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Avoid the Certainty Trap

“Man with open mouth waits long time for roast duck to fly in.

A while ago a prospective client approached me to explore hiring me as a coach. He wanted advice: an opportunity had come his way and he just couldn’t figure out if he should take it or not.

Steve is extremely bright. Turns out he had been working at his firm for a while and they’d offered him a partnership. Technically, he excelled in his trade and added huge value to the company. He was weighing his options:

“Should I take the offer and the added responsibility

“What if it doesn’t work out with the partners?”

“Maybe I should go out on my own instead; it could be more profitable. But, do I really want to run a company?”

“Maybe I could just keep things as they are now and settle for having a ‘job.’ ”

Then the penny dropped for me.

The partner offer had been made a YEAR ago and he still hadn’t got back to them. He’d been wrestling with the decision for 12 months. He felt paralyzed and he wasn’t happy.

It’s human nature to crave clarity and certainty. Consider how uncomfortable it can be to drive a car in the fog. Let’s say at some point in the journey, call it point 0, you can see only 100m ahead. Yet, where you want to go (your goal or “vision”) is 500m ahead, well beyond what you can actually see ahead of you.

If you were driving in this situation, what would you do? Slow down likely, put on your hazards perhaps, but keep driving, right? Goals are the same way. The only way to reach a goal is to begin moving toward it. In your mind, you know the ultimate destination is ahead of you. As you progress, you can see further and further ahead (but only 100m at a time). More information becomes apparent as you go. With some course correcting – and some faith – eventually your destination comes into view and you arrive.

In our lives, there’s often a tendency to be sidelined by foggy situations. Many pull over, park, and wait for the fog to clear. Some may actually pitch a tent and sleep for a while. Others check into the “Hotel California” and never leave.

Or, if you’re like me in the past, or Steve, you may be waiting for the moment of COMPLETE certainty (usually accompanied by a beam of divine light and angels singing) about how to reach the FINAL destination before even beginning.

Of course, that kind of clarity rarely happens. The fog rarely clears completely.

And the “roast duck” probably won’t arrive either. So get on with it.

Coaching Fieldwork:

1. Identify where in your life or business you’re waiting for the “fog to clear.”

2. Remind yourself that you simply CANNOT lose so long as you keep moving.

3. Don’t be foolhardy. Do some fieldwork. Learn about your options. How do they fit with your priorities? Yet, don’t dwell here.

4. Get in gear and get on with it. Identify what are the NEXT possible things you can actually DO (interview someone, draft a plan, look up a website, put the money aside, sign up for a course, try a new product line, hire a coach J… ask for the partnership, etc.) and DO it. Then do the next thing… and the next…and the next.

5. Get over it. Don’t take yourself so seriously. We’re all in this fog together. Life’s created to be driven, not parked.

Jamie Broughton