You know, I’m actually pretty good at telling the future. Over time, I’ve learned that if I don’t try something I won’t accomplish it. For example, I can’t remember ever being successful at helping a patient or giving a presentation or writing anything – a book or research paper or blog or thank you note – unless I tried.
There are, however, some aspects of the future that are more difficult for me to predict. When I try to meet new challenges in my personal or professional life, I usually can’t guarantee the outcome until I try. In the face of challenges, I’m always left with the question: Am I better off doing nothing and knowing what the outcome will be, or am I better off trying and having to deal with an uncertain outcome? That question enables me to really evaluate my options, and I’ve been able to make comfortable decisions accordingly.
I’ve learned to ski and write and become a pretty helpful psychologist because I’ve tried. I’ve also tried and succeeded in fitting several gym workout days a week into an already busy schedule, and my wife and I tried and succeeded in having our grandchildren to our house for more sleep-overs and we do more activities with them than most grandparents. At the same time, I’ve determined that I’m better off doing nothing rather than learning to try hang-gliding or to try and develop any skill as an artist. As I was able to predict, my non-effort in either of those areas has led to non-success in both areas.
The point is that each new challenge stands on its own, and I evaluate it on its own. I don’t try to be a fortune teller, I know that not everything that I try will be a success but a lot of things are worth the try – especially if the potential reward is good and there is nothing dangerous or too time-consuming about the consequences.
How about you? Do you sell yourself short too often? Do you lose out on some potentially gratifying successes by attempting to be a fortune teller without the necessary skills. Unless you are better at it than me, the only outcomes that you can be certain of predicting with accuracy are those that result from not trying. If you accurately assess each situation, and then decide to go ahead and try, you are likely to be successful some of the time.
Believe it or not, uncertainty can be fun!
Ron Kaiser, Ph.D.
June 10, 2012