Acceptance of ambiguity is a by-word in corporate America today, if job descriptions are any indication. Not just acceptance but whole-hearted embrace seems to be the price of admission. I find this call interesting, if only because of its own ambiguous nature.
A bit of research into the history of the word yields the Latin ambiguus, meaning “moving from side to side” or “of doubtful nature”. Yet, while demanding a comfort level with uncertainty, we are also asked to drive clarity, provide forecasts, deliver cohesive plans, and prove ROI on all the above. No small task if the very nature of life, let alone business, is unstable.
It occurred to me that there is a dual view to take in considering ambiguity. One is by science and the other by faith.
Quantum physics implies that we walk a knife edge of reality at all times (see the Schrödinger’s cat experiment and the Uncertainty Principle). While I am no physicist and have only done a modicum of research into the fuzzy world of quantum mechanics, it seems to me that the future can go any number of ways, based upon the present moment, which may also go any number of ways. Control is something of an illusion, though how much of one is open to much debate. Still, there is scientific basis for thinking of ambiguity as a fact of our existence, so acceptance of it and what ever degree of comfort we can muster toward it is a good thing.
Another viewpoint one can take is one of faith. While the philosophers have argued for a LONG TIME over the balance/paradox between free will and determinism, those are both things that are viewed from outside, if you will. Here, inside this moment, it looks and feels the same….the degree to which I am comfortable, in which I can trust, if you will, that the next moment beyond this one will take place and I am present in it, THAT is the degree to which I can be comfortable with ambiguity. No trust, no faith would mean that my grasp on reality beyond the moment in which I exist would become an utter unknown. While quantum physics might take that stance, there are, I believe, some ‘next moments’ or ‘next steps’ upon the journey that are a bit more likely than others. It is therefore not an UTTER Unknown, but a selection of more or less likely paths.
So what am I driving at?
First, comfort with ambiguity is comfort within your own skin in this world. Certainty is an illusion. Planning is documented wishful thinking. Get used to surprises.
Second, hold the present moment lightly, being aware within it of the possibilities. You can perform due diligence in planning and trying to set up your life and business, but realize that so many things may change will leave you less frustrated when the plans progress differently and may in fact lead you to better ends than you foresaw.
You may, in fact, find the the surprise much better than anything you might have come up with, and what could be bad about that?
- Magic of everyday life (melissereynolds.wordpress.com)
- What is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle? (theguardian.com)
- Normality in Ambiguity. (imperfectlady.typepad.com)
3 thoughts on “Comfortable with Ambiguity?”
I have two quotes, the first regarding “faith” and the second regarding “science”, both of them by Oscar Wilde (whom I adore)
“When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers”
“He is fond of being misunderstood. It gives him a post of vantage”
Taking part in a virtual conversation with Oscar Wilde presents some interesting challenges! Thanks for the additional thoughts.
I thought Wittgenstein was not witty enough 🙂