To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually know the answer to this yet. I’m still trying to learn how to regularly cope with the uncertainty that life frequently comes with, but it seems like this is a common and collective objective. Trying to find meaning, stability and a sense of acceptance in the unknown future is part of the fundamental human experience attempting to gain more clarity for our present lives.
Nonetheless, here’s what seems to work to get to a point where tolerance to ambiguity is attainable:
- Be kind to yourself: How we talk to and treat ourselves spills over into how we perceive the rest of the world and everyone in it. With negative self-talk, you bring yourself down along with others: misery loves company. The best way to combat this is to treat that never-ending stream of negative mental chatter as a pestering voice external to yourself (you can even give it a name) and try to come up with just as many reasons for why something may go right in response to any and all worries about the worst-case what-ifs. Doing so regularly starts to reframe your mindset as you go from ruminating on how-can-things-get-even-worse to things-just-keep-on-getting-better-and-better. It helps to surround yourself with optimistic people who can show you how they see you.
- Focus on what’s in your control: If you’re currently going through something stressful, such as looking for a job yet to no avail, all you can really attend to is developing a solid resume or portfolio and network until you find the opportunities that are right for you. Beyond that, the hiring choices made are out of your hands. If you dwell on how you’re not seeing the results of your efforts yet, that just eats away at the precious time you could be using to either further your productivity in that domain or to enjoy some downtime and relax. I’ve wasted years of my life worrying when I should have been focusing on doing. Taking a quick stretch, watching an episode, reading a chapter, calling a friend, or getting back to a lower-pace research grind is far better than staring off into the distance paralyzed with racing thoughts. It’s not helpful. Actions snap yourself out of that.
- Try something new and fail at it: Take the pressure of perfectionism and stagnation off your shoulders and try doing the thing you’ve always talked about wanting to try but never actually getting around to it or having the time to do it. You do have time. People make time for things that are important to them. You’re just scared of finding out that you may actually suck at it. That’s okay. It’s totally human. But once you know the extent to which you’ve failed, you’ve effectively established a starting point. Now you can only improve with consistency, practice and patience. It’s better to fail until more time passes between each attempt and eventually leads to success (and your last failure) rather than to regret never having tried it at all. Your progress may surprise you.
You’re not alone. No one really knows what they’re doing. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for the perfect life, and I think it’s admirable that we’re all trying hard in so many different ways to develop lives full of peaceful and happy moments. True success, I believe, is about living a life you don’t need to regularly escape from; you can enjoy it as is. We may never gain proper clarity on what our purpose is. We can lose ourselves in the endless chase trying to attain that meaning. Maybe there’s some meaning in trying to find meaning. Maybe there is no such thing as meaning; maybe meaning is a reflection of the importance and worth we place on ourselves and what we believe we have to offer the world we’re in.
The very idea and act of enjoying life isn’t getting in the way of any goal you may have – it IS the goal.
The only certainty is uncertainty, so if you’re looking for some stable ground in that domain, at least there’s that. Knowing that you won’t know everything has a certain relief to it. You can only do your best with what you know, so appreciate that which you do and let go of the rest. Worry only when it’s time to.
I hoped this helped you reading it as much as it helped me writing it.
2 thoughts on “How-To Cope With Certain Uncertainty”
I love #3. In fact, my word for the year IS ‘fail’. Not to do things half-assedly and fail, but to not fear failing and letting that dictate what I do or don’t do. Thanks so much for this!
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That is so awesome to hear! We often get so caught up in the pesky “what if I fail” or “what if things go wrong” kind of thoughts when trying something new that we may forget to consider the positive alternatives like “what if I succeed” and “what if things unfold better than I could ever have imagined.” We have to risk failure for the chance at success. Thank you so much for your comment!