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  • Writer's pictureMaria Wade

Is Certainty Always a Good Thing?

My mission is to help people thrive through complexity and uncertainty. I’ve been thinking about this concept lately. The opposite of uncertainty is obvious: certainty.

But, is certainty always a good thing?

There are so many factors that lead to our sense of certainty and, we can all agree, that if nothing else, the last 2 years of a global pandemic have thrown our ability to declare anything as a “safe bet” out of the window.

So here’s the nuance. While I can’t provide certainty, what I can provide is getting you more comfortable with the unknown.

It might surprise you, but I don’t want you to become certain. I want to encourage you to stay open-minded instead. Why? Because we just never know. We never know what is truly good or bad for us. We never know what is just around the corner. We can collect information and examine many sources, but I know, for me, that the moment I am certain, I stop.

I freeze in this certainty.

I could promise you that getting more and more certain would improve your decision making process. After all, a sense of certainty calms you down. You're certain. You’re relaxed. You’re calm.

But the key words here are “a sense of…”

Certainty can look so real. You can fool your brain and rationalize everything. By trying to create certainty, we establish our assumption as something true. This is why I believe that certainty eventually makes you a prisoner of your own illusions.

This is why I cannot help people get to certainty.

What Kind of Circus Performer Are You?

This is like working in the circus.

Just hear me out on this.

You are juggling with one ball and you believe you are so good, flawless, great, no mistakes. You can do this endlessly (in fact, you’re CERTAIN you can) but it's so… Well, it is just so boring.

And, you look at the performer who can do this with 10, 20, 30 balls.

Who are you? This is your choice. Whether you want to juggle with 1 ball and enjoy and be proud OR do you want to reach some mastery in accepting many things. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not the complacent type. You want to improve and strive and develop.

You want to try for another.

Guess what? The minute you get certain is the minute someone comes and throws a second ball into the mix.

How do we keep ourselves from the “trap” of certainty?

It may seem straightforward, but one of the best ways I have found to avoid falling into the “trap” of certainty is welcoming variety, challenge and potential discomfort (this is all a part of growth). If we keep an arsenal of information, opinions, and learning around ourselves, we will always have something to choose.

[As an aside, this is what makes me desperate and hungry for learning as a coach. I don’t have a signature approach or a “one size fits all” for my clients. I know I can’t come to you with certainty of any one outcome so my only signature is that I will be a good partner and be able to respond to the complexity of your world and your request.]

Of course, when it comes to many decisions you need to make, it is not about throwing caution to the wind. You have prior experience and information. You will want to base your decisions on something you believe is reliable. But also, you will create Plan B and C and D, and you will always have something to experiment and try again.

Ultimately what it comes down to is resilience, but not just any resilience; this is a very well-informed (and earned) resilience.

Keep focusing on your goal and keeping your mind open. You are receiving tons of information all the time, processing it and creating multiple solutions. You are constantly asking yourself questions: what if? What if? What if? You will come back again and again.

So, is certainty a good thing?

If it wasn’t all just an illusion, maybe it would be.

As for me, I’ll take uncertainty with a side of heavy resilience any day.

Photo by Matt Bero on Unsplash

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