Check Your Vibes: 10 Reasons To Embrace Uncertainty
Spiders and dark rooms suck and all, but the most bone-chilling things in life are usually those we can’t see at all. The biggest culprit? Not knowing what’s going to happen next. People hate uncertainty, and how could we not? If we aren’t completely sure how to plan for the future, how can we possibly have full control of our lives? Uncertainty surrounds us 24/7, and most of us react to that reality by pushing it off to the side and pretending life is safely predictable despite the fact that at the end of the day, we have no idea what our future, let alone our lunch today, is going to look like.
It’s easy to ultimately trace nearly every source of stress or anxiety back to that scary feeling of just not-knowing. Relationship problems get to us because we’re uncertain of who we’ll “end up with” or if we’re destined to die alone. Money problems get to us because we don’t know whether we’ll ever feel more financially secure, or whether we’ll be able to eat anything other than Ramen next week. Work stress gets to us because we don’t know what the future of our career looks like or even what the colleague sitting at the next desk really thinks of us. It’s not our fault we get so worked up by this — human minds like patterns and order! When any problem comes without a set path (which is just about every problem), or even worse — the path we thought we knew turns out to be leading in the wrong direction or nonexistent — we tend to get straight up panicky.
We don’t know the rules of life. We think we do. We think that X amount of hard work or X amount of cautiousness will get us the things we want, but we can never be sure what is a true correlation and what is simply an act of pure chance. Some of us feel more certain than others, even absolutely sure that life will never change much, but nothing is ever guaranteed. I don’t say all this to freak you out and ruin your day. I say this because this constant uncertainty is the best thing that ever happened to us!
I’ve read that at his seminars, self-help guru Tony Robbins sometimes encourages the whole audience to applaud for participants whenever they begin a question with “I’m confused.” Think what you want about the dude and his questionable business tactics, but that’s a pretty fascinating move. It seems he wants to remind people that confusion is good, because most of us (myself included) have the impulse to assume confusion means something is wrong and to avoid it as much as possible. Instead, acknowledging how little we know is the first step on the path to embracing uncertainty and benefiting from it.
Hiding from confusion and using any means possible to avoid it in life is a dead end. Goals and dreams and happiness have different meanings for everyone, but it’s pretty safe to assume that hiding from uncertainty is a ticket to the exact life you never hoped you’d lead. Finding joy requires taking risks and opting to head down paths that are terrifying to you. Knowing exactly what will happen next and hiding within the safe confines of your miserable comfort zone makes you dull, unadventurous and unhappy. Life contains more possibilities than we could possibly recognize on our own, and that lack of knowing is what makes it possible for strange and beautiful changes to take place.
So friends, if any of you are at an unknown fork in the road of your lives, feeling as if your whole sense of reality was pulled out from beneath you, and are dumbfounded about where to go next (can I assume that’s most of us?), you are more than okay right now! It may be impossible to feel good about that uncertainty, at least in the moment, but if you can, try to lean into it. Ease into it if that’s all you can muster. Gratification is on the way for your effort. Here’s why this uncertainty is a great thing.
- It keeps us aware of the world around us.
- It teaches us to appreciate each moment and season of our life because we don’t know how long it will last.
- It shakes up our mental ruts and forces us to dream up new paths and make new associations.
- It allows us to create our own sense of meaning in an ever-changing world.
- It leads us to the liberating realization that, at the end of the day, there aren’t really many rules (except not killing/being shitty to people, that’s totally still a rule). We can make our own satisfaction however we want to, whether it’s a previously-recognized way of doing life’s milestones or our own invention.
- It allows us to see things in this world, both literally and on a more emotional level, that we never even noticed before.
- If we’re lucky, it makes us better at going with the flow of life, because really, that’s the only choice we’ve got — and that makes our blood pressure a lot happier.
- It enables us to take bigger risks, because even seemingly “stable” choices don’t come with any guarantees anyway.
- It helps us prove our greatest fears wrong.
- It allows life a chance to deliver the kind of magic we would never have even thought to choose for ourselves if we’d had complete control.
I’ve always hated those inspirational posters of a chick, like, dancing on the edge of a beautiful cliff next to text that implores us to “Take A Leap” or what have you. (Like the photo above of the lady with the balloons — what is she doing?) I mean, how do you know that leap won’t result in falling flat on your face? I’ve long wondered how I could ever take that old cliche seriously, but here’s the thing: there really isn’t any other choice. Once we accept that uncertainty will follow us wherever we go, and that hiding from it mostly leads to the misery of predictability, it’s easier to understand that taking risks and hoping for the best is a necessity. It doesn’t have to be one epic storybook leap in which you risk everything you have, but rather, a series of calculated risks made with the faith that you’ll be able to handle the results. Those leaps may not land how you thought they would (do they ever?), but they’ll lead you towards a future that is right for you, one bumpy, uncertain path at a time.