. And if you don't take time to focus on what matters, then you're living a life of someone else's design.

Shameless plug: Need help designing the path to your vision that takes a 360 degrees human-centered approach. Creating a win-win-win for all stakeholders, call me. ☎️ That's what I do. Now back to the wisdom keys.

D is for Deal with the emotions

Just as positive emotions like happiness, satisfaction, love, and enthusiasm carry us forward toward our vision, negative emotions leave us stuck or blocked from our vision. It isn't the uncertainty that has us stuck; it's the anger, fear, anxiety, shame, and other negative emotions that have us stuck. And don't fall for the intellectual bypass of labeling emotions as the means of releasing them. It takes more than that. It's been my experience in sitting with the emotions to find that they are often unrelated to the uncertainty but instead tied to a false belief created in childhood.

As children, we all experience traumas (big and small). These traumas come with emotions that children are ill-equipped to handle. Sadly, our parents may not have been either. Unable to process these emotions, we internalize them, creating false beliefs that something is wrong with us. In dealing with emotions, we must go beyond labeling to understanding

  • Is the current emotion bigger than the uncertainty I am facing?

  • When did I first experience this emotion?

  • What fear is behind this emotion?

  • What false belief does this fear stem from?

  • What evidence is there that this isn't true for me? What is the truth or belief that will release the emotion and move me forward?

O is for Overcome Overthinking

Having tapped into the wisdom keys thus far, you are likely ready to overcome overthinking, become present with the changing reality, and take action. Further self-reflection will give you intuitive inspiration for your next steps. This could be a pivot to a different strategy, or it could be just getting back to the basics. This is where leading by design (using the innovative principles of design thinking as a leadership practice) is beneficial. All 5 phases (empathy, define, ideation, prototyping, and testing) get us into the present moment, connected to our vision, and connected with the stakeholders' needs that matter and iterative experimenting until the team discovers the creative solution to the problem the uncertainty has revealed.

M is for Mindset to Move Forward

And lastly, lock in the mindset that will move you forward. As you reflect back on the first five keys, the issues that arose for you point to where your mindset is. Is it focused on scarcity and lack? Or are you focused on the faith that you have abundant resources within you, your team, your company, and the world at large that are catalysts to move forward? Is your mindset fixed - it has to be done this way or it won't work. Or do you have an expansive growth mindset? Confident that you can grow in intelligence, abilities, and talents. Confident that whatever the challenge presents, you are capable of learning and improving through effort.

Cursing to curiosity

Now it's time to move from cursing uncertainty (inanimate objects 🤦🏼‍♀️, or people) and get curious. Get curious about the wisdom hidden behind the current uncertainty you're facing. And once you've done the work and you're curious about how design thinking can facilitate a better experience for you, your team, and all your stakeholders, I'd love to chat with you. You can book a 30-minute chat here.

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