How Can We Find Power And Meaning In Uncertainty?

Have you ever been asked during a job interview where you see yourself in five years? While this question may seem straightforward, it's difficult to predict where you'll be in five years, given the uncertain future.

Everyone who has done a few job interviews has been asked: “and where do you see yourself in five years?” 

We usually answer with our goals, indicating where we aim to go. But, if we look back five years from now, I’m pretty sure the predictions made then landed quite off the mark. Unless you had planned – among many things – for two years of the pandemic.

Similarly, if we make a new prediction now, trying to forecast our situation in five years, we are likely to get it wrong too.

The reason?

Just watch the news, and you will see a dozen explanations to choose from. Be it an international war, the potential collapse of the global economy or the rise of artificial intelligence making most jobs redundant.

Chilling, isn’t it?

The thought of not knowing what tomorrow will bring can be terrifying. That’s the effect uncertainty has on us. It creates anxiety, stress and worry. It keeps us up at night; our brain is fuming, planning for many scenarios or imagining the consequences of the most catastrophic ones. 

We have this inbuilt tendency pushing us to eliminate the uncertainty. We want to know what is going to happen. We want to be sure of it. Unfortunately for us, there is no way to kill this scary beast. 

Uncertainty will always be there. 

However, we can try to tame it. And many leaders understand and conscientiously work on this. In fact, it has been demonstrated that navigating uncertainty is a critical skill and an indispensable element to success. 

Harvard Business Review reported on the results of a study that interviewed 195 leaders in 15 countries over 30 global organisations. The research found that having the flexibility to change opinions, being open to new ideas and approaches, and consequently being willing to adapt to change were key to leaders’ and organisations’ success [1].

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Picture taken by @Melinda Hird

But how do they do this?

One of the first aspects of managing uncertainty better is understanding it has different names. What we call ‘uncertainty’, a word loaded with fear and negativity, can also be called ‘luck’.

Of course, etymologists and other academics would disagree that uncertainty is the same as luck, but the concept here is to see them closely intertwined.

After all, if tomorrow is uncertain, it means bad things could happen. That’s also true for the good ones. We could be lucky. If there is no uncertainty, no randomness, and everything is set in stone, then there is no luck. There is no possibility of a better outcome than the one expected.

Who has been pleasantly surprised to get an amazingly sunny day when the forecast was all gloom and rain?

In 1999, Bill Morgan was a truck driver and got caught in a terrible accident. Rushed to the hospital, he suffered a heart attack there. The man was clinically dead for over 14 minutes before being revived and eventually fell into a coma. 

Miraculously, he woke up 12 days later without any brain damage. To “celebrate”, he bought a lottery scratch card and won a car worth $17,000. 

When the local TV station heard of the story, they went to interview him and asked to re-enact the purchase of a lottery card. And so Bill did. He bought another card, scratched it in front of the camera, and, to the surprise of everyone, won a jackpot of $250,000.

That’s luck – and also uncertainty. There are two sides of the same coin.

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So, we need to reframe our relationship with the unknown. Yes, this could be terrible – but at the same time, there is a chance it ends up beautifully.

Uncertainty is the origin of possibilities.

Let’s pause for a moment here and remember our most significant achievements. Was this big career shift a sure thing? Were you 100% convinced she would say “yes”? Were you certain this move to the next city would work out well?

All innovations, breakthroughs and transformations require stepping into the unknown.

Five years ago, I quitted my corporate role of sales executive in a large IT company to completely change my career. At the time, I had a lot of uncertainty, many crippling doubts and a massive Imposter Syndrome. 

Nowadays, I have a bit more certainty, still many doubts and my Imposter Syndrome, but this jump out of my comfort zone offered me incredible opportunities. 

As I coached people, I could see the impact it made in their life, and this gave me a motivation I had never felt before. It made me curious, wanting to understand more about the root causes of people’s problems and it led me to research overthinking. 

I interviewed more than 365 people worldwide, jumping into calls with total strangers. It was the unknown. Many people expressed their interest and booked a call to finally not show up. I had some weird exchanges. Some funny ones too. Others were deep and full of insight. 

And ultimately, I wrote my book – Act Before You overThink.

Where did I see myself in 2018 – five years ago? Nowhere close to being an author and flying across Australia to speak at corporate events and conferences. At times, it still feels surreal, like riding a unicorn.

Still, it did not happen overnight.  

It is a journey that requires us to stand at the frontier of our comfort zone and, every day, move the goalpost slightly further away to see what we can find there. It is about embracing uncertainty, exploring possibilities, and, in the end, forcing our luck.

As we imagine what our future could be five years from now, the question “where will you be?” is interesting, but a better one is “why do you wish to be there?”. 

As we figure this out, we realise there is often more than one destination. There are countless possibilities in the infinite sea of uncertainty; there are many “where” but only one “why”.

To your success,

Lison xX

PS: If someone has forwarded this to you, you can subscribe here.

Whenever you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:

  • If you are about to make an important decision for yourself (or your team) – let me be part of your inner circle and work towards your success, book a call with me to discuss this.
  • Book one of my workshops for your team to elevate energy and performance. More information here.
  • With my first book Act Before You overThink to learn how to make better decisions faster and liberate your mind from the constant chatter that hinders your potential. You can buy it here.


[1]- Giles S, 2016, “The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World”, Harvard Business Review

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Lison Mage

I help clever individuals and teams conquer overthinking and perform at their full potential. Together, we can go from a place of uncertainty and being paralyzed by doubt to gaining clarity on your current situation, where you want to go, and how to get you there!


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