February 20, 2018
“Uncertainty as a motivator. Discuss.”
I said at the time that I would think about it and I have. Hopefully I also have something useful to say on the topic.
For starters, I think there’s a lot more uncertainty in the world than most people realize. As I’ve written before, it’s easy to look at social media and think everyone’s got it all figured out. But again, those entrepremillionaire accounts that are all yachts and cocktail parties are - at best - the culmination of years of hard work and mistakes and frustration that they don't show you.
At worst, those accounts are outright lies.
Don’t get caught up in the illusion of everyone else’s certainty. I suspect most people are just bumbling along, either doing the best they can or just resigning themselves to life as it is. If you’re uncertain, wear it as a badge of courage – it means you believe in the possibility of a happier, more fulfilled life. You’re just feeling unsure about how to get there.
Pay attention to that feeling, because it’s telling you something important.
For example, your uncertainty might be telling you it’s time to experiment. More and more, I read and believe that certainty follows action, not the other way around. By that I mean you find your “thing” - your certainty - by trying a bunch of stuff and seeing what floats or feels right. Some people refuse to take action until they’re absolutely sure. Then they sit there for years wondering why they can’t figure out what they want to do with their lives.
This blog is partly the product of uncertainty. My experiences in music are as well. There came a point when I was burned out on writing and unsure about what to do with myself, so I took a shot at playing the drums. I didn’t know if that’s what I wanted to do or not, but instead of spending five or six years trying to be sure before I got started, I got in the game and tried it - a decision that has utterly changed my life for the better.
You might be in the same place right now. If you’re uncertain about what you want, start doing things. Go to karaoke. Take a writing class. Try yoga. Go rock climbing. Paint something. Write a blog post. Audition for a play. Do a fitness class. Sign up for lessons of some kind. Shoot and edit a music video. Record a podcast episode, even if you never release it.
Treat your uncertainty like a two-handed push into a world full of strange and wonderful opportunities. Sometimes the way to find what you want is to find all of the things you don’t want first. It’s not wasted time. It’s action, and I want to believe that the universe rewards the seekers. If nothing else, it can be a lot of fun.
Now, if you have an idea about what you want but you don’t know how to do it, your uncertainty could be telling you to find a mentor. If you want to open up a coffee shop but don’t know where to begin, work with a business coach. If you want to write a book but can’t seem to get started, sit down with someone who’s published a book. If you want to move into management but don’t know how to make the leap, book a meeting with a manager in your industry. The information is out there, but dreams demand an investment of your time and energy. Sometimes you have to go hunt down the answers you need.
Uncertainty can also be a manifestation of fear. Maybe you know what you want and you know what the next steps are, but you’re afraid to act. You’re afraid to try out for the band you want to join. You’re afraid to apply for the job. Afraid to start the business. Afraid to end the dysfunctional relationship. Afraid to try counselling. Afraid to find a coach. Afraid to go into therapy. Afraid to go to the gym. Afraid to fail or look silly or be in pain or, perhaps, even to succeed. Be excited about that kind of uncertainty. It means you might be just one small act of courage away from what you really want.
Finally, uncertainty can be a message to simplify. I think that might be what’s going on with me these days. I’m doing this blog and playing as many gigs as I can and listening to half a dozen inspirational podcasts and reading two motivational books and taking freelance assignments and doing publicity and writing songs and thinking about coaching and other business ideas. It’s exhausting. Sometimes uncertainty tells you that you’re doing too much, looking in too many places, thinking about too many options. Sometimes it’s telling you to step back, focus on one or two things, and create a vacuum for life to fill.
One of my favourite lines from the Tao te Ching says, “Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?” That line catches me every time I read it. It reminds me that clarity - certainty - sometimes comes from creating a quiet space and being patient enough to let your intuition speak.
Easier said than done, I know.
So yes, uncertainty can be a great motivator. It can motivate you to act, to find help, or to simply create space. The question is what your uncertainty, or any other emotion, is actually telling you. Figure that out and you’re on your way to knowing what to do next.