Uncertainty is inherent in this human experience. No matter how much we try to control, organize, dominate, and manipulate, we can never completely achieve a perfectly predictable life. Sometimes, life does go according to plan, and this strengthens the belief that if we just keep trying, we can eliminate uncertainty. Other times, things go totally sideways and we realize that we are deluding ourselves thinking that we’re in control of anything. Our task then becomes, how to live with this uncertainty? Now, granted that some have a higher tolerance for uncertainty than others, we could all do with expanding our capacity to thrive in an unpredictable world. Here are a few strategies to consider next time you feel overwhelmed with uncertainty.
The first strategy is to face up to your emotions. I have the tendency to bottle up my difficult emotions, so my work is to acknowledge that anxiety is arising from uncertainty and meet it head on. Investigate what is triggering it. What am I really afraid of? In this way, we can become intimately aware of the emotions we’re experiencing and perhaps start to erode away their foothold in triggering anxiety.
The second strategy is to channel worry into useful actions. A lot of times, I’ll find myself ruminating over things that I can’t control at all. In those moments, I pivot towards using that energy to lay the foundation for a better outcome by doing research, practicing a skill that I need for the task at hand, listing out pros and cons, or talking with someone who has gone through a similar situation. It’s important to find that delicate balance between doing enough to calm your nerves but not so much that you are obsessing and letting the situation take over your life.
The next strategy is a buzzword that’s everywhere – self care. Hopefully we all know what self care looks like to us, so now it’s time to put it into practice. For me, it’s reading a book, doing a yoga practice for myself, a good meal, and being around water. This can be a healthy counterbalance to the first two strategies. Self care allows us to come back to the situation we’re dealing with with renewed clarity and calm.
Finally, at some point, we have to accept that uncertainty is simply a part of life. I have to remind myself over and over that life is the way it is, and my suffering comes from wanting it to be different. That doesn’t mean that I’m pessimistic or nihilistic, but rather that I am striving to be realistic about the nature of this life. When faced with uncertainty, I try to open to this reality and the emotions that come with it without wishing them away before they’ve taught me what I need to know.
I’ll end with one of my favorite Rumi poems which fits in well with this theme. Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful for you in our journey to manage the uncertainties of life.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.