Develop a Tolerance for Uncertainty and Ambiguity

In the absence of short-term rewards, uncertainty starts to creep in.

We start doubting our abilities and we start questioning our work.

As humans, we are very averse to uncertainty.

And the confusion and ambiguity that comes with it.

Naturally, whenever we encounter any uncertainty, we strive to eliminate it as soon as possible.

According to Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, living in uncertainty is uncomfortable because it registers as pain in the brain.

Uncertainty and ambiguity also increase cognitive load because of worry and rumination.

If we don’t have a straight answer or solution, we may start to worry and ruminate.

Too much of this perseverative cognition can have disastrous effects on your work performance and overall well-being.

But these effects extend far beyond the workplace.

The poisonous effect of worry and rumination as a result of uncertainty can bleed into your leisure time. This places you under unnecessary psychological strain.

This is why we have a natural need to have a definite answer to a question – anything opposed to confusion or ambiguity.

Social scientists call this the need for cognitive closure.

Granted, Olivia notes that some people handle uncertainty better – and entrepreneurs happen to be some of those people – but we are generally averse to uncertainty.

It is important to ween yourself of the traditional short-term reward system, or at least learn not be over reliant on the steady trickling stream praise, recognition, validation, or incentives (for some people any sort of progress is contingent on these rewards.)

Because sure, the beginning of any project is exciting and extremely rewarding.

You’re inspired, commitment levels are at their peak, you’re garnering support from friends, family, and colleagues.

You have a clear vision, things are progressing quickly and smoothly.

But then, suddenly, rewards become more scarcer than before.

There are often no signs of progress.

You’re not garnering the regular support that you used to.

Your motivation may start waning.

You may have reached the Dip.

And the Dip is a breeding ground for uncertainty. It fills you with paralysing self-doubt.

In time of uncertainty or ambiguity, just be aware that over time you will gain more clarity as the situation settles itself.

Persevere. Keep going.

Have a note, a picture, a mantra, a screensaver – something that will bring you ground you and bring you back to centre, remind you what are you doing this for.

Bring the gist of your mission to the forefront of your mind.

Don’t let the short-term period of ambiguity and uncertainty derail your long-term vision.

Your dream.


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