The Most Important Human Need Of All – Just Ask Those On Death Row
I learnt a vital lesson through adversity these past few weeks. It reminded me of something most of us need if we are to be at our best – at work, with relationships, in life. It’s so simple. And so devastating when not there. Here it is.
In Japan, inmates on death row were (maybe still are?) burdened with what ‘survivors’ reported as a fate worse than death. You see, in that system, you were told you were to die, but not when. In some cases, death row inmates sat out 20 years awaiting their fate. Whenever they heard footsteps approaching their cell, that could be the moment they would die. The footsteps passed your door- you lived another hour, another day. Imagine living that way- for 20 years!
And that’s the point of my story. I was reminded this week of the devastating power one simple state of being, and word, can have on our lives and ability to perform at our best. Here it is. Is it true for you too?
Uncertainty- it destroys our confidence. Certainty- it underpins and accelerates confidence.
It’s as simple as that. Have you ever been ‘paralysed with doubt’? That’s uncertainty screwing you up.
Fact is, what we want most is certainty. We can find ways to deal with certainty. But constantly wondering ‘Will it, or won’t it?’…. now, that is genuinely debilitating.
I got the reminder these past few weeks as medical test after test could not pinpoint the cause of pain in my gut. I trawled the internet to self-diagnose (a disastrous thing to do!). I speculated and fretted, and always concluded a worst case. I became ‘paralysed with doubt.’ The doctors then speculated gall bladder. Out it came. The pathology report- got it last night, and was told ‘rotten gall bladder- worst we have seen! But all fixed now…’
Certainty. Done and dusted. Get on with it.
Will you be picked for the team? No. Ok- certainty- I can deal with that.
Will I get that new job? Yes! Onwards! Start planning.
Is my boss happy with my work? Or not? ASK HER! Get clarity. Certainty.
Are we delivering to the client’s expectations or are they considering repitching? Do a feedback session- get a reality check done, and get certainty.
Am I really sick and will I die? Want to stay in that state of uncertainty, or get an answer? I vote for certainty. Every time.
Sometimes it’s the pace we work at, and the amount we try to do, that creates uncertainty. We get overwhelmed. Try to calm it down. Try to breath. Try to simplify. Simplicity gives us certainty, and certainty we can deal with.
Whenever I feel doubt… about me, my offer, value proposition, relationships, future, whatever… I immediately go to my Third Place (Starbucks invented the notion- we have work, we have home, but where is our Third Place, where we feel calm, comfortable, and where we can quietly work for an hour away from home and work?). At my Third Place, I push myself for simplicity and clarity on what’s at the core of my feeling …and then what actions I need to take to get certainty.
I can deal with setbacks and disappointment. I can immediately learn the lesson and make a plan to move forward and make progress. But there is NOTHING to be gained from uncertainty- from not knowing. It eats away at you, puts you on edge, erodes that critical ‘must have’ of confidence, and becomes an insidious enemy.
Push for certainty. And you will be able to move forward with confidence, no matter what that path needs to be.