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Aims > goals: How to trust your own word in times of uncertainty.

6 minutes read

The greeks believed that everything originated from chaos. If anything, that uncertainty sounds like a creative principle to me.

You're reading Off-grid journal, a series of raw insights about scaling my design studio mindfully and traveling the world in the process. I'm Maia, and this newsletter is part of About:/Blank®

Hola amigos☺︎

Writing this issue from a 10 hour plane ride back to Asia (finally.) I am filled with joy but also savouring every single drop of uncertainty.

Yes! This issue's word is: uncertainty.

This week we're diving into how to handle uncertainty through cultivating your own toolbox of resources, the meaning (and use) of self-efficacy, how to trust your own word, and how to transform goals into actions.

In the beginning there was chaos

We typically associate uncertainty with negative emotions, stress, and anxiety. Naturally, our brains are always trying to protect us from it – a primal impulse to stay alive.

But what if uncertainty is not bad for you at all?

What if I told you that the very thing we all try to avoid is one of the biggest factors that triggers neuroplasticty*?

*the brain's ability to adapt

Important word for this issue: self-efficacy. I'll return to it.

Your brain in times of uncertainty

It's not uncertainty that is scary, what scares you is the way your brain responds to it.

Usually there are two type of responses; the system default, and the new software we want to install.


The natural response to an unclear future is rigidity. When things feel out of our control, we turn to strict systems, new routines, new Notion templates, a new productivity course/book, a new notebook ( ¯_(ツ)_/¯ that's me!), eternal etc.

Any sort of productivity porn that will make us feel some sense of control. Unfortunately all these new gadgets and airport books are just an illusion of control. That new task manager software you bought will be as flooded as your free apple notes list in no time if you don't change your mindset.

This narrative works as a crash diet, its great for the first days, weeks, and then it never sticks, and the feeling of uncertainty remains. Or grows.

This is how society responds to chaos and uncertainty: rigid systems. We've been trained for this, but it doesn't mean that we have to resign to it.

So, if rigidity is not the answer for uncertainty, then how can we respond to it in a better way?


The system update that sees uncertainty as a window of opportunity.

Rigidity is an obvious approach if you want to focus on an outcome. A more mindful approach to uncertainty is evaluating how you can focus on your output.

This means, using your energy and resources to understand which actions will move you in the right direction.

Hint: another Moleskine notebook won't.

Instead of asking yourself:
What's the goal I need to tick off to feel a sense of certainty?
A better question would be:
Which small actions can I start today that are on the path of my long-term aspirations?

P.s: fun fact! The word "crisis" in Chinese is composed of two characters: danger and opportunity(ish).

☺︎ Changing the narrative

Viewing chaos as a window of opportunity makes you reflect on actions you can take everyday, instead of obsessing on ambitious outcomes that look good on your new roadmap/to-do list. This will allow you to break free from the goal oriented mentality, which is that rigid anti-uncertainty hard shell we all unconsciously have.

Some examples that illustrate the difference between goals and aims:

Outcome oriented approach (a rigid goal-setting system):

+ 2000 subscribers by the end of the year
+ 5 new clients in Q4
+ write 10 pages for my book

Output oriented approach (a flexible actionable mindset)

+ send a newsletter issue once a week
+ reach out to one potential client every day
+ write for half an hour every morning

Archery is a beautiful way to illustrate this metaphor: focusing on hitting the target every time (goals) will not get you anywhere. Working on learning how to aim towards the right direction will land you there without even having to look at the target.

When we are so obsessed with the finish line we completely forget about the journey. The idea is to focus on the aim, and then the journey becomes the goal. It doesn't matter if you hit or not that finish line because the definition of success itself becomes enjoying that journey.

☺︎ How to cultivate Self-Efficacy to follow your purpose

Ok, so back to self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is believing in your own capacity to act in the necessary ways to reach your goals. Cultivating it is the biggest antidote to handle uncertainty in a healthy way.

This is also a long word to say: trust yourself.

This skill is crucial if we want to ditch the the "endless to-do list" approach and start focusing on recurring actions instead. If you say you're going to send a newsletter issue once a week, then you must deeply trust you own word; because cultivating self-efficacy is all about knowing that you have the skillset to do anything you say you will do.

Trusting that your word is your word. That if you say you're going to wake up early and finish that gig, there's no doubt it will happen because you trust your own word. This comes from trusting yourself, that no matter what happens you will have the tools to get through it, and the way to build that toolkit is seeing uncertainty as a beautiful way to equip yourself with better resources each time it comes around.

And I l0ve the word resource for this one because to me it speaks about something that came from the source, and becomes a re-source once you use it again and again, once you start to understand what tool serves you and when.

It clicks; you understand that the source to fight uncertainty is not a book, a course, a template. You know that the source is within. And that is when everything flows; when you know you've been in that situations so many times before, but now you feel prepared and calm. Fully equipped with relevant, contextual tools that have served you in the past.

☺︎ Transforming goals into actions

How can you transform some rigid goals in your to-do list into breakable, intentional every day actions?

Here's an example of mine:

One of my biggest goal is to print my magazine (Colectiva Magazine) and to grow About Blank. These are all writing related projects, so my recurring action would be: I will write for one hour every day.

Instead of:
- write issue 12 Colectiva
- write an article about x for a:/b
- send a newsletter issue about x for a:/b

I invite you to grab a goal of yours and do the same. And to trust your own word that you will do it.

☺︎ Special Thanks To

A HUGE Shoutout to Anne-Laure Le Cunff from Ness Labs. The aims vs goals mentality is something I learned on her Mindful Productivity cohort happening right now. If you're not subscribed to Maker Mind (her free newsletter) I coulnd't recommend it more. I'm also part of the Ness Labs community and it has brought so much clarity into my life.

Also, hi to anyone that is reading this via Ness Labs ☺︎

☺︎ Relevant Articles

Intro: mindful productivity, powered by self-reflection.
On this post I cover what this blog is about, my intention, core values and a bit about me.
Everything is Aiming
Kyūdō, the Japanese martial art of archery, offers an alternative philosophy where aims matter more than goals, and where success is the process itself.

⚄ Brain Candy

(I've shared this before, but today it feels so relevant)

✄ Mixtape

This issue is powered by a beautiful mid-air conversation with Tom, and an extremely boring but highly effective chill-hop playlist I made a while ago for coffee-less morning productivity.

✨ Thank you for reading! See ya next Issue!

If you find value in the content I write, forwarding this newsletter to a friend is an incredible cost-free way to support this publication☺︎

Stay curious


A collection of things you can do until the next issue:

☺︎ Book a free 30 min clarity call with me
☺︎ Support this publication

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