Embracing Uncertainty

Keeping the mind open in the face of uncertainty is the single most                          powerful  secret of unleashing your creative potential.  Michael Gelb

 Open-mindedness and uncertainty are connected. They both are receptive to new ideas. Both avoid certainty and close-mindedness and are capable of change. They are also likely to promote asking questions.

The open-minded assumption is another of four assumptions of my theory of wisdom. I believe open-mindedness is the best teacher, not experience. My experience can become out-of-date, open-mindedness can’t.

This assumption is the foundation of my wisdom and comes from my positive uncertainty philosophy of decision making (Creative Decision Making 1991). The basis of my wisdom is founded on the belief that it is unwise to be too sure, to be absolutely certain (close-minded). This eliminates creativity and changing one’s mind.

Does it seem paradoxical to be positive (comfortable and confident) in the face of uncertainty (ambiguity and doubt)? Yes. But it is exactly what I will need in order to be a creative (wise) decision maker.

Paradox is part of the yin-yang, both/and more aspect to my wisdom theory. Positive uncertainty helps me deal with paradox, ambiguity, inconsistency, and to see how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent. I can’t be certain and be open-mined or creative. Certainty makes decision making easier but not better.

The good thing about my open-minded uncertainty is that it helps me live with not knowing, realizing I may not always have answers. When complicated world events occur that I can’t understand, I am reminded of one of Murphy’s Law:  Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

So you may ask: Am I open-minded about my open-minded uncertainty? Well maybe. When positive uncertainty is the only belief system I feel certain of (pun intended), I wonder about the wisdom of my wisdom. Am I always uncertain, open-mined and/or creative? Could it be possible that some of the time I may not practice what I preach? (Notice the uncertainty in my confession.) This is why I identify with Bette Midler’s   popular quote:  I never know how much of what I say is true.



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  1. says:

    I think I am open-minded to your ideas

  2. Carl Thoresen says:

    Hi HB
    Time to get together? What times work for you in the coming 2 weeks? Really been enjoying your messages Let’s talk about the HOW of positive uncertainty.
    PS. Are your assumptions the same as your BELIEFS?

    Be Peace,

    Carl E. Thoresen
    Professor Emeritus
    Stanford University

    Chair, Board of Directors
    CPP, Inc.

    ” It’s not what you don’t know
    that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure that isn’t so”
    Mark Twain
    408 656 5628


  3. Tivo says:


    Do you have a primer on the creative decision making? I really like this component. It resonates with my operational definition of being centered under pressure and with uncertainty. Being centered is the state of being present, open and connected. To be un-centered is to not be present, to be closed and to be disconnected. Our nervous system can only learn and update when it is open.



    • hbgelatt says:

      Thanks for the comment. To see my book, Creative Decision Making and recent essays
      go to my website, Click on About Us, H B and a hotlink to the book.

      H B Gelatt

  4. Eugene Unger says:

    For the moment, I am uncertain how to respond. I may be openmindedly closed closed minded . Stuck . More later when my mind is open for business.



  5. Robert Leon says:


    It all sounds good,but I am curious to know how this affects your daily life. That would be an interesting and instructive blog, Sent from my iPad


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