The Essential Role of Doubt

When we projected forward into our fabulous adult lives as children, we saw ourselves situated in comfortable lives, surrounded by family and friends, with our activities driven by our own wants and not someone else’s have-tos.  In the intervening time from the dream to this future reality, we would have gotten things all sorted and figured out – we expect to magically know the right thing at the right time always.


doubtThe idea that doubt will filter out of our lives as we grow into adulthood and be replaced with certainty in all things is never really discussed, but widely held.  Being truly grown up means somehow to have it all figured out.  But why?  Why do we see doubt and uncertainty as childish and unworthy?  Why do we think that absolute certainty is a desirable trait?


Perhaps we confuse certainty with confidence, a characteristic which does seem to be a hinge for a good life.  But confidence isn’t knowing that ‘I know all that there is to know about a thing’ (certainty), rather that ‘I know that I have the wherewithal to figure out how to get what I need to go where I want to go – including collaborating with others who hold knowledge or skills which I will need’.


What does certainty do for us?  Think of the Europeans in the 1400s who were dead certain that the world was flat, or the later folk who thought that diseases could be removed from the body through bloodletting – we shake our heads at these notions.  So who is to say that ideas upon which we are certain now won’t sooner or later be proven askew with more study?


There are concrete things upon which we should be certain – I know that it would be a bad idea to walk out in front of a moving vehicle, and I must keep myself hydrated, and gravity will affect which way water flows when spilled.  But ideas and the flow of cause and effect?  At a recent talk an example was given of an engineer and a physicist discussing cause and effect around the deep marks in carpeting that are created by a table leg.  The engineer stated that the table leg was the cause of the marking and the physicist stated that the marking was the effect that gravity had upon the table leg.  Both were equally certain of their theories, based upon their learning and experience.


Did doubt prick one or the other after that discussion?  I hope so, it might lead to a greater understanding of gravity, cause and effect – or some other break through idea.  Doubt goes hand in hand with curiosity and logic and yearning.  Uncomfortable as doubt might be where certainty seems to offer comfort.


Doubt causes us to verify, to confirm – we look broader, dig deeper and push further into a thing to assure validity.  The next time that you feel doubt, welcome it – ask doubt what prompted it to appear?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

2 responses to “The Essential Role of Doubt

  1. Excellent, thought-provoking post. We all need to embrace our doubts!

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