“It is very difficult to give up certainty-these positions, beliefs, explanations define us and lie at the core of our personal identity. Certainty is a lens to interpret what’s going on and, as long as our explanations work, we feel a sense of stability and security. But in a changing world, certainty doesn’t give us stability; it actually creates more chaos. As we stay locked in our position and refuse to adapt and change, the things we hoped would stay together fall apart. It’s a traditional paradox expressed in many spiritual traditions: By holding on, we destroy what we hope to preserve; by letting go, we feel secure in accepting what is.

“The first step to becoming curious is to admit that I’m not succeeding in figuring things out alone. If my solutions don’t work as well as I’d like, if my explanations of why something happened don’t feel sufficient, I take these as signs that it’s time to begin asking others about what they see and think. I try to move past the lazy and superficial conversations where I pretend to agree with someone else rather than inquire seriously into their perspective. I try and become a conscious listener, actively listening for differences.

“There are many ways to sit and listen for the differences. Lately, I’ve been listening for what surprises me. What did I just hear that startled me? This isn’t easy-I’m accustomed to sit there nodding my head as someone voices what I agree with. But when I notice what surprises me, I’m able to see my own views more clearly, including my beliefs and assumptions.

“Noticing what surprises and disturbs me has been a very useful way to see invisible beliefs. If what you say surprises me, I must have been assuming something else was true. If what you say disturbs me, I must believe something contrary to you. My shock at your position exposes my own position. When I hear myself saying “How could anyone believe something like that?” a light comes on for me to see my own beliefs. These moments are great gifts.”

Meg Wheatley, “Partnering with Confusion and Uncertainty”

1 Comment on partnering with uncertainty

  1. So love this.

    The U2 lyric: “Uncertainty can be a guiding light” really resonates