I found myself staring at the floor, lost in thought or, more accurately, lost in non-thought. My mind was indeed blank. Nothing in my brain could make sense of what was going on. According to all known theories, successful processes and recorded results, my efforts should have delivered success by now. And yet, and yet. Here I was with yet another challenge, yet another “test” of my willingness to keep going, yet another call to persist. Why had none of the silver bullets worked? Why had things that had evidently worked for everyone around me failed to deliver for me?
Does this sound familiar? I’m hoping it does or I really am the unluckiest person around and it is only me that doesn’t always get the results I see happening for my friends, my colleagues and peers. However, let me pause there and reframe that last sentence. Even if I am the only person who is not getting results, does that really make me unlucky or does that just make me stronger? If my results take more work, more effort and more time, maybe that’s a great thing too, because I will have learned so much more on my journey!
You see, achieving results makes us feel good for two reasons and one of those reasons is more important than the other. The first reason we feel good is the obvious one – a sense of achievement. When we strive and win, we release endorphins into our bodies, our confidence receives a boost and there may even be some recognition into the bargain. The second reason we feel good is because certainty has been restored. We were informed that if we did X, we would get Y. We were encouraged to keep going as the results were predictable. We were incentivised by the “end state” – the rewards we would acquire. So, when we do achieve results all of this happens and we congratulate ourselves for having faith. We are also massively reassured that there is indeed a certainty in the world.
As humans, we seek certainty all the time. For example, our ancestors wanted to be certain they would survive the winter. Consequently, they invented ways of sewing, protecting and reaping crops to overcome the uncertainties of weather and pestilence. We study science and construct models to predict what will happen next and then test everything to be certain how often a specific result will be achieved.
The same is true in business. There is even a reassuring term for it – Business As Usual. But let me ask you, what is usual? For every 95 businesses that succeed using a specific process, tool or system, I can show you 5 that undermine our confidence with atypical results.
Please don’t misunderstand me, this is not a call for negativity or a rallying cry for the “why bother brigade”. I share this insight to highlight that we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where dynamic changes are happening all the time, where unpredictability is a natural phenomenon, where uncertainty is rife. That is reality, or at least it is just as real as a world in which certain things seem to happen predictably for some (or sometimes for many.) Knowing this is powerful because we can then choose how we wish to respond rather than feel we are victims of bad luck. We can take strategic decisions.
The Change Maker’s response to a poor outcome is both constructive and energising. A Change Maker knows that failure to achieve a certain outcome is not failure if we learn something at the same time. A Change Maker knows that sometimes we need to make plans, tackle problems and develop strategies even when the future is more uncertain than certain.
Indeed, it is the Change Maker’s insistence on living according to a mix of pragmatism and imagination that enables them to scream “Is that all you’ve got?” when they encounter yet another obstacle. They know the only thing that is certain is that they will achieve outcomes and, if they keep going and learn as much as they can along the way, their personal chances of achieving good outcomes will be enhanced, but not guaranteed. So there you have it, a true mantra for personal success, charging headlong into uncertainty enhances your chances of achieving the results you desire and, if you take good care of yourself and the people around you along the way, you can enjoy the journey too.
How about you? Are you struggling? Have your results been variable? Have you wished for more certainty in your life? Leave me a note below, wherever you are reading this. The journey is much more fun when you know you have some company. You are not alone and together we all win.