The One Word Most People Loathe

Recently, a few of my clients have hit a proverbial ‘road bump’ in their careers. Mergers are happening. Consolidation of departments is happening. The mass resignation is happening.

And alongside these changes come opportunities for promotion, shifts in position, changes in reporting structures, etc.

And the one word…. that most ‘type A’ ambitious, focused, and deliberate people loathe…. arises.


I don’t have a single client who has NOT faced ambiguity in their careers (and in their lives). There is simply no way to predict (or know) EVERYTHING one needs/wants to know to navigate their careers and lives in advance of ‘it’ happening. And most people literally HATE not knowing.

And with the ‘unknowing’ comes fear, uncertainty, insecurity, instability, and paralysis…to name only a few byproducts.

I am on a mission to ERASE all the ‘stuff that can accompany ambiguity and SHIFT how we approach the vagueness that is a reality in business….and in the world.

So, what are a few things we can do to EMBRACE ambiguity and turn it into a positive force…. versus running from it when we logically know it is an inevitable reality?

  1. Change the Frame. There is always something we can learn (and teach) from our experiences, and ambiguity is one such experience. It is vital that we remember these basics when facing change.

First, we must realize and embrace that we are NOT defined by the job or position we hold. Often, we get completely absorbed in our job or company. In fact, I had one individual recently share with me that their identity was indeed the company for which they worked. I ‘get’ this concept (and lived it at one time in my career), and in fact, I wrote a story in my first book about a person in Seat 5E who shared the same dilemma. This story has become one of the most popular in my first book “Is This Seat Taken?”  as so many of us can relate to it. When we leave one fabulous successful stint in a company, we wonder if we will ever have that again. We wonder if we will ever be able to recreate that level of success again.

Stop comparing this new chapter with the old chapter – good or bad. There are no comparisons, thankfully. We are a compilation of all our experiences, and this new chapter will be a completely new experience in many ways. WOW – how liberating when we allow ourselves to embrace this concept.

And finally, Embrace Progress, not Perfection – perhaps the greatest catalyst to embracing ambiguity. My suggestion is to keep forward momentum. Keep exploring. Stay open. Be receptive to even what may appear to be an opportunity that is out of your wheelhouse or may even be an approach with which you disagree. “Lean In” to quote Sheryl Sandberg. Our intuition and inner voice do not lie. Ever. So, listen to it. Change can in fact be an amazingly liberating experience IF we change the frame on how we welcome and grow into the change….and yes, the ambiguity that often comes with change.

  1. Realize that there are no accidents. Often my clients tell me – after the fact – that ‘what I thought was going to be the worst thing…turned out to be the best thing’. Our job is to pay attention and to LEARN from all the experiences. Ambiguity does NOT mean ‘negative stuff is going to happen. It could very well be that the BEST thing is about to be revealed. A friend of mine decades ago had a saying: ‘just go through the door’. I didn’t ‘get it’ until years later. Yet, the point is – even if the door is not one, we thought about opening….it has been opened for a reason – and our job is to ‘go through’. We may or may not decide to ‘stay in the room’ – yet there was, without a doubt, a reason why the door was opened AND why we entered the room. Our responsibility is to observe and learn from that experience.
  2. Nothing is permanent. Many of us may be facing hard, relatively large decisions that have been made with which we may wholeheartedly disagree OR we are, at best, agnostic about.  We may be pawns in a big corporate chess game; and that can be unsettling, to say the least. We could be at crossroads…trying to determine if we want to stay in our corporate role, if we want to ‘go for’ the promotion, if we want to leave our current organization, etc. There are no pat answers on how to address these questions; however, as it pertains to considering our options and how to move forward, I want to offer one simple dose of reality:

D x V x F > R

This is one of the simplest, yet most powerful models I have ever used. (This is Beckhard’s Change Equation, attributed to change/leadership guru Richard Beckhard). It is simply this -Change will only happen when:

(D) Dissatisfaction with the status quo coupled with our
(V) Vision of what is possible (and this must be more than just the absence of pain in the current situation) coupled with our
(F) First step in the direction of that Vision is GREATER THAN our
(R) Resistance to Change, and the inertia to stay where we are.

In other words, when things get bad enough or are simply not as effective as they could be OR a decision has been made a thrust upon us – then we must identify the overall direction of where we want to go and take that first step. THEN, we are on our way to change. If any of these components are missing, not clear, or compelling, then we will stay where we are – stuck! So, let’s create our new vision, and start moving in that direction. One of the single most effective ways to hit ambiguity squarely on the head is to CHART OUR OWN VISION, the ‘way’ will be made clear once we determine ‘where’ we want to end up.

  1. Our ABC’s matter. I was reared with the non-negotiable directive from my parents, that we control only ourselves. AND, we only have real control over 3 things: Our Attitudes, Our Behaviors, and Our Choices. We do not control anyone else’s (darn it!), yet we can adjust OUR ABC’s to embrace what life presents to us. We play the hand we have been dealt – and yes, we can ‘win the game’ with a pair of deuces, if that is all we have. We, individually and collectively, must make the decision to embrace the ambiguity. This may be simply altering the nature of our current situation through attitude, approach, and simply changing the frame of how we view our current situation.


Bottom line: embracing ambiguity is up to us any way you slice it.