DEALING WITH UNCERTAINTY
How do you feel when you don’t know what’s about to happen next?
If the first feelings that come to mind are “worried” or “scared” then you’re not alone.
To your primitive brain, uncertainty means danger.
It means being eaten by a tiger or running out of food and starving to death.
All well and good except that the essence of human life is uncertainty. It is everywhere.
We can’t predict the future. We can’t control other people. We can’t control external circumstances.
Hurricanes destroy our homes. People we love fall out of love with us. Our bodies change and age. Our children run away from home, or they are never able to leave. Our work is celebrated or forgotten.
Even though the threats have changed (most of us don’t have to fear being eaten by tigers every day), our fear of uncertainty persists.
Most of us try to manage our uncertainty by pretending we have a crystal ball. In other words, we make up stories in our brains about how things will be.
We think that if we know what will happen, we can feel safe.
But it’s a mistake because we aren’t really afraid of what will HAPPEN.
We are afraid of what we will FEEL.
Because when you fear uncertainty, what you really fear is what you will think and feel in the future.
It’s pretty wild when you think about it.
You are tying yourself up in knots, now, because you’re afraid you may have negative thoughts and feelings in the future.
You’re afraid that if someone leaves you, you will feel grief, or if you fail you will feel shame – or whatever else your brain dreams up to torment you.
I have some great news for you:
You have power over your thoughts and feelings, and that is all you can be certain of.
Because even the actions you could take now to create more certainty in your life – signing legal contracts, making marriage vows, creating elaborate plans for all scenarios – they’re all illusions.
You can be certain about one thing and one thing only: how you will show up for yourself and in your own life. That’s it, my friend.
There are no guarantees beyond that.
I’m sorry and you’re welcome.
Because now that we’ve cleared out that clutter, we can dive into the real solution to the crippling anxiety of uncertainty.
First, as with any emotion, you must allow it.
You must get comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty.
Once you can accept your anxiety and allow yourself to experience it in your body without judgment, you can dig into what’s really causing it.
Which means exploring what you’re afraid you’ll think and feel in the future.
What thoughts do I imagine I’ll have?
What feelings will those thoughts create?
The secret to dealing with uncertainty is recognizing that your future thoughts and feelings aren’t out of your control. You don’t have to just surrender to whatever your brain might decide to think.
If you fear being fired, you don’t have to just resign yourself to thinking “I’m a worthless person” and feeling ashamed if it happens.
If you can choose what to think and feel on purpose (you can), and if you are willing to experience any emotion without making it mean anything about you or your worth, then you don’t really have anything to fear, do you?
No imagined or real future experience can take that away from you.
Do you want to give your unmanaged mind power over what thoughts and feelings you will experience in the future?
You don’t have to know what the future holds.
You just have to know that you will manage your mind, whatever the outcome.
You have to know that you will be in charge of what you think and feel no matter what.
And rather than assuming you know the best outcome, you can even decide that whatever happens IS the best outcome.
Just because you decided to believe it is.
There have been many times in my life where I was very sure I knew what “should” happen – which really just meant, what I wanted to happen.
And now I’m so glad that those things – jobs, relationships, experiences – didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.
Because I wouldn’t have the life I have now, which I choose every day to love.
So when I am struggling with uncertainty, I remind myself that I don’t need to know what will happen.
All I need to know is how I will choose to think and feel about it when it does.
The only certainty you need in life is that you can manage your mind no matter what happens and that you can love whatever life you have.
When you know that, there are no risks you’re not willing to take.
No experiences you’re not willing to show up for.
No existence you aren’t willing to have.
And of that, you can be certain.