By embracing uncertainty, we open ourselves to a fountain of creativity and a more productive relationship with self-doubt.
My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited theBrene Brown
fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty:
Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.
“Clipboard Susie” and the Myth of Certainty
I call the version of myself that clings to control, certainty, and perfectionism “Clipboard Susie.”
She comes charging to the scene when I feel stuck and self-doubt. I’ll grip the arm rests of “making sure all my ducks are in a row” while the plane of creativity is trying to lift off the runway. When in this mode, the plane stalls out, refusing to hit escape velocity.
In this energetic state, I focus on all the things I do not know how to do. I refuse to welcome in the vulnerability needed for any creative project or new business venture. I bat it away, arms flailing in windmill arcs, and double down on embracing a holding pattern until elusive certainty comes calling.
And then I remember.
I gently remind Clipboard Susie that the project I have envisioned requires the juice, energy, and fire of embracing uncertainty and vulnerability. That uncertainty is the key ingredient for making great art, products, and services that land, resonate, and transform.
When in the throes of painful limiting beliefs stemming from self-doubt, it can feel as if we are the only ones on the planet who feel this way. That it is our fate to suffer while everyone else has it all figured out with confidence.
The reality: Uncertainty never goes away, no matter how experienced, successful we are. It is simply a part of the human brain and experience.
3 Steps Toward Embracing Uncertainty
Our charge is to become skilled in not only tolerating it, but embracing it.
Here is what I have found has worked for me:
1) I search for simple. I study the task at hand and determine how to make the first step ridiculously easy. I lower the bar of complexity so that it is lying on the ground, and all I have to do to get started is make one, nearly effortless move.
2) I adopt an inventor’s mindset. Rather than believing that the project demands excellence right out of the gate, I’ll approach the work with a curious, “I wonder what if?” brain. I’ll let myself experiment and try multiple courses of action to see what happens, what connects, and what I like.
3) I play. Oddly, playing is not my first choice as a behavior. Instead, my brain tells me to cling to duty and responsibility (and get it “right”). Be serious! The moment I mindfully switch over to playing around with the work, momentum gathers steam. I make wild, bold moves that infuse the project with an infectious, alluring quality. My energy goes skyhigh and ideas surface. I spot solutions and ways to iterate that push the project into new territory.
Continuing to Engage
Uncertainty is a omnipresent force of our nature. It is not unique or special or something to be feared or avoided. It is benevolent in its intentions, seeking to keep us from harm. It is only our resistance to what it feels like in our bodies when we experience self-doubt that is our downfall.
Consider the recurring item on your dreams/goals/To Do list. What keeps showing up there that you continue to push to the next week and the next and the next?
Recognize that your brain is simply doing its job to protect you and then choose to engage with your uncertainty in a new way: Try embracing uncertainty, wholeheartedly.
Nod your head in the direction of your self-doubt while you get going. Make one, tiny move. Any move. As a creator in experimentation mode, there is no way to get it wrong. There’s only feedback and an indication for what to try next.