On Making Peace With Uncertainty

Written by on July 26, 2015 in Breaking Barriers, Emotional Mastery

On Making Peace With UncertaintyFear of uncertainty can stop you in your tracks as sure as any brick wall. It can prevent you from growing, taking risks, and avoiding even the possibility of vulnerability. In other words, it keeps you firmly tucked behind your walls of comfortable knowledge and circumstances.

Is there something you are clinging to out of fear of uncertainty? Maybe it’s a job that is okay but doesn’t challenge your abilities, or a relationship that has long ago ceased to be fulfilling. How many times have you heard someone say after a break-up that it should have ended years earlier? Often its just an idea the idea that you should be happy with what you have instead of dreaming about reaching for more.

It takes no more effort to expect the best, than to fear the worst. It’s healthier, more productive, and a lot more fun! ~Philip E. Humbert, PhD

There are of course tactics one can use to develop a tolerance for uncertainty but the truth is I could list a 100 strategies to help you deal with it but unless you change your attitude about the need for control you’ll end up right back where you started at the first sign of uncertainty.

Instead of thinking of uncertainty as something you must either avoid or find a way to tolerate, what if you made peace with it as a natural part of life? What if you could see the value in cultivating a curiosity and appreciation for the mystery and opportunities that go hand-in-hand with facing the unknown?

So How Do You Handle Uncertainty?

  • You can resist it or lean into it.
  • You can fear it or embrace it
  • You can try to control it or make peace with it.

There is an old story about a Russian farmer in the late 1800’s that happened to own a horse. In those days if you had a horse you were considered a person of substance. A horse could help you work the land, you could rent it out to your neighbors and it was reliable transportation. This farmer, therefore, was considered very fortunate indeed.

“How lucky you are to have a horse!” his neighbors would tell him. “You never know,” the farmer would always reply.

One night, a sudden and violent storm blew up, and the frightened horse broke down the fence of the corral and got away. “How unlucky you are to have lost your horse!” they all said. “You never know,” replied the farmer.

Sure enough, a few days later his horse returned, accompanied by a beautiful wild stallion. “Two horses! How lucky you are!” everyone told the farmer, who only said, “You never know.”

The farmer had a son, which was another good thing to have in those days. Extra hands were always needed to do the chores around the place, and this particular young man was strong and hard-working, so he decided to tame the wild stallion. However while doing so he was thrown from the horse and broke his leg.

“Your son broke his leg!” the neighbors lamented. “How terrible!” “You never know,” said the farmer.

Less than a week later, Cossacks swept through the village and neighboring farms, and conscripted every able-bodied young man for service in the army. Since the farmer’s son was unable to walk or ride with his broken leg, he was not taken.

And so it goes…

The Wisdom of Uncertainty

  • There is no shame in not knowing, there is only freedom. An uncertain mind is an open mind. It is a mind which is curious, interested, reflective and malleable. When we have the courage to meet life with a genuine sense of uncertainty, we cease to project that which we think we know and instead begin to see life for what it really is. The same goes for the people around us. It is only in letting go of our preconceptions and opinions of others that we allow them to be who they truly are, to change and evolve from one moment to the next.  ~Andy Puddicombe
  • Embrace relational uncertainty, it’s called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty, it’s called mystery. Embrace occupational uncertainty, it’s called destiny. Embrace emotional uncertainty, it’s called joy. Embrace intellectual uncertainty, it’s called revelation. ~Mark Batterson
  • I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about at all, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. ~Richard Feynman
  • Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow. ~Tony Schwartz
  • Nobody really knows how things will turn out in life, that’s why they go ahead and play the game. You give it your all and sometimes amazing things happen, but it’s hardly ever what you expect. ~Gennifer Choldenko
  • They say, ‘Look before you leap.’ So look. But do not look for too long. Do not look into the void of uncertainty trying to predict each and every possible outcome, to evaluate every possible mistake, to prevent each possible failure. Look for the opportunity to leap, and leap faster than your fear can grab you. Leap before you talk yourself out of it, before you convince yourself to set up a temporary camp that turns into a permanent delay on your journey into your own heart. ~Vironika Tugaleva
  • Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity. ~R. I. Fitzhenry
  • Why do we resist the mystery that uncertainty and change brings? When we get too rigid and inflexible, rigor mortis of the soul sets in. For proof of this, we need look no further than to those who choose to stay in a relationship or job long after the soul, or life force that originally brought it passion and joy has vacated the premises. ~Dennis Merritt Jones
  • The pain of our past failures and the fears of our peers often fuel our uncertainty. This inability to predict the future is why people find themselves stuck and unable to move forward. They don’t want to feel the emotions of failure. They prefer to talk themselves into settling for an ‘okay’ life, rather than the life they really want. However, failure is a matter of perspective! Is it not failure when you don’t take a chance on the one thing you need? There is no happiness in regret, staying safe or settling for anything less than what you can have through action. ~Shannon L. Alder
  • Fear, uncertainty, and discomfort are your compasses toward growth. ~Author Unknown
  • The most fulfilling adventures happen when you start your journey without knowing where you’re going, because only then are you free to experience the unexpected detours you’re meant to take. ~A.J. Darkholme
  • Like the body craves oxygen, the mind is desperate for certainty. It believes that without a safe foothold on reality, it will die. But the fascinating thing is that the illusion of certainty is exactly the opposite of safety because it hardens and narrows the vision to make everything fit its own scope. Then when new information arrives which would be its ally, the mind pushes it away in favor of the leaky life raft to which it clings, sinking all the while beneath the waves of change. In fact, the only antidote for this is to embrace ‘I don’t know’ so deeply that a powerful, dynamic safety emerges. This is like learning to surf so well that a tsunami wave shows up as a challenge to test our mastery. ~Jacob Nordby
  • When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. ~Eckhart Tolle

How do you handle uncertainty?

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

 

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. That’s a fantastic story, and demonstrates your point well! Comfort and complacency only breed boredom; creativity is fuelled by a little stress and perhaps even anxiety. Of course, you have to keep a balance – it’s very tricky, and not for the faint of heart!
    Krystyna Lagowski recently posted…Getting happy — 2015 VW Beetle convertible was my room without a roof.My Profile

  2. Jason B
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    says:

    Uncertainty can scare the heck out of people. The older I get the more I embrace it. Just like change, things will be uncertain from time to time.
    Jason B recently posted…7 Months Into My Debt RepaymentMy Profile

    • Very good point Jason. While it doesn’t work that way for everyone, many of us do find that as we mature it’s easier to manage uncertainties. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  3. Stella Chiu
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hey Marquita

    To fear of uncertain is not my problem. I have a kind adventurous spirit inside me. I like to expose and learn new things which expense my horizons and enrich my life.
    I concur your reasons for the people who afraid of uncertain. They miss out the word of “life” a lot.
    love the quotes you used in the post. – Stella
    Stella Chiu recently posted…What is that in your hands?My Profile

  4. I love that story! It’s so true. Fear can immobilize us and the truth is we never really know what the outcome will be until we take an action. The other thing is what we think we want to happen may not be the best outcome. I found what works best for me is not to be attached to any outcome. I try something and if that doesn’t work, I cry 🙂 and try something else.
    pamela chollet recently posted…Surprising Facts About Your Newborn BabyMy Profile

  5. Jeri
    Twitter:
    says:

    My favorite quote is “What do I know?” by French essayist and father of the genre Montaigne. That being said, in past months I realized how much I have built a life around avoiding uncertainty and that those tendencies stem from an unstable childhood. And yet, when we embrace uncertainty and the unknown, that’s when things really start to happen and we feel most alive.

  6. Dave
    Twitter:
    says:

    As always Marty, you have a way of taking topics that mainstream audiences think they know everything about and instead, encourage us to look at them from a different perspective.

    It’s funny how in my heart of hearts I know that having all the answers leads to a boring life, and yet I continue to strive or expect to have those answers at my fingertips. This may be the biggest wall or obstacle that I need to overcome in pushing through towards things that resonate at my core.

    And although it is easy to say you will embrace uncertainty, it’s a little more difficult to do so when you have other people, situations, and concerns around you that may be adversely affected by you embracing that uncertainty. With that being said, the alternative of staying put and compromising is just fooling yourself in the end.

    Great article as always, thanks for sharing 🙂
    Dave recently posted…ConnectionMy Profile

    • You’ve raised an excellent point Dave about the challenge of balancing our own interests with those of the people near and dear to us. In fact this is a subject I’m been writing about quite a bit lately behind the scenes as I’m working on a book about resilience for Entrepreneurs. Let me add a little disclaimer here that I used to be much more attached to certainty than I am today and I owe the shift in my thinking to my work with the Hawaiian culture. There is a strong emphasis in most indigenous cultures on accepting certain things on faith and that has been drilled into me pretty effectively by the Hawaiian elders I’ve worked with over the years. Thanks for taking the time to share – always value your thoughtful insights Dave!

  7. I like the Fitzhenry quote. In life, when I become cautious, I make the most mistakes. Keep the faith, keep moving forward and whenever possible, dive wholeheartedly into…
    Rose M Griffith recently posted…Don’t Miss 2016’s Pittsburgh Vintage Grand PrixMy Profile

  8. Donna Merrill
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita,

    Usually I’m pretty certain about making decisions and “going with the flow” when the unexpected happens. It is part of my mindset, like the above story “You Never Know”

    It is my attitude toward life, but sometimes that uncertainty bug creeps up on me. Oh boy I cannot stand it! It drives me crazy. I have to take time and stop what I’m doing to either meditate, make a list or something to drive that feeling away.

    I do believe that Tony Schwartz says it best here…. there is really no certainty in life.

    -Donna
    Donna Merrill recently posted…How To Keep Your Blog Going When You Are UnpluggedMy Profile

    • I like that story as well Donna and it really is so true – just when you think you’ve got everything in your life in place and figured out that’s just when the universe creates a shift and you have to ‘adjust.’ That’s just one example of why adaptability is such an important element when it comes to building a resilient life! Of course a sense of humor helps is well – especially if we can learn to laugh at ourselves. 🙂

  9. Mark
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a truly inspiring and extremely helpful post Marquita!

    I loved so many of the quotes, I’m not even sure where to begin!

    But two that really stood out for me are the ones by Jacob Nordby and Dennis Merritt Jones.

    But with regards to the quote by Dennis M. Jones, he so skillfully points out how being to rigid and inflexible leads to rigor mortis of the soul.

    I would simply add, being to rigid and inflexible with regards to stifling your natural creativity also leads to rigor mortis of your potential marketing growth as well!LOL!

    And I also love the wisdom shared in the story of the Russian farmer!

    What a truly inspiring post and awesome read as usual M! Thanks so much sharing!
    Mark recently posted…So How Do You Increase Retail Sales Even Though Your Variable Cost Went Up!Part ThreeMy Profile

    • Ha! Great point connecting inflexibility with business growth Mark! So glad you enjoyed the article and the quotations Mark and as always I appreciate your insightful contribution to the conversation. 🙂

  10. Erica says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of uncertainty so this offers some good advice for me. Luckily, I was able to start and persevere through obstacles with my own business, so I’m thankful I didn’t let uncertainty stop me.

    Your farmer story reminds me of a true story. About ten years ago I took ice skating lessons from a 70-year-old man who used to be an ice skating champion. He was set to go to the Olympic games when he got kicked off the U.S. team for appearing on a Wheaties box (back then amateurs couldn’t accept money or work professionally so this was a violation) This was also the same year that the entire U.S. ice skating team died in a plane crash on the way to the Olympic games. So, you never know when something is a blessing in disguise.
    Erica recently posted…Which Brand Should I Choose? Probiotics!My Profile

    • Wow thanks for sharing that story Erica – kinda gave me chicken skin! I also had a ‘you never know’ thing (albeit no where near as dramatic) happen to me a couple of years ago. I was driving on the one and only ‘highway’ we have on the Island where you can actually get a car up to 60+mph and suddenly I took my foot off the gas pedal and my friend in the passenger seat thought I was nuts and I felt like I was kind of in this trance was just watching the traffic ahead which looked perfectly normal but then suddenly a car in the oncoming lane veered into our lane and plowed into the car in front of us. Had I not slowed we would have been involved in that accident! It was a very creepy feeling and just one of those experiences there will never be an answer for.

  11. Meredith
    Twitter:
    says:

    I think uncertainty is one of the most crippling of emotions, but I love that story of the Russian farmer. “You never know” may just have become my new motto! 🙂
    Meredith recently posted…Make Your Own Coconut Oil Sugar ScrubMy Profile

  12. Tuhin
    Twitter:
    says:

    Yes, ‘you never know’.. This is life.. Beautiful story!
    Now coming back to the post, I must mention here that uncertainty somehow is a truth of life and it is this uncertainty that makes the game of life an interesting one.
    Tuhin recently posted…Protect your child from sexual abusersMy Profile

  13. Patricia Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love this post Marquita. It has taken me many years to learn to go with the flow which is my reframe for uncertainty and even ambiguity. I even remember that story you shared with us about the farmer and his son being something that helped me. How I handle it now is with more prayer and meditation and for me, those things do work.
    Patricia Weber recently posted…Studies that show extroverts are generally happierMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed the article Patricia! You really made me pause with your reference to going with the flow. I think this is one of those examples where our language can really mess with our minds sometimes. Personally I think there’s a difference between adapting to our circumstances and going with the flow. Where is going with the flow implies being carried along by circumstances, adaptability is more about intentionally adjusting and involves being proactive rather than reactive. Hum … this has the makings of a good post so don’t be surprised when it comes up. 😉

  14. Loved all the quotes, especially “Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” ~R. I. Fitzhenry. I suppose we all handle them differently, depending on circumstance, but I’m mostly curious so I tend to take chances. It’s a gamble, and not always successful. But even when it isn’t I tend to think that I’m happy to know rather than spend endless hours wondering!

    • I also like that quote by Fitzhenry and considering the things that you write about Jacqueline I’m not at all surprised that you are by nature a curious person! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. 🙂

  15. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Through experience I now know that the thought of change is often worse than the change itself. There are a number of decisions that I delayed making in the past as I was uncertain about the changes they would bring to my life. On making the decision I seriously wondered why I had taken so long. I felt relieved, empowered and free all at the same time!

    Any old thing is NOT better than nothing. If a situation or relationship is making us unhappy then we owe it to ourselves to move on. Life is too short to simply tolerate those things we have the power to change.

  16. Sabrina Q.
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great post for today. I really needed it. Thank you. I particularly liked the quote by Vironika Tugaleva.
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…Change Your MindsetMy Profile

  17. Lenie
    Twitter:
    says:

    I like the Tony Schwartz quote best – be curious and wonder what is going on around the corner. That has been me pretty well throughout my life, I always wanted to know and do more. I am also a bit of a gambler so was never afraid to take a chance. I enjoyed reading all these quotes – you must have spent hours finding them but it was worth it – they’re great.
    Lenie recently posted…Ice Cube Tray: 20 Tips for Best Frugal UseMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed it Lenie and, yes, I’m pretty much a quote freak. But one thing that makes the process a little more ‘reasonable’ is that I tend to collect quotes as I do my research for writing books and articles. That’s why so many are unique because I tend to stay away from the standards that are used over and over. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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