Anyone who has gone through a personal or professional reinvention understands that a constant companion on the journey is uncertainty. As one figures out all that it means to become the newer version of themselves, they quickly discover how much they truly have no control over, or even knowledge of, at any particular time. Reinvention is to be uncertain much of the time. Certainty is the goal, but it is a luxury that may or may not ever surface. This has been my experience as I have been reinventing myself for a long period of time, and I can’t say that I like uncertainty one bit. For someone like me, who has always prided myself on being proactive, organized, and planned, going through an extended time when I really could not see what was ahead of me (other than my ideal vision) has been very unsettling.
One of the authors who has been helpful to me in this process, and one I’ve quoted often is by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, who stated,
The transition – sometimes abrupt and at other times protracted – is usually a time of fear, ambivalence, and chaos, during which it is hard to articulate where you are heading or how you will get there, and life feels out of balance and unfocused.
Another extremely helpful writer is Steve Donahue, who also described the uncertainty well.
You aren’t really anywhere – it [the road] just stops. Life is like that, too. Sometimes the paved road you’ve been speeding along quite comfortably suddenly ends and you’re in a desert, a place where our lives seem uncertain and unpredictable, and planning and experience have limited value.
Each of these describes the feeling I have had in the pit of my stomach. I was going along and doing well, then all of a sudden life took a chaotic turn, and I was no longer on the road I knew so well. I was forced into a time of reinvention that is still in progress, though I hope I am getting close to the finish line. We will see. It is a journey with an uncertain end. I have a good idea of when my journey began, but very little information as to when it will come to a close. I may not even fully know when it does. The good news is that I am certain of one thing, I am on the road, moving toward my reinvention, and regardless of how it plays out or how long it takes, I will be better off when it is finished. I am certain in my uncertainty.
Donahue spoke of the reward of moving through the deserts of change and uncertainty when he stated,
The desert of change can be an exhilarating adventure in aliveness if we know how to travel. If we allow our deserts to change us, to open us up, to teach us who we are and how to live in the moment, then nothing can match life and its deserts for excitement, fulfillment, and meaning.
This, again, is good news to keep in mind. If we continue to walk the road of reinvention, we will come out better. Life will be better and we will have a whole new purpose for being on the planet, but in order to do so, we must accept and even embrace uncertainty.
As said, I don’t like it one bit. However, it’s not really up to us to say if uncertainty is our companion or not. It is only up to us to choose to respond in a manner that will actually be of use. We can reject and fight against uncertainty. We can ignore it. We can claim that we are in control when the truth is, we are not. However, if we ever want to make it to the new version of ourselves, the sooner we accept the fact that things have changed and we don’t know or control the future, the better. For me, learning how to deal with it has made me more trusting, patient, and thoughtful. I still make plans, but I’m less likely to be constricted by them when the need for flexibility arises. I’ve discovered that part of being the better me is the ability to adapt quickly, and stay nimble and agile. It is through the uncertainty that things that really matter, and are certain to materialize. Donahue speaks of “wandering on purpose,” which is his way of saying that we must look to our inner compass in order to find a direction to guide us, a path to walk, and not merely a magic potion that solves our problems instantly. He stated what is my hope, “We might be rewarded with a [new] sense of direction if we can stand the discomfort of uncertainty.”
Reinvention lesson for today: Accept and embrace uncertainty.
Go out and reinvent yourself and lead well.