In a letter to the French scientist, Jean Baptiste Le Roy, dated November 13, 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.
If uncertainty is one of Life’s constant companions, why aren’t we more comfortable being uncertain? Why isn’t it more of a friend than a foe?
My late father would say: “Man proposes and God disposes” when things didn’t go according to plan. Sometimes he was philosophical about it, but mostly he got upset.
We’re not really taught how to befriend uncertainty from a young age, so it’s not surprising to see a myriad of reactions from people.
At school I would hear the mantras: “Life’s unfair!” and “Get used to it!” (usually delivered in varying aggressive tones). However, no-one explained how to achieve that – so I tried to find out for myself.
Here are some of my tips from my experiments with befriending uncertainty.
Acceptance is key
Uncertainty isn’t going to go away, so accept it as part of life. It’s natural.
Once you allow that thought in, it may feel uncomfortable but you get used to it in time.
It will shake you
If you don’t like uncertainty then you’re not alone. It’s going to have some impact, so be honest with how you feel. The next step is to work on resilience so your reaction is proportionate to the circumstances.
It will thrill you
Not all uncertainty is bad. Ask any thrill-seeker, gamer, sports person, scientist, cook or a fan of detective fiction. Life would be dull indeed if we led predictable robotic lives!
Gratitude helps bring perspective
We tend to focus on what’s going wrong in our lives, and ignore or take for granted what we have. That’s a skewed perspective, and one that can be easily corrected with gratitude.
Reminding ourselves each day of what we are grateful for highlights what’s really important, and helps us to see again with fresh eyes. The little things matter.
Let go of expectations
This is the best lesson I learned. Instead of trying to control outcomes, do the work but let go of the expectation of a result.
If it works out as you wanted then great! If it doesn’t then it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t disturb your happiness either way.
It’s a tough one to learn, but if you manage it, you can flow through life lightly and with joy.
Doorway to new opportunities
Uncertainty heralds change. If you resist change then you’ll miss out on taking new pathways that could enrich your life.
Ask yourself “what is the opportunity for me here?”. It could be simply to rest more, learn a new skill, do something you love or change careers entirely.
Lose the “worry fat”
We all know that worrying doesn’t help but we do it anyway. We are strengthening the worry habit and building up the “worry fat”. This isn’t good for our mental or physical health!
The most effective way I’ve found to “burn off the worry fat” is meditation. This trains the mind to slow down and eventually become still.
Try it – it works! But like exercise, you need to do it regularly to see the results.
Uncertainty is your teacher
Uncertainty can help us learn more about ourselves and find better ways of handling circumstances. In this respect I think of it as a teacher.
If I lose perspective, over-think or react in a negative way, it’s showing me what I need to work on. For me Life is the greatest teacher.
Keep calm and carry on!
We are in this extraordinary world for an uncertain time. Let’s reconnect to the wonder of it all to appreciate and enjoy life!