How to Embrace Uncertainty as Part of an Interesting Life

There's a task I'm avoiding right now.  So far, I've procrastinated for most of a week.  Why?  I'm filled with uncertainty about dealing with it.  It's something I've never done before, and I'm afraid I won't be able to figure it out.  It's an important task that needs to be done, and I'm worried I'll mess it up.  When I even think about tackling it, I get anxious.  I feel the tension in my body – my neck tightens and my pulse speeds up.  So I look for something else to do.

I think most of us respond this way to something we don't know.  We desire certainty, so we tend to limit ourselves.  Why step out of the old familiar path that has always worked before?  Why not just stay in that comfortable rut?

foggy road

Uncertainty is the place where we learn.

If you think about it, too much certainty is boring.  Who wants to read a book or watch a movie when you're absolutely certain of the outcome?  Even if you have some idea that all will be well in the end, you crave those twists and turns, when the hero or heroine is blocked, frustrated, or in peril and needing to figure a way out.

And don't we admire the cleverness and perseverance of that main character?  Don't we find out more about his strengths, or about the weaknesses she struggles to overcome, and don't we vicariously experience a bit of exultation when he triumphs in the end?

Without uncertainty, we don't have to access our bravery, creativity, or ingenuity.  We don't have to consult anyone else or ever ask for some help.

5 ways to attempt something new and scary

Embracing uncertainty doesn't come naturally.  We like to stand on solid ground.  We love that illusion that we're in control of things.  Are there ways to appreciate uncertainty and approach it bravely?

1.  Acknowledge it.

One sign that you're feeling uncertainty is the impulse to avoid.  Go ahead and notice how you feel, physically and emotionally.

2.  See the opportunity in it.

Notice your physical and emotional reactions to these questions:

  • What are the positive outcomes of dealing with or learning from this situation?  
  • What are the negative results of continuing to neglect it?  
  • How will I feel once I've gone through the experience and come out the other side?  

3.  Commit to it.

Instead of sticking with the predictable, commit to doing something different.  Face the task or situation, one step at a time.

4.  Ask for help with it.

Consult instructions or a manual, or ask someone else who's already done it for advice.  If the uncertainty is in a relationship, ask the person you're dealing with for patience.  Ask her what she needs from the situation, and share your needs too.  

When we're vulnerable and admit we don't have all the answers, that's often when help is offered or inspiration strikes.

5.  Rejoice in it.

Take satisfaction from the knowledge that you are capable of learning and growing.  Be glad that you have resources (intelligence, talents, experiences, etc.) that you can apply to the situation.  Appreciate the fact that you don't have to be an old stick-in-the-mud and that you can still surprise yourself.

Uncertainty is part of an interesting life, and we really should be grateful for the opportunities it offers.

And now I need to take my own advice!

The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow if I can....
Still 'round the corner there may wait
A new road or secret gate....

J. R. R. Tolkien

Updated May 2023


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