What a year it’s been.
To say that 2020 has been a different year than any other in the 5+ decades I’ve been on this earth would be a gross understatement. I think about the person I was on January 1st of this year—the goals I set, the plans I made, the resolve I had to make this my best year yet—and I can’t help but shake my head.
My guess is that you’re in a similar position. Just shaking that head back and forth in disbelief and overwhelm.
You may be managing a work team remotely and making plans to bring folks back to the office in the coming months. You may be brushing up on your teaching skills before the school year starts because you learned in the spring that there’s a lot to that teaching gig that our fine educators seem to do so effortlessly. You may be up to your eyeballs in the battles brewing every day about the many hot topics that have been highlighted this year. You may be wondering when this craziness is going to end so you can get back to some semblance of normal life.
I hear you. And I understand.
We think our lives are filled with certainty.
Part of what I’ve come to realize this year is that I’ve always had an expectation of certainty in my life. The calendar moves in the same order year after year. The trees fill their branches with leaves, then drop those leaves, then stay bare for a few months every year without fail.
I’d gotten used to things happening a certain way and I was CERTAIN that’s the way they’d always be. Then 2020 showed up and taught me a valuable lesson.
I’ve had four months to ponder the fact that the certainty I thought I had isn’t really the gift I thought it was. In fact, I’ve come to realize uncertainty was exactly what I needed to shake things up and make things happen at other times in my life and career (read: pre-2020).
When I earned my bachelor’s degree in education and was hired to teach a group of fourth graders in the early 90s, I was certain I’d be a teacher for a few decades and then retire.
When the routine of ending one school year and beginning another a few months later became less exciting, I was certain a career in the business world would get me where I wanted to go. I learned to lead teams of adults by day, and I went to court reporting school at night. I was certain a flexible career in the court reporting field was the right move for me.
When I left court reporting school and decided to put all my effort into being an even more effective leader, I knew I’d found my calling. In fact, I was certain of it.
Then I quit that job. Without having another job to go to. It wasn’t a move I ever would have thought I’d make. I was a person who functioned with certainty. I always knew where I was going, what I was made for, and how to get there.
I remember waking up the first Monday I was unemployed. For 24 years of my career, I knew how to ‘do’ Mondays. I’d had a safety net. Now I didn’t. And to top it off, I was the one who had tossed that safety net aside.
It’s uncertainty that helps us grow.
With uncertainty, I ventured into corporate training and then public speaking and then coaching and then leadership and team development. I found my way by wobbling along, not having every answer immediately, and not always knowing the path I’d be on next.
It may seem strange for me to compare the pandemic– and the many horrible effects of it—to the trajectory of my career. For me, though, it was the ‘aha’ I needed to understand that while 2020 is a far cry from any other year I’ve been on this earth, I’ve never actually been living with certainty. I just told myself I had.
I bounced from job to job and industry to industry thinking everything was CERTAINLY going to work out just fine. When I ventured out as a new business owner, it was the first time I felt great uncertainty. I couldn’t have described it with great clarity at the time, but 2020 has helped me understand that taste of uncertainty when I started my business was exactly what I needed to learn, grow, and live my best life.
That’s my story. What’s yours?
- Is the uncertainty of 2020 helping you recognize areas of your life and career that are also uncertain?
- Have you been entangled in the rat race of checking off life’s boxes and now understand the uncertainty that gets thrown at you is sometimes the best antidote to that checklist life?
- Are you fulfilled in your current work role?
- What improvements would be ideal in your personal relationships?
- Would you like to be offered a leadership role (or a promotion to the next level of leadership) within your organization?
- Is entrepreneurship something you’ve considered in the past, and is now the time to dip your toe (or dive head first) into that pool?
Six questions to get you thinking. Questions to rattle the cage of certainty you may think you want. Questions to help you appreciate the gift of uncertainty.
Taking myself back to January 1, 2020, I never could have imagined how much I’d appreciate the gift I’ve been given this year. I’ve been filled with fear, doubt, and uncertainty, and I’ve grown by leaps and bounds because of it.