LIVING COMFORTABLY WITH UNCERTAINTY
On August 24, 2019, I published a blog entitled “Stepping Into the Unknown.” Of some 600+ blog posts, that one garnered more attention, both domestic and foreign, than almost any other post. I wondered what made it so popular and why, some 4 years later, it continues to resonate with so many people? Is it something most people have experienced? Or, if not, would they like to step off? Does it get passed along and shared with others? Is it a troubling concern about an unknown future? Worry or fear or lack of confidence? I have a few more ideas.
“Letting go of the known for the unknown requires courage, confidence and for many people a belief that there is indeed a greater power at work that we may not understand but which we have experienced previously.” That sentence may sum up the old blog post as well as any other. None of us can know for certain what lies ahead. We make plans anyway as its good to have a road map before we start the journey.
We can learn from looking back but there’s nothing we can do to change the past. We look ahead and there’s a lot we can do to prepare for the future, as uncertain as it may be. It may be true that the best way to prepare for the future is to be fully present now. There are many suggestions for how best to do that. Among all the resources, this is one of the better ones:
A comment on that earlier post hit the proverbial nail on the head. From Alli Pollin: “It’s usually not the leap that’s so painful but all of the thinking about it and wondering and crazy stuff that maybe-someday-who-knows- what-could-happen. When it comes to leaps, I figure you can determine desired results, hypothesize, take action, reflect, and adjust….”
We may spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about the outcome of a choice that might seem like a risk. Fretting seems like an appropriate word to describe worry or fear. To fret means to be discontented or annoyed and it is clear that when we are unsettled, weighing the pros and cons of a decision, that until we arrive at that point of making a conscious and intentional choice we will need to learn to live with a lack of clarity or ambiguity.
There is a psychological measure called the tolerance of ambiguity, defined as the degree to which an individual is comfortable with uncertainty, unpredictability, conflicting directions, and multiple demands. Tolerance for ambiguity is manifest in our ability to operate effectively in an uncertain environment. That means we can learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty and accept it as being a “normal” part of being who we are as a human being with our own personal thoughts, feelings, desires and intentions.
What we can do to prepare for this uncertain future that lies within our power includes some of the following. This list is by no means exhaustive although it might seem exhausting at times. Under the heading of self-care are paying attention to matters of good health practices – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. The evidence Is clear about the positive contributions of an appropriate diet and regular exercise; stimulating the mind through reading or engaging, thoughtful conversations; social interactions with others; and alone time to meditate, reflect and renew.
Having some well-developed strategies for living comfortably with uncertainty helps remove worry and anxiety about the future, as uncertain as it may be.
The ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ concept is new to me – I will have to explore this some more… thank you. As I reflect more on uncertainty, I wonder if it is perhaps our intrinsic need for ‘certainty’ that creates discomfort about ‘uncertainty’ in our lives… we were so ‘comfortable’ in the womb, we have a ‘warm, deep memory’ of that state of comfort, and we want to return to that ‘home state’ of bliss? Perhaps it is that striving that is driving us, and notwithstanding the roadmap in our hands, we feel discomfort along the way?
Thanks, Kumud. This makes me wonder if it is our desire (need?) for security? In a world of uncertainty, where are the safe places? Sad state of affairs here in the U.S. with the out of control gun issue and no place, not even a sanctuary such as a church, synagogue, temple or mosque are safe. Nor is a shopping mall, a grocery store or a theater.
Oher countries have mental health issues but not the shootings. Sorry to get sidetracked but that came too easily to mind and there it is for what it’s worth.
Lack of a ‘sense of safety’ in our daily living creates massive uncertainty… I duly share your concern about basic safety in daily life in the USA… 🙏🏽