To be or not to be

At the core of becoming antifragile is the ability to take good decisions when facts are in short supply and the outcome is difficult to predict.

Our key to unlocking this ability is a powerful idea that runs invisibly through almost every aspect of our culture. It is the hidden pattern gave Shakespeare’s Hamlet his most famous line, “To be, or not to be.” It shapes the defining mantra of the world’s most powerful nation: “You can become anything you want to.” And it sits behind the universal structure of the Hero’s Journey, which runs through almost every spellbinding, bestselling story ever told: from Casablanca to Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Breaking Bad.

This is the idea that we might one day grow to fulfil our destiny, our identity.

Our identity, the person we think we are, determines the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the cars we drive (or don’t). It shapes the jobs we choose, the ways we vote, and the people who become our friends, lovers, and life-partners. Who we think we are determines every action we take: whether we follow the well-worn path or the road less travelled.

And in a time of change, this small but powerful idea becomes even more important, for four very important reasons. Two of these reasons are problems and two are opportunities:

  1. The first is that change brings us challenges that make it harder to do the things we are used to doing and to have the things we are used to having. The reason these changes become difficult is when they challenge our identity.
  2. The second reason is that when these challenges arise in a time of change they often force us to make choices we’d rather not make, at times we’d rather not make them.
  3. The third reason is that if we approach these decisions in the right way they can actually become opportunities — to get clearer on what matters most to us and who we most want to become.
  4. The fourth reason this matters is that the clearer we become about who we are willing to be (and not to be), and the reasons why, the quicker and easier these choices become  and the more inspired we will feel each morning to get up and do whatever we have chosen to do.

In a time of change, knowing more clearly who we want to be and who we want not to be, and why, is a powerful method both for defining what success looks like for us and achieving that success.

This is the fourth step to becoming antifragile.

When faced with significant, unpredictable change, with little or no data or information to rely on, how quickly and easily do you choose what action to take? Would you like to become faster at this?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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