The Loss of Certainty

A job can make you feel like you have things together, like you are going places, and like you have control over your life and your future. Or, it can make you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, like you are being directed by a dictator who completely undervalues your contributions, and as though you have no control of your life and it’s direction.

For most of us living in this twenty first century economy, one of those statements rings true and one sounds more like a pipe dream of a time that might have been before, but certainly is not the present.

Humans crave control. We need the certainty that jobs, a career, or even having our own business used to be able to provide. Without hope for the future, the present becomes a constant cycle of wishing for a past that may or may not have even existed. Without an assurance that what lies ahead of us is better than what we left behind, the ability to continue to inspire the self-directed effort needed to create that future feels more like being trapped in a hopeless maze to nowhere than it does the equal playing field we were told about.

Certainty is no longer found in the workplace. Finding a company or opportunity that even remotely matches the value we deliver with the income we receive is harder and harder every day. And the most common shared experience for the American worker and small business person is the constant and at times overwhelming anxiety associated with both not knowing if you will have a way to put food on the table in our current roles and how long we can continue to put it on the table in the miserable existence that is our current occupation.

We’ve been brought up to believe the system will take care of us. That if we worked hard enough, got the right education, and did what we were told that things would work out, that it would be ok, or that it would at least be somewhat tolerable.

We’ve created a trap. In a time where the economy needs the adaptability, resilience, and constant learning that a “gig” economy demands, we’ve created a situation where the risks of changing are too great, the potential to fall and not get back to normal for a decade are high, and the benefits of new learning may never be realized. 

Worst of all, as external promises become less available, our ability to see our own internal power has become harder to see. In a time when we cannot rely on consistency from a company or support from a government, we aren’t turning to the one thing we do control, our belief in ourselves, to provide the certainty we so desperately need. When our hope for the future cannot be found in the institutions we once believed in, instead of re-directing that hope and belief into our own potential, we seem to be losing it altogether.

If we are ever going to find the certainty we so desperately need, as individuals, we are going to have to pro-actively take on the risk that job security was supposed to alleviate and be willing to leave our jobs before the job leaves us. We are going to have to become so clear about the value we provide that we demand compensation in kind and find a way to realize that value outside of a nine to five if the system is too fixed.

We may not be able to magically take away the anxiety uncertainty provides. We can, however, feel as though we at least have some control over it by taking ourselves away from those roles that no longer serve us before they are taken away from us.

Humans crave control and certainty. But that doesn’t mean we can’t handle risk, that we are unable to navigate the unknown, or that we don’t have the ability to thrive in the midst of what seems like chaos all around us. For too long we’ve allowed our sense of control and certainty to come from institutions and organizations outside of ourselves.

It’s time to take control and certainty back. To learn how to believe in ourselves again. To create new environments that allow our hopes to be tied to the potential we see in ourselves instead of what others fail to look for in us, that our faith lies in the gifts we bring not the ones others dangle above our heads, and that our belief in a better future is tied to our daily effort and not the hourly unpredictability of a market that no longer values that work.

We can take control over our own certainty the moment we bring certainty to our sense of control.

Published by Brian Fretwell

Author, TEDx Speaker, Consultant Trying not to be a horrible human

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