How to befriend uncertainty April 25, 2017
Yesterday I found out my biggest client will no longer need my services in a couple months.
The last 24 hours have been a bit of a whirlwind of emotions. Part of me is excited. Another part is scared. I have other sources of income and a savings. But I'm still unsure of what I'll be doing in three months' time.
The funny thing is, I've wanted to go off on my own for some time now. I've been frustrated with the monotony of working on one project for years at a time. But now that I'm faced with it, I'm scared and uncomfortable. Why is it that we're so comfortable being unhappy?
Most of us are constantly chasing certainty. We work jobs we may not enjoy so we're certain we'll have food to eat when we get home. We buy health insurance so we're certain we'll be cared for when we're ill. And we invest for the future so we're certain we won't be out in the cold during old age.
But what is certainty, really? You can't see it. You can't reach out and touch it. Maintaining certainty about tomorrow feels good today, but tomorrow it's gone, leaving us hoping for certainty the next day.
And in the face of complete certainty, we're miserable. We become bored. To know that each day will be the same as the last is the definition of a boring existence.
But there's another way. Instead of seeking certainty day to day, we can befriend uncertainty. We can invite it to sit in our corner with us and share its perspective. After all, just think of the things that wouldn't be possible if we had perfect certainty:
When we embark on an adventure—whether it's down the street to the cafe to write or to another country for a month of backpacking—the allure of doing it is that we don't know exactly what will happen. We might have a plan or itinerary, but our reason for adventuring is to see the unseen and to take a chance on something new.
Framing each uncertain moment as an adventure can help to ease the struggle of seeking certainty in an uncertain situation. And too, it can help grant meaning to ordinary everyday activities which may have seemed monotonous when framed as such.
In love, we're entering into the most profound uncertainty. We commit our hearts and minds and energy to one person. Expecting nothing in return and knowing it will end in heartbreak or death, we proceed to give ourselves to another person.
No one ever entered into a romantic relationship knowing how it would turn out.
I'm not sure there was ever once a passionate artist, businessperson, politician, or writer who knew for certain at the start of their endeavor that their efforts would be meaningful and worthwhile in the end.
The reason people do great things is because of this uncertainty—not in spite of it. We are drawn to the idea that we might achieve what others think to be impossible.