Surviving setbacks with ambiguity

When things don’t go our way, when sand gets thrown in your cogs and it seems like everything you have been doing just goes wrong (or doesn’t “go” at all), when for one reason or another, something with a deadline comes to a screeching halt – what do you do?

I had this happen to me just this week. I was working on a presentation, doing a lot of research, writing a lot of notes (and I had a zillion tabs open in my browser), when my PC decided it was just too much for it. I would type in a word (and I type fast) and it took 10 minutes for just one letter of the word I had written 10 minutes ago, to show up on the screen. I was desperate (and that is putting it mildly!) I fixed what I knew how to fix. Threw out programs and apps and stuff I didn’t use anymore, defragmented my hard drive (it was 0% defragmentation, but anyway ….). I closed tabs and saved stuff to external drive. My hard disk was only by 34% usage and still…. It did not want to work for me again. I will spare you all the other stuff I did in my attempt to get it to go like I was used to it working again … but I did everything I knew how to do, and I let myself be helped by other people who knew how to do stuff I didn’t know how to do. Same result.

So I was upset, angry, depressed, sad, worried … all kinds of things were going on inside me. I had tantrums, I went silent and pouted, and I decided that I should move to the south of France and become a sheep farmer – as far away from technology as I was able to imagine at that moment.

Then I recalled my own “how to set your New Year’s Resolutions” guidelines that I posted at the end of last year. And the one that kept rising to the top of my consciousness was, “what do you want to feel like the most in 2018” – and that certainly wasn’t “upset, angry, depressed, sad, worried”. I liked this internal dialogue and so I continued with it:

Me, Question: “What do I want to feel like?”

Me, Answer: “Happy.”

Me, Questions: “So what has to happen that would make you happy?”

Ta da! The answer was obvious.

I was, at first, so happy (!) that I did not dwell on my negative feelings, and that I wasn’t allowing myself to be anxious and worried, and that the solution was already there when I asked myself the question that shook me out of my self-pity and back into control. I was in a position to make a decision, simply based upon a process that I had already decided would work for me and which I came up upon months ago: I will ask myself some questions and then base my next actions upon those answers that I had already chosen as best for me.

So maybe this seems trivial for all the supermen and women in the world out there, but in the heat of the moment, all I could think of was how bad and unfair and …. <insert victim role description of choice here> is.

Just knowing that I want to feel at peace, and what I would do (and allow myself to do) if things didn’t go my way (which is another one of the questions in the New Year’s resolutions postings), helped me to move on and get out of my funk – granted after a few hours of despair – but not for days.

What this has to do with ambiguity? Well… I had to accept that there may be other solutions than those that I originally thought I had; and that I could adjust my response to the situation and could take on a different perspective. Sure, my vacation budget took a hit because of this – but without a working PC there would be no vacation anyway.  I had to be adaptable here, to the situation – and then think how I could expand my options.

Summa summarum: being adaptive supported my self-confidence, and I know that self-confidence is the trust in yourself that you can solve problems and challenges. If it is one thing I know about me, it is that I can adapt (sometimes it is a curse, but in this case, I consider it a blessing).  I just had to remember that and whammo: I felt self-confident that I could find a solution. It occurred to me then, that this is what ambiguity is all about – it is the ability to stay calm in the face of the unexpected and to trust that there is a solution.

So back to my original question at the top of this post – with just a slight change: I put the emphasis on a different word:

When things don’t go our way, when sand gets thrown in your cogs and it seems like everything you have been doing just goes wrong (or doesn’t “go” at all), when for one reason or another, something with a deadline comes to a screeching halt – what do you do?