Often what is in our head does not match what actually comes out of our brain when translated in writing or verbally, or in how we translate within our head what others are communicating to us. Certainty in what we think or communicate, our own thoughts or those being shared by others, can serve as a stumbling block, holding us back from limitless opportunities of clarity; it puts the cart before the horse. Fromm stated it best when he said, “The quest for certainty blocks the quest for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”
Is anything truly certain? Yes, it is said that death and taxes are certain, but let’s expand on the concept of certainty and how the finality of certainty inhibits our growth, our thinking, and our relationships with others.
Have you ever sat in a meeting with someone and you were certain that the person was wrong? Argued with your friend or spouse because you were certain they didn’t have a clue what they were talking about? What happened? Did you quit listening as you developed your counter-argument?
In these moments, if we do not seek clarity, we miss out on an opportunity to seek knowledge and perhaps form deeper, more meaningful relationships. It is through the quest for clarity that we gain appreciation for others- even if we feel that they have a really stupid point of view- because they propel our thinking and our growth. Shhh…..quiet your mind and listen for a moment.
We hear statements like, “just hear me out,” or “just consider this,” these are statements of others certainty imposed into our area of uncertainty that help bring about clarity of thought through new thinking that encompasses a greater perspective. When we actually listen, without injecting our own thinking and allow ourselves to process what is being said, when we actually consider another way of thinking, we do ourselves a huge favor.
We must realize that we don’t have all the answers and when we are certain, we forego opportunity. “For my part I know nothing with certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream” Vincent Van Gogh.
Don’t get me wrong, I am, in no way stating that we should be wishy-washy and indecisive; that is not what I mean by taking a stance against certainty. We have the amazing computing ability within our minds to extrapolate, manipulate, and refine data to come up with some fabulous ideas, but when we form these ideas into a mold of certainty, there is no room for growth, expansion, and improvement.
Brainstorming sessions can be wonderful as we see the collaborative thought processes of the group morph into a collective growth of clarity. Each person communicates from a state of certainty (their opinion) that what they have to offer will solve the problem- but what is really happening is that uncertainty is driving the development of a clear idea or solution. Clarity is being sought and gained. It is the prevalence of uncertainty as to what the best solution is that cultivates an environment of seeking.
“The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain,” JFK. As we seek to understand the thoughts of others, the opinions of others, and appreciate their perspective, we can appreciate the clarity of our thoughts. We can value how the perspectives of others have led them to their own conclusion. This gives us an opportunity to communicate ideas from where they are.
Clarifying the thoughts of others within our own mind becomes a sharing, learning, and growth opportunity. It becomes an opportunity to bridge gaps, bond ideologies, and form relationships based on mutual respect and appreciation. It is an environment of open-mindedness.
Albert Einstein so brilliantly stated that, “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved through understanding.” This week, don’t set out to be right or certain- seek clarity. Seek understanding and you will certainly find infinite opportunities in everything you do.
Jolene Church is currently working on doctoral research on critical thinking in organizational leadership. She is a mindfulness practitioner and the co-author of the newly released, Thinking 101: Fundamentals of a Successful Mindset- available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle or at www.successfulthinkingmindset.com