What do we usually do when faced with a cold, deep, dark lake’s worth of uncertainty?
Our natural tendency as humans is to run away, procrastinate, make excuses or act out. We do almost anything to avoid dealing with uncertainty.
Why? Because uncertainty can cause discomfort, insecurity or pain. It makes us feel helpless. It makes us feel like we’re not in control.
So, our brain urges us to return to what’s comfortable. To what we know (or think we know).
But what if we practiced being comfortable with uncertainty?
Someone, somewhere once said “Our only guarantee in life is uncertainty”.
If the only thing that’s certain is uncertainty – if it’s ever-present – we might as well find ways to accept it and work with it. Right? Otherwise, we’re constantly running away from our reality.
We need to learn to let go of past conditioning and be willing to step into the unknown. To dive off the platform into the lake, despite not knowing how deep it is, or what might be lurking in the dark water.
When we try to control everything, we limit possibilities. We need to learn to let go of what we can’t control.
Surrounding ourselves with a safe environment of clarity, comfort and predictability means we don’t get to grow, we don’t push our boundaries of possibility, we don’t get to learn.
So let’s look at things from a different perspective and flip them on their head:
- Does it matter how deep the water is? No, not if you’re an able swimmer?
- Does it matter that the water is dark? No, especially if it means no one can see your wobbly thighs. :)
- Does it matter that it’s cold? No, not if it means you’ll come out feeling refreshed and invigorated?
Does ANY of what you don’t know matter, if you really need to get to the other side of the lake, come hell or dark water, and you don’t have a boat?
Enn Ohh, no! You don’t deliberate. You jump in, grit your teeth and doggy-paddle.
And before long, the discomfort becomes forgotten. You start enjoying the feel of the water on your skin. You focus on seeing how far you can stretch yourself. And expand your possibilities and opportunities.
Yet, in our day-to-day, when there isn’t an emergency, it’s easy to be fooled by our brains into thinking of all the reasons why we shouldn’t, because of what we don’t know.
So, how do we get better at dealing with uncertainty?
We exercise our emotional intelligence and orient our internal locus of control.
What this means is, we need to get good at making decisions and taking action in the face of uncertainty.
“As the environment around you changes, you can either attribute success and failure to things you have control over, or to forces outside your influence.”
Practice making choices.
Everything is a choice.
We get to choose what we have control over. And we get to choose to be comfortable with what we cannot control.
There are other exercises you can do to improve your ability to deal with uncertainty.
Travis Bradberry writes about 11 ways to overcome it, explaining the science bit behind why our brains overreact to uncertainty and what emotionally intelligent people do to get around this.
Tiny Buddha founder Lori Deschene shares some useful tips on handling uncertainty which focus on decreasing anxiety and improving opportunities for happiness.
So, make the choice to get comfortable with discomfort!
l’ll leave you with this mantra about accepting uncertainty. Give it a go in front of the mirror, or include it in your morning affirmations, or when faced with something that makes you feel insecure.
Repeat after me:
“Today I will factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. In my willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, out of the confusion, disorder, and chaos. The more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure I will feel, because uncertainty is my path to freedom. Through the wisdom of uncertainty, I will find my security.”
Now, go out there and do something uncomfortable that you don’t have all the answers for.
And see what happens. :)
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