Excerpt from “The Gift of Uncertainty” by Tom Morris that was originally posted on Huffington Post on February 16, 2012:
Many people have told me recently that the most unsettling thing about the world right now is the amount and degree of uncertainty we all face in so many ways. A thick fog surrounds us and keeps us from having any clear view of what’s next.
Politics has become its own reality TV show, with unanticipated plot turns whose implications no one can guess. The economy is a wild roller coaster of unpredictable volatility. Unforeseen international problems seem to crop up now at an alarming rate, and with challenging consequences that catch us unprepared.
In the middle of all this confounding dynamism that’s undeniably swirling around us and keeping us all off balance, there is a powerfully calming and focusing perspective that many of the most successful people seem to have naturally. And it’s a point of view that anyone can cultivate effectively.
It starts with what may be a surprising insight: We need to consider the possibility that uncertainty is a gift.
If everything in life was laid out and known in advance, if everything was already understood and nailed down, static and immobile and sure, then there could be no novelty or pleasant surprises. There would be no room at all for creativity, originality, innovation, or adventure. There would be no place for genuine freedom. There could be no chance of attaining any new, unanticipated, unheard of, jaw dropping, astonishing, and deeply satisfying form of greatness as a true personal or organizational accomplishment. Plus, half the things that make us laugh could no longer do so. You’d see any punch line coming a mile away, or more. There are many things, it turns out, that we’re better off not knowing. And where there is anything unknown, there is uncertainty.
Uncertainty about big and important things in work and life can affect us in either of two opposite ways, and how we react to it is ultimately up to us. It can, of course, send us into a state of high anxiety and shut us down. Caution itself can come to dominate a business or a life and paradoxically become catastrophic as faith gives way to fear and brings us to a halt. This is all too often the impact that widespread uncertainty has. But there is nothing necessary about this unfortunate reaction. There is another option available. Uncertainty can stimulate us to explore and learn, to be curious and courageous and cultivate a realistic, robust faith, to join hands with others and partner up in new ways, and to use the ancient and fundamental motivating force of hope as a beacon in the mist …