By Andrea Barnes, Organizational Development Manager
Being “comfortable” in ambiguity is somewhat of a fairy tale, at least that’s what I tell myself. What does that actually mean? I struggled for years (more like decades) with this concept. Living in the gray. Thriving in the gray. Failing in the gray. If I’m being honest, I just paid a stylist large sums of money to get rid of the gray, so that’s how I’m doing with this whole embracing the gray stuff. In my life, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons from parenting that apply to every area of my life personally and professionally. In parenting, I’m constantly worrying and second guessing every single decision I make, past present and future. My fear of the unknown in parenting can be paralyzing. What if I get it wrong? What if there are 100 ways to do this right? What if someone finds out that I have NO IDEA what I’m doing? What if my children require very different things? I’ve heard the joke many times about parenting that they forgot to send us home from the hospital with the manual. The same could be said about basically every human relationship and process we encounter. Life can be so gray, despite our brain’s desperate attempts to make it black and white.
I’ve come to the realization that successfully living in ambiguity is not about being comfortable in ambiguity, it’s about being confident in ambiguity. It’s not necessarily about feeling “good” in the gray or relishing the unknown. It’s accepting the fact that that ambiguity is hard and that it’s hard because it’s supposed to be. Most things that are worth it are. When in life, during times of great growth and achievement, have we been totally comfortable? Why then, would we expect to be comfortable in ambiguity? It’s no wonder that we feel as though we’re failing at this. How would your perspective change if you accepted the fact that ambiguity was something you were not comfortable with? What if I told you that you didn’t have to even like it, but rather just be confident in the process, the journey?
Making the choice to live life in the gray is risky. It’s about embracing the path that isn’t always prescribed or known. It’s about trusting. Trusting in something bigger than ourselves to drive our direction and trusting that even though some turns and stops along the way will be bumpy and unclear, the ultimate destination is worth it and exactly where we are supposed to be even if it’s not where we thought we’d be.
It’s more about the willingness and ability to embrace the hard, the unknown, the struggle. It’s about viewing these challenges as things that build our resiliency muscles and prepare us to take on more and bigger things. Sometimes, in order to take on more and bigger things, we need to release our white knuckled grip on our current reality and take the leap.
Being confident in ambiguity also requires a healthy dose of self-awareness. What’s the root of our fears? Are we letting those things hold us back? Are the choices we make, or don’t make, made from a place of fear or from a place of growth? How do we respond to change? Having strong self-awareness is a strength, and a necessary one to thrive in an environment of constant change and uncertainty, because that’s the reality of the world we live in.
There’s a quote that I love by Mel Charbonneau:
“The opposite of a hot mess is cold, predictable and tidy. That’s not where your magic lives. Be brave and choose the mess.”
I choose to embrace the ambiguity, the struggle, the fear, the unknown, the mess, the change, because that’s where the good stuff is. That’s where my magic lives. I don’t want to miss the magic because I’m too busy listening to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success. Struggle, mess, fear, and change are not always indicative of failure or wrongdoing. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s the growing pains preparing you for the next great thing. Maybe the reason that it’s hard is because it’s supposed to be. The best things often are.