How Uncertainty Teaches Us To Adapt For The Better
Every day we’re faced with decisions that will impact not only our lives, but the lives of others. In fact, just over the course of a single day the average adult makes 35,000 decisions.
The question becomes then, how does one stay aligned with oneself throughout all those decision points? After all, the unexpected office urgencies that arise out of nowhere and the uncertainty that plagues each and every day infests our decision-making and forces us to adapt to the pressure of the moment.
In his book The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle, best-selling author Steven Pressfield observes that “most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” Resistance, he notes, is that intangible force (or pressure) working against you. It comes by way of fear, anxiety, excuses and every other “thing” that is intended to foster growth as derived from our higher nature self, rather than our lower nature self.”
Resistance can be debilitating—if you let it. The Dalai Lama once said, “the enemy is a very good teacher.” But what if the enemy is your other self? What if the enemy—-presented through negative self-talk or other self-defeating behaviors—-is your inner voice? How do you combat that enemy and adapt your mindset to the positive?
Where does this Resistance lay? In uncertainty. Wherever there is uncertainty there is resistance. If there’s a significant decision you must make but haven’t yet, Resistance is working against you. If there’s a habit you’re trying to break but haven’t yet, it’s because there’s Resistance.
Fortunately, Resistance also provides opportunity. If “the enemy is a very good teacher” then uncertainty is also a gift.Here’s how.
Uncertainty provides opportunity.
If the rules aren’t yet written then there’s no better opportunity to write them yourself. Take it from Kara Goldin, CEO and founder of Hint:
“I have learned over the past eight years that it is better not to hire someone with ‘industry experience,’ particularly when your product and business model is a disruptor. People with industry experience have been trained to approach growing a brand, going to market, and selling in the same way that all big incumbents have. When you are a disruptor, you purposefully need to think and act differently — to see the opportunity where others haven’t looked. It is true in how you talk with your consumer, how you make your product and how you go to market. I have found that people from the industry have a very difficult time thinking another way.” (Source)
Uncertainty reveals character.
One of my favorite quotes is by James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, who said, “Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him.” Character is who you are, competence is what you can do, and who you are speaks louder than what you say (Ralph Waldo Emerson). When there’s a discrepancy between who you are and the person you want to be, your character becomes tested. When choice is pitted against the demand (i.e. pressure) of the moment and beckoned to yield, it’s our character that says otherwise.
Uncertainty demands leadership.
You don’t steer a ship in the right direction without guidance. After all, without guidance you wouldn’t know what “right” looks like. Whether it’s the fog of business or the fog of war, that “fog” exists and it looks a lot like ambiguity, confusion, misalignment. Leadership paves the path; constant communication is how we navigate.
Uncertainty demands adaptability.
It doesn’t matter how detailed or how “perfect” a plan appears. Heck, even the most carefully planned mission in special operations history—the raid on UBL’s compound—still went wrong. One of the helicopters crashed which caused the operators onboard to adapt; to alter their focus to the new threat of compromise. The advantage the assault team had of surprise no longer existed and so every decision they made thereafter was in light of a new (i.e. compromised) mission. To adapt they had to find the right solution for the right problem.
Uncertainty provides a proving ground.
Uncertainty, by definition, is void of rules, policies or procedures, which means the opportunity exists to demonstrate proof of concept theories, new routines, behaviors, or alternative models that wouldn’t be considered otherwise. Entrepreneurship is a prime example of this. As a startup founder, every day is a fight for certainty, for something tangible (ideally in the form of USD), and every day you’re out there proving yourself, your brand, your product and your concept.
Uncertainty demands commitment.
In 1519, the Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando Cortez set out to seize the Aztecs’ treasures. He brought with him approximately 500 men and landed his ships on the Yucatan shores—a daring plight given the much larger Aztec empire.
However, not of Cortez’s men shared his ambition and tried to escape by seizing some of the ships. Cortez discovered this secret plan and did something to ensure full commitment: he burned all his ships. Naturally, the men objected. After all, how would they return home without their ships? Cortez’s reply: “If we are going home, we are going home in their ships!”
As history reveals, Cortez did something that no other army had been able to do for 600 years: he defeated the Aztecs.
The lesson here is this. When facing uncertainty you have two options: face it, or don’t; do or do not, but there is no “try.” The easy path is the one of least resistance—of not doing. Eliminate that option and you only have one left.
How do you adapt?
This article was written by Jeff Boss from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.