Home » Blogs » Leveraging Adversity » Uncertainty: The Path to Creativity?

Uncertainty: The Path to Creativity?

creativity photo


In our ever-changing world, it seems that creativity is no longer the side dish – it’s the main course. We hear it all the time. We need innovation, new solutions to tired problems, and “out of the box” thinking. In many ways, it’s timeless wisdom. Let us not forget the story of David and Goliath. David didn’t beat Goliath with might. He beat him with an innovative skill, and one that was perfected in the most unlikely of ways – through protecting his flock.


But the creativity that we long for, might also be found in the very thing that most of us avoid: uncertainty.


Because it is in the uncertainty that we are released from the very conventions that restrict creative thinking. It is when things do not have to follow a strict pattern, meet a familiar mold, or inbred expectations, that we bridge that gap between what we expect, and what we haven’t yet imagined. It is here that we come to know our most creative selves. The selves that are not bound, and not married to, knowing what happens next.


But it is also in the uncertainty that we are freed from our imperfections. Certainty, after all, depends on things being right. And when we are not allowed to be uncertain – what is known as “uncertainty avoidance” – we are not allowed to try new things that may not be right. This is also what Tim Harford, the undercover economist and author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure calls “black swans”. Black swans are like Edison’s one thousandth attempt at the light bulb, the Wright brothers Flyer III (made from the scraps of Flyer I and Flyer II), and Jonas Salk’s tinkering in the petri dish – they may be complete failures, but they may also be the next Polio vaccine. What makes the difference is our ability to tolerate the uncertainty needed to find the one creative solution that will work.


Uncertainty also is where we find the very cognitive flexibility that creativity depends on. Creativity, after all, is about bending the rules. It’s about perceiving things as they have not yet been perceived. It’s about positioning reality in a way that it has not yet been positioned. And it is about flexing your thinking in a way that allows you to see new perspectives – and new possibilities. When it comes to creativity, uncertainty is like mental yoga.


There is nothing wrong with certainty. In fact, many things rely on it. Yet all certainty exposes what certainty cannot do for us – and that is free us from the constraints of our dependence on the known. It seems that when it comes to creativity, certainty is the very box we are being told to think out of. And it might just be out of this box that we find some pretty powerful things. As Margarita Tartakovsky reminds us in her fabulous post, Twelve Creative Prompts for Connecting To Yourself, “It might be a realization that your fears aren’t as frightening as you once thought.”



Claire Dorotik-Nana is the author of Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards. For more information on Claire, or her work, just visit

Uncertainty: The Path to Creativity?

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2015). Uncertainty: The Path to Creativity?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Aug 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.