Can You Face Uncertainty with Happiness?

The best way to manage uncertainty is to make it part of our certainty.

Dan Gilbert is a renowned Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness.  In a blog entitled What We Don’t Know Makes Us Nervous noted the following:

“A colostomy reroutes the colon so that waste products leave the body through a hole in the abdomen, and it isn’t anyone’s idea of a picnic. A University of Michigan-led research team studied patients whose colostomies were permanent and patients who had a chance of someday having their colostomies reversed. Six months after their operations, patients who knew they would be permanently disabled were happier than those who thought they might someday be returned to normal.”

“Why would we prefer to know the worst than to suspect it? Because when we get bad news we weep for a while, and then get busy making the best of it. We change our behavior, we change our attitudes. We raise our consciousness and lower our standards. We find our bootstraps and tug. But we can’t come to terms with circumstances whose terms we don’t yet know. An uncertain future leaves us stranded in an unhappy present with nothing to do but wait.”

In the current work environment for most of us, regardless of position or tenure, there is very little certainty. In fact I believe uncertainty is the new normal so although Gilbert’s point is valid, we have to accept uncertainty as certainty or we will struggle to find a reasonable level of happiness at work. The antidote is acceptance and understanding that whatever you and I have at work is temporary. We need to savor the moment and continuously prepare for the inevitable change that is around the corner. Connecting back to Gilbert’s earlier point, this means always being in a bootstrap mode regarding our personal development. A backup plan by its existence then gives each of us a little more certainty.

When people come to me in my role as CEO looking for assurance, the only real certainty I can give them is to confirm their belief in the likelihood of material future change is warranted, and to prepare as best as they can. So rather than getting nervous and becoming mesmerized by inevitable change, we all need to get going on our personal development plans to become more sought after and skilled contributors.

Live the Triangle,

Lorne

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