When I started my business as a real estate broker a dozen years ago, people thought I magically gained powers of prediction. They started asking me how the market will be “next year.”
I like to respond by pointing out that if I knew how the market would be next year, I’d have gone into the fortune telling business, not the real estate business. The truth is nobody knows. Anyone who says they know is lying. The best we can do is make educated guesses based on what we know, and what has happened in the past. But the past doesn’t predict the future.
This doesn’t stop other agents from predicting the future. And consumers eat it up, because we want certainty, even if that certainty has no basis in reality.
The Tension Between Certainty and Uncertainty
Human beings like certainty. When we believe we know what’s going to happen, it gives us a sense of comfort and security. Feeling secure is essential to being open and cultivating the trust you need to unleash your creativity.
So we have a challenge.
Because life is inherently uncertain.
You don’t know what will happen tomorrow, or whether you’ll meet your outcomes, or whether your efforts will be successful. You don’t know if the market will get better or worse, or how circumstances may cause you to deviate from the plan you’ve laid out in your mind.
Strategies to Obtain Certainty
As a way to counteract that uncertainty, many people resort to a strategy of control. They believe that the more they can control the more certainty they will attain. This doesn’t always happen in a linear way. We often attempt to exert control in areas other than where we feel most uncertain.
For example, the uncertainty you feel about your relationship may result in your trying to control outcomes at work. When you feel uncertain in your business, it may manifest as trying to control the people in your life.
(This, by the way, is why I don’t buy into the “business coaching” or “life coaching” divide. Business is part of life. I coach people, looking beneath the surface issue to the underlying patterns.)
The challenge with control is that what you seek to control controls you. Control strategies are often related to attachment to outcome.
Another strategy we can use to counteract uncertainty is acceptance.
People who seek to control things often have a hard time with the concept of “acceptance.” They mistakenly believe that “acceptance” means you don’t put in any effort and you just accept whatever happens.
What acceptance means is that we accept that we cannot control the outcome, or events, or other people, or what might happen next. It means we accept the inherent uncertainty of life.
Acceptance means you do what you can, then you detach from the outcome.
My favorite metaphor for this is of shooting a bow and arrow: you can line up with your target in sight, pull back on the bow, and release the arrow. You can’t control where the arrow goes once it leaves the bow.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the more we can rest in acceptance of what is, rather than ruminate on what should be, the more security and certainty we feel.
As Seth Godin says,
Acceptance is a choice in the service of our happiness and the ability to try again tomorrow.
When we stop trying to control what we cannot control, we free up energy to control what we can control: our effort and the meaning we give to what’s happening in the moment.
H/T to Seth Godin for inspiring this post.