You’re earning enough to live well in the world, impacting people on a deep, meaningful level and building a real legacy. Maybe you don’t have precise clarity about any of those things; that’s not unusual. So think about the experiences you want to create, both in your life and in others. See it, feel it, hear it, smell it, taste it . . . drink it in.
Okay, now answer me these two questions . . . One, where are you feeling it? Does it stop in your mind, or are you feeling it in your whole body? Your heart, your chest, your gut?
“Everywhere,” she said. “I can barely breathe.”
“Okay. Second question. That scenario I just laid out, do you still want it?”
Silence. Thirty seconds go by. “Yes. I’d kill for it.”
That moment changed everything. It was an end transformed into a beginning. Her willingness to sit with the discomfort of not knowing how it would end was the difference between a future that continued a joyless decline into the void and an entirely new direction defined by substantially more creativity, fulfillment, freedom, and, yes, money.
This above example illustrates the need for comfort often over the need to fulfill life long ambitions. This reaction by the client in the above example is further supported by Daniel Ellsberg’s (1961) experiment where subjects were given two choices:
Choice A: Make a prediction of what color ball they drew from a large urn of 100 balls where they knew the ratio of black to white was 50:50.
Choice B: Make a prediction of what color ball they drew from a large urn of 100 balls where the ratio of each was unknown.
Undoubtedly, the vast majority of subjects went with Choice A. This has been named the Ellsberg paradox where people steer away from the unknown option. There is no mathematical or logical reason but their adversity to uncertainty is what drives their decision. Despite commenting after that the ratio may have been 90 to 10 or even 100 to 0 in favour of one colour, they still went with the known odds of 50:50.
2. Fear of Judgement
Clients stepping out of their comfort zone and into the shaky ground of uncertainty, puts them out there to be criticized by others. Ideas of “what will others say?” and, “if I fail, will everybody know?” can dominate their thoughts to the point that they remain in their certain, yet inactive environment.
This can be illustrated by Stefan T. Trautmann, Ferdinand M. Vieider, and Peter P. Wakker in 2008 who modified the Ellsberg experiment. They found that if the subjects could choose either Urn A of a known ball ratio of 50:50 of a 100 white and black balls or Urn B of an unknown ratio of white to black balls in secret (i.e. without the fear of scrutiny of others knowing their choice), the subjects choose Urn B this time over Urn A. Knowing that their decision would not be made public to others, the subject choose the uncertain option over the certain option.
Harnessing uncertainty to use it as a tool
Learning to deal with the discomfort and the fear of judgement created by uncertainty as mentioned above are two skill sets that the client needs to begin to develop in order to allow them the ability to move from inaction to action. Challenging situations will continue to show up in life that push clients out of our comfortable and certain environments. Therefore, the question of working with uncertainty is not “how do clients eliminate situations that create uncertainty”, but rather
how can clients be comfortable and even lean into uncertainty and harness it as a tool?
1. Dealing with discomfort of uncertainty: Finding a daily anchor
Learning a new skill requires practice. A client needs to practice dealing with uncertain thoughts, emotions and situations in controlled settings in order to develop the ability to be with difficult emotions caused in challenging situations. Creating a daily activity that allows the client to be with deeper thoughts creates an anchor and a point of reference as they move deeper into an uncertain situation. Examples of activities could be meditation, yoga (and/or physical activities that require focus while being with physical discomfort) and prayer.
A daily anchor is an activity that allows the client be alone with their thoughts and analyze what is going on in their heads. Everyday, clients can become bogged down in actions and thoughts that revolve around their simple survival such as work, commuting, parenting, worries, home maintenance and of course, leisure time. As Steven Covey puts it in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
clients become lost in the thick of thin things.