Hi friends, before I get into today’s topic on uncertainty, I wanted to invite you to my webcast this Wednesday, Strategies for Better Storytelling – to help leaders in the nonprofit space think more strategically about how you tell stories to build trust and influence action. You can learn more here and register for free. All attendees get a free copy of my book.
Why write about uncertainty? Because showing up as ourselves and telling stories inherently is risky. We don’t know how people will react, who will like it, who won’t like it. Being US creates uncertainty, and I have a story to help us change our relationship with uncertainty.
There are countless cliches about pushing your comfort zone. Here’s one:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
Let’s explore the idea behind the cliche.
I just returned home from a ski trip in France, where my nephew, who is stationed in Germany, joined us for a few days. Despite being a snowboarder, us group of hardcore skiers welcomed him into the fold. Ok, that might be a bit generous. With a healthy helping of hazing for being a snowboarder, we brought him under our wing for a few days of adventure and fun in the sun.
One of those adventures was an out-of-bounds run from top to bottom of mountain Courmayeur in Italy. My nephew was eager to join us until the morning of when we got on the bus to the resort: He began to doubt his abilities.
We assured him we wouldn’t take him if we didn’t think he could do it, but of course, he could opt out if he felt better. He wanted to do it. We took a gondola, then a tram, then a second tram to the highest point on the mountain, a summit that dropped away in all directions. You could see and feel the change in his otherwise gregarious and outgoing personality to quiet, withdrawn, and focused. He looked over his shoulder at what we were about to tackle.
We made the first traverse to the col (saddle), and his nerves were running high. He took some breaks and breaths. And made it. But we weren’t “out of the woods” yet. He looked over the side and had what we might call a meltdown.
He didn’t think he could do it. At this point, there was no turning back so we again assured him once he made it into this bowl, all would be well. He took a few moments to process this and declared he was ready. We made the second traverse into the line where he would drop into the bowl for a challenging but fun descent.
At the bottom of the first pitch, his power switch turned back on. He went from terrified to feeling heroic with a flip of the switch. His energy level shot up, and he was full of stoke for what he had done. We finished out the run and, in true European style, ended in a stunning restaurant with the best beers and pizza we’d ever tasted, rejoicing over a “Best Day Ever” (BDE) – my friends and I, for pushing someone beyond their limits (Aunt Lisa’s work is done), and him for going beyond his limits. And wanting more.
What was the ingredient that powered that switch?
Can I do it?
Will this work out?
Will this cause suffering?
Uncertainty breeds worry and fear.
As soon as we made it past the hard part, the uncertainty dissipated, and with it, the fear was replaced by a feeling of accomplishment. And a perspective that has been changed forever.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
That feeling on the other side of uncertainty becomes addictive. What will happen if I do ….?
If we take a moment to consider that equation, we realize that uncertainty is good for us, like our Vitamin C in the morning. You don’t realize it at the time, but that feeling later can’t be beaten. So you take the Vitamin C again the next morning because you know the outcome is generally positive.
Think about that next time you face uncertainty. Remind yourself it’s good for you, take your Vitamin C, and seek out a little uncertainty.
Take care out there.
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