11 Ways to love and embrace uncertainty
We all have to face uncertainty in life. In fact, it is one of the top contributors for anxiety, depression and stress these days. There are ways to love and embrace uncertainty and it makes sense to see uncertainty as your friend rather than your foe because just about everything in life is uncertain.
Will my partner love me and be faithful?
Will I be a success or a failure?
Will this be the right decision?
Will I end up regretting this choice I have made?
Will I get ill?
Will this make me happy or unhappy?
What if things don’t work out?
What if I make a fool of myself?
Most of us hate uncertainty. Research has shown that we would rather know that there will be a negative outcome than not know at all! So what can we do to increase our intolerance to uncertainty? We can’t increase levels of certainty, (it’s just not possible to have 100% certainty) so let’s get started on ways to love and embrace uncertainty:
1. See uncertainty as exciting rather than stressful
Our thoughts lead to feelings and these feelings act as our compass, guiding our behaviour. If our thinking is negative, our emotions will be too and our behaviour will be in line with the negative behaviour. We will either avoid or approach with dread. When we change our thinking, we alter the cycle – enhancing our emotions and behaviour. It’s true that we often look negatively upon uncertainty.We tend not to like not knowing the outcome but this doesn’t mean the outcome will be negative.
2. Imagine having 100% certainty!?
Imagine how awful it would be to know exactly how everything is going to unfold. It would reduce our motivation and possibly leave us feeling hopeless in many ways. I would hate to know the date when I will die. Imagine living with this knowledge? When you think about it, there are many benefits to not knowing the outcome. It means that anything is still possible. Hooray for that!
3. The ‘end result’ is the same for all of us so why not see life as an adventure and experiment. What have you got to lose?
Sorry to get morbid here but we come into this world alone and we leave it alone. What you do with your time in between is up to you. I like to see my life as open to opportunity and adventure. I don’t like to miss out and I certainly won’t let uncertainty scare me off. I have trained my brain to enjoy and embrace uncertainty. I no longer see it as something to fear (most of the time). Uncertainty means that all possibilities still exist. The future is unknown but it makes me feel like a kid at Christmas – all those presents but I don’t know what’s in them. The anticipation is far more exciting than if I knew what was inside each wrapped gift. This is how I see uncertainty. A great unfolding surprise.
4. See uncertainty as a good thing
The key is to train your brain to see uncertainty as a positive in your life. I remind myself regularly of the benefits of uncertainty and focus far less on the disadvantages. I can’t change the fact that there is so much uncertainty so I don’t waste time dwelling too much on the negatives. It’s unhelpful and it causes negative emotions such as anxiety and fear,
5. Reframe your version of failure
We all worry about failure and it looms in our lives threatening to bring us down. The thing is, failure can only have a hold on you if you see it as threatening. Some people associate failing at something as a reflection of their self-worth. This association is inaccurate. I see failure as giving up altogether. I don’t think of myself as failing if I have tried 20 different things that haven’t worked. Determination is a positive trait, apathy isn’t.
6. Love the idea of the unknown. Anything can happen
Endless possibilities and opportunities await. It’s okay if you don’t know what they are. Try not to let your mind bog you down with “what if” type thinking. This is when the fear sets in and causes problems. Instead, tell yourself that you will “cross that bridge when you get to it”. We could all wallow in our limiting self-beliefs, fears and doubts and not get anywhere. We don’t know what will happen – know the difference between real problems (the dishwasher has just broken down) and hypothetical problems (What if my latest idea doesn’t work and people think I’m a loser?). Embrace uncertainty and opportunities will emerge that you didn’t see previously.
7. Positive expectancy
Strange things happen you you learn to focus on the idea that good things could happen. When you are able to dismiss your fears and worries and still get on with your day, they lose their impact. Tell yourself in the morning that it’s going to be a good day. Sure, it may not turn out that way but it’s a lot better for your mood to expect a good day. Some clients I see tell me that they like to keep their expectations low so that they aren’t disappointed. This is crazy. By doing this you limit your opportunities and your self-limiting thinking will keep your life small and uneventful. Remember the end result is the same for us all – do you really want to live like that? When you embrace uncertainty, you will gain confidence over time.
I once interviewed people in an old age home and not one of them said they wished they’d tried less and been more cautious. Almost all of them said they wish they had been more adventurous and tried more new things. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
8. Look at new events as opportunities rather than as a threat
The unknown doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad. Break that association – it’s not true. We are programmed to be cautious. We had to be millions of years ago to survive. We had to keep an eye out for predators and be aware of danger. The nature of that danger has changed, our world is different but our brain programming hasn’t quite caught up yet. feel the fear and do it anyway.
9. Get used to the idea of addressing things as they arise instead of constantly planning ahead
We all do things to try stay safe and we are constantly scrambling to feel safe and certain. We check and recheck, we procrastinate on making decisions, we ask others for reassurance or we avoid things altogether. This is because we have tried to predict the future and have somehow thought about all that could go wrong. What about all that could go right? Get into the habit of doing a risk assessment (for example – jumping off a tall building is probably not a good idea) but then get on with it. Get back to living and stop overthinking every possible catastrophe.
10. Use positive affirmations
There are a few affirmations that I like to repeat to myself. They keep me from allowing my fears to overtake me.
I often tell myself, “No matter what comes my way I will find a way to deal with it”. You could tell yourself something like this too. Remind yourself of your resilience and how far you have come. Find a few phrases that provide you with comfort and help you to feel safe. It could be a famous quote you love or something your parents told you when you were young. As long as it provides some comfort and helps you to connect with your inner strength, use it.
11. Invite more uncertainty into your life
We spend our lives chasing certainty instead of just accepting that uncertainty is something we all need to live with. Resisting uncertainty is wasted energy. Instead use uncertainty to your advantage. Learn to love the angle of surprise. The adventure of life awaits you.
No one can live a life with 100% certainty. You can change your attitude and embrace uncertainty. When we avoid trying out things because we fear failure, rejection etc, we never get to reality test our thinking and the fearful thoughts will continue to control us. When we approach and try things out, even if things don’t always turn out as you’d like, the experience will teach you that you actually cope. The world doesn’t come to an end and this is what you need to build your confidence. It increases your sense of “self efficacy“.