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Our Attraction to the Crystal Ball

Nate Silver has been in the news a lot lately — his new book, his appearance on The Daily Show, his popular election prediction blog for the New York Times.

Predictions are the focus of Mr. Silver’s work and I’ve noticed, recently, my own interest in predictions and also the significant role they play (or not)  in our life and work.

Recognizing that the amount of polling is ridiculous right now, some of us crave the daily (or hourly)  updates about the latest swing in the election or discrepancy between one poll and the next.  For some, the ups and downs are maddening but for others, they are comforting.  Predictions, for some, provide  a sense of false  relief from the  the “anxiety” associated with “not knowing.”

This attraction makes perfect sense..  It’s reassuring to know in some shape or form..  Knowing removes the sense of risk, knowing  helps us feel in control. When we know, we have confidence in what awaits us at the end.  As such, we don’t have to take as much responsibility for deciding on a course and charting it.

Yet, regardless of the strength of a prediction, navigating the unpredictable is a key part of our professional and personal job description:

We can never know with 100% certainty if our choice in one career direction over another will  result in immediate employment or satisfying work.
We can never know with 100% certainly how a difficult personal or professional issue will resolve itself.
We can never know with 100% certainty if and how life and work effort will translate to reward.
We can never know with 100% certainty who will win the election.

And so..we’re challenged to take on ambiguity with as much faith and skill and investment as we can.

Crystal balls played an important role in Dorothy’s Kansas.  However, in  Ohio or Florida or Colorado, they offer  a false sense of security.  Self-security is the only thing on which we can ultimately count.

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Mimi Darmstadter is the founder of the independent coaching and Human Resources consulting business, My Life’s Work — Coaching & Consulting LLC, where she serves as an executive coach and a seasoned leader in the Human Resources field (e.g. learning and performance) with over 20 years of experience, spanning government, non-profit and corporate environments.  Mimi’s coaching work and workshops emphasize new levels of self-awareness, skill, and behavior that her clients seek to build professional capacity in their leadership/executive roles and/or make desired shifts in their career identity.   Among Ms. Darmstadter’s interests and areas of expertise are emotional intelligence, written/oral communication, diversity/inclusion, performance management, workforce engagement, presentation/platform skills, personal/professional “work” integration, stress management, and career planning and execution.

Mimi is also the facilitator of Her Corner groups in Bethesda, Capitol Hill and Rockville. You can view her profile HERE.  

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