My opening quote:
“Because Dragons are full of wisdom and make wonderful friends it is vital to learn to walk with them and to have their constant support.”
~ Trevor Bentley, author of ‘A Touch of Magic’ and gestalt organisational consultant
Dragons live within each of us! Sometimes they are quiet and go unnoticed. Other times they appear fearsome and perplexing. Their fire and energy seem out of control and wayward. We often make them into difficult enemies rather than wonderful friends. I may be biased because I am Welsh!
In this blog I want to focus on the Dragon of Uncertainty and its mate the Dragon of Fear.
What sorts of circumstances encourage the feeling of uncertainty? Well, there seem be various labels given to the circumstances – for instance, something new or different (be it ‘good’ or otherwise), the unknown, unknowing, change (again ‘good’ or otherwise), the unspoken/unnamed.
Here are some examples of such circumstances …
- Learning something new means change and change involves risk. You step from the known to the unknown. As Henry Miller stated “all growth is a leap in the dark …”! You may want to learn something new – and feel excited about it. And, at the same time, there is that little edge of trepidation. Even when YOU decide you want a change, you move from your comfort zone to a more risky uncertain / unknown world. The dragon of fear can creep in because of the feeling of uncertainty. Fearing the uncertainty of ‘not knowing’ can diminish you, maybe even belittles you, and increases the hold it has over you.
- Having a new job, even in the same organisation.
- Working with different people, be it due to a re-organisation or change in employer.
- What’s going to happen in the future is vague, which is typical when any redundancy consultation takes place. A good number of my outplacement coaching clients experience uncertainty. Some because they don’t know what’s going to happen work-wise. Others because the future is not coming along at the speed which feels comfortable to them. They feel they are in a void between past and future. I know that some say it is a fertile void, but for many it feels more like a futile and frustrating void! Wanting to counteract uncertainty of the future can be damaging. For example, the moment businesses tie themselves down with predicting the future in detail and acting as though it were true, they reduce their chances to respond effectively to reality. The same is true for people.
- Uncertain about having enough knowledge and experience – this is our thinking impacting our feelings, because frequently this uncertainty is invalid. A colleague of mine used to feel fear-full when she delivered the Train the Trainer workshop. She thought the participants would be looking out for her mistakes or lack of training expertise. So she now introduces each new group of participants to her dragon of uncertainty, which manifests as fear. The fear is brought to size and it fades. And reality was she had more than enough knowledge and experience!
- Some managers believe that they need to know the answers to everything. They may even pretend they know. It is better to release yourself from the need to pretend that you know, or from strutting your knowing in front of others. Be present to the way things are, including your feelings about the way things are. ‘Being present’ is not the same as ‘accepting’ things as they are. The capacity to be present to everything that is happening, without resistance, creates possibility. I know, a challenging state to achieve!
- Lack of decisiveness or commitment about something. Sometimes lack of clarity is useful. We even use it when we ‘play on words’. If we restrict people so much with clear – quite often described as ‘tight’ – rules and regulations, their potential is curtailed. No thinking outside the box takes place. No exceptional performance is achieved. No free expression takes place.
Fear around uncertainty has a good intent. It is useful as a warning sign – it heightens your awareness, and you may prepare and do other positive activities. Fears are not meant to stop you. As most skiers know, resistance to ice can take you on a painful downward slide! Traversing it as though it is a friendly surface, in a relaxed state, will usually deliver you gracefully to the other side!
The fact is our thinking about the specific nature of the uncertainty varies. You and I know this because different people with very similar backgrounds and circumstances respond to the same situation in different ways. Some will recognise the potential of the uncertainty while others will focus on the potential downsides and/or the aspects of uncertainty they fear.
Recognising both intellectually and emotionally that we create our own experience of the world by our thinking can change everything. You don’t even need to do anything. It all happens inside us, like just lightly touching one domino and all the others fall. Increasing your awareness makes the difference.