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Embracing the Unknown

“If someone had evaluated the risk of fire right after it was invented, they may well have decided to eat their food raw.” ~ Julian Morris, The Institute of Economic Affairs in London

I love the term ‘focused flexibility’. I think my greatest life lesson is to learn patience and flexibility. Yet I know that I also have to be focused or I don’t get anything done. I, like most of you, love to feel ‘in control’. Which is total illusion. We’re all programmed to think that being in control gives us some measure of security or certainty. We love order and hate chaos. Therefore we expect to have all the answers, to make wise decisions and to take appropriate actions.

We also expect this of our leaders. As an example, Nov 2 is still months away and yet the press has been grilling not only the Democratic candidates, but the incumbents, for months about their election platforms; searching for certainty. And we fellow Americans are diligently listening to the news daily because we need a strong dose of this certainty.

So, how are we to become more comfortable with the unknown? Yes, I love to feel in control, I like order, and I love efficiency. Knowing what to expect carries about the same level of satisfaction for me as a wonderful meal or money in the bank. However, staying in the comfortable place of the known often means I’ve become stagnant; I’m not growing or not taking the necessary risks.

In business we must prosper or perish. We can’t allow our ideas, our methods, or our systems to become complacent. We must be willing to listen to others’ views, seek other alternatives, grow our personal knowledge and skill set and embrace those moments of uncertainty. We must move from rigid to flexible, both in mind and body.

It has been said that tremendous growth immediately follows tremendous chaos. Think back to a time when your life was chaotic, you were scattered and unsure of what was happening; perhaps to the point of not being able to collect enough information or have enough time to be certain and you just had to follow your gut or your ‘knowing’. How did it turn out?

I know for me personally, the changes I am the proudest of were the ones where I took the greatest risks. Where I had to relax my rigidity, follow my intuition, and just go for it. Granted they were calculated risks, I wasn’t foolish (perhaps some thought I was). I was certainly entering unknown territory. And for the most part it always moved me to the next level. Did I always reach the ultimate I was going for? No. Did I always win? Yes. I grew; I expanded my mind, my life experience and put myself in new situations that ultimately were good for my business and my bottom line.

It’s healthy for us to learn to live with a little of the unknown. It forces us to search out opportunities, possibilities and be ever evolving. It’s okay to not have all the answers, to ask, to encourage debate, to question our self, systems, policies and continuously seek to maximize potential.

Here’s a few suggestions for embracing the unknown:

  • It’s more important to have the right questions than the right answers.

  • A plan isn’t cast in stone. It may be changed as needed.

  • Look at the relationships things have to each other. Look for symbols & messages in everything around you.

  • Look at ‘failure’ as a teacher.

  • You or your organization can’t reach your full potential without taking risks.

  • There are actually more unknowns than knowns.

  • There is more stress in searching for one right answer than being open to several possible answers.

  • It’s not about what you know, it about how you frame a situation.

Relax; it’s okay to have a sense of curiosity (as opposed to dread) about the unknown. Try entertaining this idea of focused flexibility. It may open doors of possibility that you would not ever seen, had you required certainty.

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