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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you engage in positive uncertainty?

Today is December 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you engage in positive uncertainty?” Navigating the chaos requires an acknowledgement of all that is uncertain.

Today is uncertain. Tomorrow is uncertain. Next month is uncertain. In short, life is uncertain. Despite this level of uncertainty some people find a way to engage in what is known as positive uncertainty.

To help people better understand the new realities of career development, authors Robert Pryor and Jim Bright published The Chaos Theory of Careers: A New Perspective on Working in the Twenty-First Century. In a 2011 publication Pryor and Bright introduce the chaos theory of career development that offers individuals a blank slate upon which to transform their current self to their possible self. Transforming from one’s current self to their possible self requires a strong belief in positive uncertainty. In the preface entitled ‘Life is Uncertain’ Pryor and Bright noted:

“Uncertainty reveals limitation and limitation signals vulnerability. But it also reveals something else – something about us that is less defensive and more positive, more hopeful. If uncertainty exposes our limitations of knowledge and power, it also suggests, at least, that there may be potentials within us and possibilities around us that we may currently be unaware of but that may be awaiting us if we would but have the courage to run the gauntlet of uncertainty; that is, to risk vulnerability and failure in the quest for opportunity and achievement.”

To deal with positive uncertainty, which involves complexity, change, and chance, researcher H.B. Gelatt identified four major paradoxes that successful people who have navigated the chaos understand as they move forward in their career decision-making process:

  • Be focused and flexible about what you want

  • Be aware and wary about what you know

  • Be objective and optimistic about what you believe

  • Be practical and magical about what you do

These four paradoxes are routinely practiced by anyone navigating the chaos. Being focused is a must but if are stiff you may miss out in opportunities that require you to be open minded, flexible, or amendable to a new idea.

Positive uncertainty is compatible with the new science and beliefs of today’s society and incompatible with yesterday’s decision dogma. It involves ambiguity and paradox because the future is full of ambiguity and paradox. In the future, it will help to realize that one does not know some things, cannot always see what is coming, and frequently will not be able to control it. Successful people remain positive amidst the uncertainty to create options as it allows them to act when one is uncertain about what they are doing.

In a July 2015 article published in Forbes entitled "Why Embracing Uncertainty Is Critical To Your Success," Margie Warrell wrote “Throughout our careers and lives we must continually assess whether we are letting our fear of the unknown keep us from taking the actions to move us forward. If you are not sure whether it is, then ask yourself what you would do if you were not afraid of failing. The first answer that pops into your head will point you in a direction you need to go, albeit an uncertain one.”

To step into the unknown, you will need to be comfortable with both taking a risk and the uncertainty involved with the situation. As discussed elsewhere in other Navigate the Chaos posts anyone that has ever achieved any level of success had to learn firsthand the words of President John F. Kennedy “Nothing worthwhile has ever been accomplished with a guarantee of success.” Navigating the Chaos has no guarantee. Know that as you try one strategy after another.

As Warrell noted “Too often we interpret our failure's as permanent inadequacies on our part and use them as an excuse to stick to what we know we're good at.” Yet, as Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology once said, “It’s not our failures that determine our future success, but how we explain them to ourselves.”

  • How often do you engage in positive uncertainty?

  • How often are you focused and flexible about what you want?

  • How often are you aware and wary about what you know?

  • How often are you objective and optimistic about what you believe?

  • How often are you practical and magical about what you do?

  • How often do you reflect upon how you explain your failures to yourself?


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