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Navigating the Uncertainty of “New”

New is so often in a phrase followed by an exclamation point and understood to convey feelings of excitement, anticipation, and adventure. Happy New Year! Congratulations on the new job… new baby… new home…. However, new also comes with a lot of uncertainty, and navigating uncertainty can get a little overwhelming. Before you know it, new isn’t so exciting.

Over the past year, my life has been filled with a lot of new, both personally and professionally. I’ve experienced the excitement and adventure part of new, but I’ve also spent time navigating the uncertainty. And it’s the uncertainty side of new that I’d like to focus on.

For me, 2018 included new responsibilities in my role as a project manager — participating in projects with new-to-me learning solutions and getting to know new clients. Exciting, yes! But also challenging enough to leave me feeling uncomfortable at times.

As a result, two questions came to mind:

  • Am I adequate for the new task at hand?
  • Am I experiencing what anyone would experience given the same situation?

Am I adequate for the new task at hand?
To be honest— there are two things going on in this question. There’s something slightly intangible as it relates to feelings, but there’s also the question of actual skill. One way for me to answer this question was to find a trusted colleague who I knew would be truthful with her evaluation of my ability to navigate the new task. My chosen colleague was able to provide the appropriate encouragement (“You’ve got this!”) and the appropriate direction on how to help close the skill gap (“Do X, and then you will be confident that you’ve got this!”). Essentially, good feedback addressed my feelings and skills for the new task at hand.

Am I experiencing what anyone would experience given the same situation?
The question is really one of perspective. I found that intentionally seeking out someone who has walked through a similar situation proved helpful. Listening to the experiences of others becomes invaluable when there’s a shared pain point. Reaching out gave me a better perspective in evaluating whether my pain point was unique to me, or whether it’s common, or at least probable, for anyone new to the task.

My Real-Life Experience
Recently, tackling a new scenario-based e-learning left me with the aforementioned uncertainty — I wasn’t confident (feeling) that the new programming approach (skill) was aligning to the instructional goal (perspective).

While it took more than one colleague to guide me, I was able to get the honest feedback that was needed:

  • Consulting with an experienced media developer confirmed that the pain points of getting the programming to work as intended was indeed a bit tricky, but that the end result was an efficient programming approach.
  • By talking with another instructional designer, I learned that she too had struggled with an effective way to bring this type of scenario to life.
  • Finally, having a target audience learner pilot the interaction helped me confirm the effectiveness of the learning technique.

Admittedly, it takes time to gather feedback from multiple reviewers, but it was worth it. Each person played a significant role in helping me transform the uncertainly of new to the confidence of experience.

In a nutshell, navigating the uncertainty of new takes…time…practice…and persistence.

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