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Learning To Be Comfortable With The Unknown - Kozai Group

As human beings in a world of expectations within our family, social and work environments, we depend on clarity and predictability. We have clear expectations of driver behavior at red and green lights. Our and their lives depend on it.

We go to work having clear ideas about what will be expected of us, what we can expect from our manager, how to do our job, and how our performance will be evaluated. Our job tenure depends on it.

We love certainty. 

Why We Love Certainty

Certainty in our lives enables us to predict outcomes. If we do this, “x” will happen. If we do that, “y” will happen. It is our way of controlling our lives. Controlling our lives is crucial to feeling at ease. The formula is simple: clarity = predictability = control = comfortability.

How To Manage Uncertainty

But what happens when we are “thrown” into unfamiliar environments:  we go to a foreign country to negotiate a contract; we change jobs in organizations that have very different “cultures”–even if in the same city; we move from one part of the country to another; we are asked to work with those of a different generation, religion, gender orientation . . . All of a sudden, we’re not so clear about what to expect or how to behave; our ability to predict takes a hit; we feel out of control to some degree and we feel stress and discomfort.  

This discomfort then usually leads to judgments about the unfamiliar people, place or thing we’re doing. 

The problem is this: in the kind of age we live in, it’s unlikely we will be able to avoid new people, places and things.  We can only control our reaction to these. So we need to figure out how to make the unfamiliar more comfortable for us.  

How do we do that?

We do it incrementally.  We purposefully expose ourselves to new situations where something in the environment is different from what we are used to–but not too much so. 

This is very different from being exposed to new situations because of someone else’s choice. If WE choose, it gives us a sense of control, which is what most of us live for. One or two new things in the environment is better than five or six.

Lovers of rock and roll go to country music concerts. People hesitant to go to a foreign country go to one where their language is spoken.  City dwellers go to a rural area to spend their vacation.

The important thing is we expose ourselves to new things, people and/or places and we do it in a “controlled” fashion.  We LEARN to become more comfortable with the unfamiliar, and in doing so, we become more self-confident to be able to deal with more uncertainty.

Why all this time talking about learning to become comfortable with the unknown? Because it’s essential to our continuous learning. Familiar environments are just that–familiar. We know them. Our learning has stopped. What we don’t know are the unfamiliar ones. As human beings with miraculous brains, we are learning “machines.” We ARE built to learn. But learning means taking on new things. New things are to the brain what food is to the body.  

“Don’t feel failure [discomfort] so much that you fail to try new things.  The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, should have.”  Louis E. Boone, author.

One of the dimensions in the Kozai learning tools measures the degree to which tolerate differences/ambiguity.  If you would like to know more about these tools, please reach out to the Kozai Group.