7 mindset positions of moving Towards Safer Uncertainty

Are you a leader or team member currently grappling with an unknown future? Read on and let’s explore 7 mindsets that can support you in moving Towards Safer Uncertainty.


The premise of this approach is recognising that we often confuse safety with certainty. One of the goals is to distinguish more clearly between that which genuinely keeps us safe and our drive for certainty. This allows us to move towards safer uncertainty. It requires a deliberate mindset.

Firstly, I want to begin by acknowledging and respecting that life is really stressful for a lot of people at the moment.

I recognise I sit in a position of relative security. My life hasn’t changed that much compared to some:

  • I am not frontline

  • I’m self-employed and familiar with periods of isolation

  • I’m able to exercise most days which is how I re-boot

  • I can do quite a lot of my work online

  • I have clients who can, and still want to engage

You could say I have a choice. And unless you are genuinely unsafe, you have the choice too.


Your attitude to uncertainty can lead to creativity and possibility, or to fear and paralysis. Your mindset determines which.

Author and psychotherapist Barry Mason created a framework outlining 7 mindset positions* that you can choose when moving towards positions of safer uncertainty, and therefore positions of creativity and possibility.

  1. Authoritative doubt
    Hold your beliefs and knowledge with ‘authoritative doubt’ - a balance of your expertise and your uncertainty.

  2. State of flow
    Nothing is fixed. Everything is always in a state of flow - you know ‘this too will pass.’

  3. Respectful, collaborative and evolving: The narrative of your life [and work] is respectful, collaborative and evolving – you are in a constant state of impermanence (The paradox isn’t lost on me). You look for what is required now, and adapt and respond.

  4. Alongside: New explanations are viewed curiously and add to, rather than replace existing thinking – you think ‘As-Well-As’ and look for ‘And-Both’ possibilities.

  5. Enquiry:  When unexpected things happen, you get curious - you choose enquiry over grasping for definition.

  6. Meaning: You explore meaning and messages rather than argue about facts – you see dilemma’s not as problems to be fixed, but as messages to learn from.

  7. Dilemmas: You see ‘solutions’ as dilemmas that are simply less of a dilemma than you had before – you know that a problem often doesn’t have a simple resolution and there doesn’t always have to be an answer.

*From Towards Positions of Safe Uncertainty: Barry Mason: Human Systems: The Journal of Systemic Consultation and Management. Vol 4. 1993 189-200

Towards Safer Uncertainty mindset considerations for leaders and teams

The leaders and teams experiencing high levels of stress now are those struggling to comprehend what the future is going to look like for themselves, their organisation and the sector they exist within.

If this is you, here are some considerations that embrace the Towards Safer Uncertainty mindset.

  • What would enable you and your team/s to progress with authoritative doubt?

  • Could you use authoritative doubt as an approach to provide ‘just enough’ direction?

  • What might you have to accept about the goal posts moving?

  • Could you reach agreement that you might have to undertake work that may never be realised or even utilized?

  • Could you reach agreement about how your skillsets and capabilities might need to be flexible, and differently deployed?

  • What understanding and agreements might need to be in place to make this approach easier for all involved?

  • Does your organisation culture currently support this type of approach?

  • If not (and you think it would be beneficial), what needs to shift?

  • What might make that shift possible?

  • What conversations are required and with whom?

  • What permissions might you need to seek?



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