“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” ~ John Allen Paulos
Human Beings are like naïve scientists, trying to make sense of the world.
This concept was proposed by Fritz Heider (1958) in his Attribution Theory that states that human beings tend to see cause and effect relationships when there are none.
He stated that we assign these causes and effects based on two parameters: internal, i.e. based on some internal characteristic of the person, and external, i.e. assigning the cause of a particular behavior of an individual based on some external event or situation.
In essence, our mind is always preoccupied with cause, effect, and control.
Once we are able to understand what happened and why, we are better able to control what’s going to happen next.
Similarly, we apply the same process of thinking to future events. We like to believe that if we can fathom what’s going to lead to what, we, again, would be able to control the situation.
Hence, we continue to gravitate toward ideas and beliefs centered around predictability, stability, and control because we are scared of change, uncertainty, and chaos. We love our known comfort zones where we think we are safe and know everything.
But are we really safe?
Do we really know everything about everything?
The answer is obvious, isn’t it?
It’s a big fat no!
The pandemic is a crystal clear example of the fact that whether we admit it or not, we are surrounded by chaos, unpredictability, and instability more than we realize.
It has stripped us of the layers of our illusion of control and planning.
The fact of the matter is, nothing is certain, change is the only constant, and lives can turn upside down or even end in the blink of an eye.
Sometimes, there are no second chances, and at times, there are plenty of them. But what we will end up with…we don’t know—and never will.
So then, before we even begin talking about the larger purpose of our existence and lives, we need to bow down humbly and gracefully to the ever present uncertainty that stands before us.
We must embrace uncertainty as the undeniable fundamental truth of life.
And once we have embraced this truth, we can then lead our lives in two ways:
We can find and live with a deeper sense of purpose so that with each passing moment we know that we’re doing the best we can, in alignment with something that calls out to us and grounds us in moments of utter chaos and instability, or we can become purposeless, i.e. flow freely through life by embracing each and every moment as it is.
But whatever we do, it has to be in the present because all that we have is now.
The past is already dead and the future hasn’t arrived yet.
So all we have is now, this moment to either live purposefully or flow freely.
“When you walk to the edge of all the light, one of two things will happen—there will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.” ~ Patrick Overton
When using a sense of purpose to ground ourselves, a lot of us make the obvious mistake of thinking that, “When I find my purpose, I will…” and the moment is gone!
We don’t need to go on a treasure hunt to find that hidden purpose. We just need to start making the most of each and every moment by engaging in small actions that could be potentially tied to something bigger.
Those small steps need to be directed toward a sense of self-awareness, discovery, and alignment.
Eventually, when the time is right, these small pieces end up completing the puzzle.
And interestingly, when we’re choosing to live purposelessly (being grounded and present in each living and breathing moment instead of tying ourselves down to it), we are also aligning with something deeper.
“Do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” ~ Rumi
Whether we choose to be more or less, let’s walk down a path that we seem to have mentally, emotionally, and spiritually laid out for us or flow like the wind; we need to do it all now.
This is how we can begin:
1. Accept that uncertainty and ambiguity make you uncomfortable—because that’s what they’re supposed to make us feel. It will always bring up nervousness, anxiety, discomfort, and keep us on the edge, and that’s okay. Take the pressure off your mind by trying to be brave about it. Sometimes, being vulnerable is the bravest thing we can do.
2. Become friends with “not knowing.” It really is okay. Allow the discomfort of not knowing to come up and pass in its own time. We aren’t troubled so much by uncertainty as much as our inability to endure it. Therefore, we need to be comfortable with the prospect of not knowing what’s going to happen next.
3. Divide your goals into short term and long term so that you can shift your focus depending on the situation.
4. Go back to your “Circle of Influence”—remind yourself of what you can influence in any given situation and focus on that.
5. Keep tools to calm your emotional storm handy. Journal, meditate, talk to a friend, or go for a run.
6. Sing the song “Que Sera Sera” every time you find yourself behaving like a scientist, trying to look for definite outcomes. Remember, “What will be, will be.”
One thing that the pandemic has really brought to the fore is that no one knows what’s going to happen next! We only have today, this day, this moment—now.
And in this “now,” we have the power to choose how we want to be.
The only way we can make sense of this “not knowing” is to be okay with “not knowing.”
The only security we have is the presence of insecurity and our capacity to embrace it.
And that’s all we can do.
We can’t get rid of this uncertainty. Perhaps, we can develop a relationship with it—one where we know that it will always lurk around like a shadow, following us wherever we go, and maybe, we can begin to treat it as a companion, letting it walk alongside us.
“True security lies in the unrestrained embrace of insecurity—in the recognition that we never really stand on solid ground and never can.” ~ Oliver Burkeman