It is simply a fact: uncertainty is a pervasive ingredient of our life. It may be personal, such as issues around health or romance; or from a work related point of view it might be the eruption of unforeseen conflict within one’s company, or between competing organisations. The good news is: uncertainty is not necessarily “a bad thing”. In fact in can spark excitment and creativity!
At this year’s International Relational Coaching Conference’ at Ashridge Business School/UK, I had the privilege to meet Professor Ernesto Spirelli, one of the leading contemporary trainers of existential therapy and in the related areas of executive coaching and supervision. I found his precious thoughts on ‘dealing with uncertainty’ very useful and therefore would like to share some of the insights I gained with you.
Why uncertainty can drive creativity and insight
As human beings, we all share the experience of facing and confronting any number of uncertainties of living. Whatever the uncertainty may be, however, our experience of it provokes a felt sense of unease, or anxiety. Ernesto Spirelli’s approach is an existential one, which recognises that anxiety is not necessarily “a bad thing” but can be used to improve creativity and insight. Dealing consciously with anxiety can help people realise that this feeling can even be stimulating. Sounds peculiar? You might switch the usual perspective and look at it from a different angle: certainty closes down possibilities of being. Too much certainty can create unnecessary restrictions. When we are certain we think to have all the answers, solutions or responses. Moreover complete certainty is boring! There is no room for excitement left, in our professional as well as in our personal life. As Oscar Wild puts it: “The very essence of romance is uncertainty’.
Instead of seeking (would-be) certainty ask: What might anxiety offer me?
It starts with the given that anxiety is part of our life – accept it, and use it as a pointer towards possibilities! For example: When we say to somebody ‘I love you’ for the first time, we step into an anxious state. It takes courage for the unknown. And it opens a wide range of different perspectives and new opportunities, including a fulfilled relationship.
Stepping into the unknown involves us, it commits us.
Sharing your thoughts and feelings in a space of confidentiality can be an appropriate approach to master conditions of risk and uncertainty. A reflective coaching conversation can help leaders realise that the feeling of anxiety can be stimulating in a sense that you stay grounded but open to the possible, the novel. Stepping out of the box and exploring the unknown will help you tackle daunting problems and find answers.
If these lines sparked your curiosity you can find out more about our Executive Coaching services here.
(*quote by Margaret Drabble)