Surviving change with ambiguity
When things don’t go our way, when sand gets thrown in the cogs of your day (life) 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 to a speech that I was going to give the following week. I had been 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 – and it would not stand for my overtaxing it a moment longer. The result: I would type in a word (it doesn’t help that I type fast) and it took up to 10 minutes for just one letter of the word I had written (remember: 10 minutes ago!), to show up on the screen. I was desperate to get the presentation finished (and that is putting it mildly!) so the only thing I could do, is to get to fixing what I knew how to fix: throw out programs and apps and docs and stuff that I didn’t use anymore from that PC; defragment the hard drive (it was at 0% defragmentation according to the properties, but anyway, I wasn’t going to take any chances); of course I closed all the tabs and other things that were running in the background. I even saved stuff to an external drive. So, according to my logic, it had to work now: my hard disk was only at 34% usage and yet still…. my PC was slower than a snail. I just could not get it to “normal” speed – try as I might.
I will spare you all the other stuff I did in my attempts to get it to run like I was used to it running, and as I already said, I did everything I knew how to do, including to let myself be helped by other people who know how to do stuff on PCs that I don’t know how to do. But even they got the same, sorry-slow results.
Needless to say, I was upset, angry, depressed, sad, and worried. I had all kinds of thoughts going on in my head. I even played with the idea of quitting anything that has to do with technology entirely, thinking that I should move to the south of France and become a sheep farmer on a remote hill somewhere – that would be putting me as far away from technology as I was able to imagine at that moment.
Then I recalled my own program on “how to set your New Year’s Resolutions” – a short series of guidelines that I had posted at the end of last year. There was one that kept rising to the top of my consciousness all this time – and that one was: “what do you want to feel like the most in the new year?”. The answer to that was certainly not “upset, angry, depressed, sad, worried”.
I liked this internal dialogue and so I continued on with it…
Me, Question: “What do I want to feel like?”
Me, Answer: “Happy. Peaceful.”
Me, Question: “So what has to happen that would make you happy and peaceful?”
Ta da! The answer was pretty forthcoming … it all seemed so obvious all of a sudden.
I was, at first, so pleased with my new found insight into what I wanted, that I did not dwell on the negative feelings that were tormenting me, I wasn’t allowing myself to be bothered about being anxious and worried anymore. The thing is, I remembered that a solution is already there for me, so when I asked myself the question about what I wanted, it kind of catapulted me out of my dwelling in self-pity. I realized that I was in a position and had the control to make a decision – that is all. It reminded me that I had created a process that I had already tried and one that I knew would work for me: I will ask myself some questions and then base my next actions upon the answers to those questions.
So this may seem like a trivial exercise, but in the heat of the moment, any one of us can get so stuck in seeing the challenges, that we don’t see the opportunities that we have under our control. In this particular situation, all I could think of was how bad and unfair and <insert victim role description of choice here> this slow-PC is for sabotaging my immenently upcoming talk.
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 that New Year’s resolutions plan), helped me to move on and get out of my funk. Granted, I spent a few hours of despair – but not days!
What does all this have to do with ambiguity?
Well… I had to accept that there may be other solutions than those that I originally thought that I had; and I had to accept that I could adjust my response to the situation and that I could take on a different perspective. It was an opportunity to accept what it is.
The solution for my problem meant that I was going to have to buy a new PC, not something that I was planning on, and it wasn’t even in the budget at the time. So I had to tweak some funds from my vacation budget. It wasn’t what I would have liked, but it was a solution.
Summa summarum: asking myself what I needed/wanted in this situation and then taking ownership to do what needs to be done, is the magic bullet for self-confidence. You are reinforcing the trust you have in yourself. It doesn’t matter if that is something like buying a new PC even though you thought you didn’t have the budget for it; or changing a flat tire in the middle of the night on a lonely road all by yourself. It is knowing that you can solve problems and challenges that increases your self-confidence, and gives you even more trust in yourself. When you think about the challenges you come up against, then remind yourself that ambiguity really is all about accepting what is, of being open to more than one interpretation, that there is a solution that may be different that what you have set in your mind to. For every challenge posed to you, there is a whole treasure-chest of solutions available for you to choose from.
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?