“Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease.” ~ Lao Tzu
Let’s be honest: uncertainty is nobody’s cup of tea.
We allow it to cause both suffering and anxiety. At times, it can feel like our greatest enemy.
Living with uncertainty feels uncomfortable, like that sensation you get when an episode of your favorite series ends and you become anxious to know what will happen next.
This is how our lives often feel, except way more disturbing than a television show. We can’t download “tomorrow” or wait for 8 p.m. to figure out how it all ends—our lives require patience.
Uncertainty is especially upsetting during rough times. Maybe our relationship is on the verge of collapsing, a family member is ill, or our financial situation is unstable. And sometimes, even when our life seems perfectly okay, uncertainty keeps pinching us as if to ask, “Why am I not bothering you? Am I bothering you now? Should I pinch harder?”
Why are we so uncomfortable with uncertainty?
Simply because the unexpected terrifies us—we don’t know how to navigate through it. When we’re faced with the unknown, our current situation and emotions—the life we’re attached to—becomes threatened.
We then feel the need to do something, anything, to change the crazy way that life works. Our ego can’t rationalize the fact that some things are beyond our control. Hence, it craves security and tries its best to create it and maintain it. But in reality, we’re only creating a new illusion that will disappoint us.
Here are a few thoughts that can help us embrace the not-knowing:
1. Creating security won’t stop the unknown from manifesting.
Security is the weapon with which we fight uncertainty. We stop entering relationships to avoid heartbreak, we only fly in good weather so our plane won’t crash, or we apply anti-aging creams to prevent getting older. The reality is there’s nothing we can do to stop uncertainty—anything can happen. The causes and conditions of life are stronger than any of us.
2. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action.
I like to compare uncertainty to the bus we take to work each day. Maybe the bus makes a weird noise or the driver drives a little crazy. However, we have no other choice but to take it because it’s our only means of transportation. So start that new relationship, fly in any weather, and embrace old age. We’re meant to ride with uncertainty and not resign from it. Expose yourself to the unknown and allow yourself to be part of it.
3. And this, my dear, requires faith.
Faith in God, in the universe, in the unknown, in yourself—regardless of how you practice it, faith is essential. If we don’t have faith, we’ll never get on that bus. We’ll miss our destination because we’re concerned about the “what if.” We must trust that whatever happens was going to happen anyway, even if we did try to intervene.
4. Life is such.
In the song “Ironic,” Alanis Morissette sings, “Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right. And life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face.”
It’s true. This is life, and the fact that uncertainty exists means there’s nothing to fear. I’ve learned that it makes more sense to be scared of what we, as humans, create—like atomic bombs—than to be scared of what the universe has created. Whatever naturally exists in life comes from an intelligent source that is never wrong. There’s a natural flow that we are built to handle, if only we’d stop letting our mind convince us otherwise.
5. So how do we learn patience?
Pema Chödrön says, “Patience is not learned in safety.” We only learn to be patient when we leap into uncertainty. Impatience only causes us more anxiety. No matter how hard we try to know something, we won’t know it until it comes.
Remain present in your body and mind. There is no future—just a constant set of “nows.” This very moment is the future and, simultaneously, the past. So basically, what we’re scared of can’t exist unless we keep it in the present moment.
6. Start now.
Change your perspective on uncertainty. Instead of creating an enemy out of it, create a friend. When I was a kid, I loved to buy Kinder Eggs, a candy with a surprise inside. I couldn’t wait to get home and see what was there for me. Life should be just like a big Kinder Egg—we need to let the uncertainty excite us.
7. Understand the difference.
There are some things in life that we can control and others that we can’t. Know the difference. For instance, we can be careful while driving but we can’t completely prevent an accident—someone could crash into the back of our car. We can, and should, take action, but always with the knowledge that uncertainty is all around. Don’t be mad at life for what you can’t control. Instead, shift your focus to what you can control.
Be prepared for all sorts of scenarios. And remember the saying, “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Esra Erben/Flickr
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
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