Is your quest for certainty hindering your career? - Michelle Gibbings

Is your quest for certainty hindering your career?There’s an old saying that the only thing certain in life is death and taxes. It’s a fairly bleak view of the world. Yet it is true there is much in life that’s uncertain.

For many of us, uncertainty isn’t seen as a good thing. While we recognise how we live and work is changing, and will continue to change, we find the appearance of uncertainty, unsettling.

Why? Because we like to feel in control, to know what’s going to happen next, to have answers and confidence that things will work out.

Wanting certainty is natural. As humans, we crave consistency and feel safe amongst what’s familiar.

Our brain – which is a meaning-seeking, decision-making machine – wants you to feel safe and it’s designed to make decisions quickly and to get to the answer as fast as possible.

However, this race to make a decision…to find certainty and to have all the answers isn’t always good for you.

There are times, particularly if you are thinking about a career change when it helps to embrace the uncertainty. To become comfortable not knowing exactly where you want to go right now – and be ok with giving yourself time to explore, ponder, inquire, dig deep into what could be, and to experiment with new ideas and options.

I often find people come to me for advice when they are searching for what’s next in their careers. They know why they want to change. It could be they are bored, dislike their boss, or are just ready to be challenged further or to step up to a different level.

What they are working through is what’s the next best career step to make.

More often than not, the biggest question they are grappling with is ‘What do I want to do next?’

As renowned psychologist, Abraham Maslow, once remarked – “It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”

Answering the question of what to do next, gives rise to a whole heap of uncertainty.

There are often lots of ways a person could progress. And yet, having too many options can make it harder to choose. People frequently worry about making a misstep; a decision that doesn’t work out. For example, leaping to a new organisation, industry or career that they don’t like or excel in. They worry about the reputational impact or what other people may think if they take a role that doesn’t align with other people’s expectations.

The challenge with any new career or role is we won’t know whether we like it or be good at it until we try it. That’s the risk you take when you shift careers. However, with this risk and uncertainty, comes the potential for career rewards. A job you find more interesting, where you are learning more, being exposed to new ideas, perhaps earning more or having more responsibility and enjoyment.  If you don’t take the risk, the rewards won’t eventuate.

Logically you know that – right?  And yet it doesn’t make it any easier.

The question for you, is how much risk are you willing to take and how much time will you give yourself to explore the possible options so you can work out what you could do next?

Once you’ve worked that out, you’ll have some boundaries around what you feel comfortable with. Next, look at the boundaries and challenge yourself: Is this too safe?  Are you making it too easy?  If you take this approach, are you holding yourself back? What’s stopping you?

As the Sufi poet, Rumi, said: “Let yourself be silently drawn to the stronger pull of what you really love”. That takes time, and space, and a whole dose of courage.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®.

Michelle Gibbings is a workplace expert, working with global leaders to build workplaces where leaders and employees thrive and great things happen. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’, ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’ and the new book ‘Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one’.

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