Uncertainty is a fundamental fact of life. In fact the author and Canadian Buddhist nun Pema Chodrin wrote a book called Comfortable with Uncertainty, designed to help us cultivate compassion and awareness amid the challenges of daily living
In any moment, our lives can be forever altered—by an accident, unexpected news, or, as we’ve all just experienced, a global pandemic.
And for humans, with uncertainty comes fear. Humans like consistency and often resist change. We’re all programmed with the same fear of uncertainty. Think about it, our predecessors who weren’t afraid of the unknown became food for predators. But the ancestors who viewed uncertainty as life-threatening lived long enough to pass their genes onto us. The upside of being paranoid maybe?
Learning to cope with—and even thrive under—uncertainty is an essential ingredient in a joyful and resilient life.
But how do we do this?
One key strategy is to focus on what you can control, and ignore the rest.
Here’s an example. In our modern culture, astronauts are often considered to be risk-taking, swaggering hotshots with the guts to breezily sit on top of a dangerous rocket hurtling through space at dizzying speeds. It makes for a good story, but it is not actually the case.
Astronauts maintain their calm not because they have superhuman nerves, but because they focus on what’s within their control. They know what to be concerned about and what to ignore.
They also remain adaptable. They learn to solve the unexpected problems that spaceflight throws at them—as opposed to the problems that they expected to solve.
I realize we are not all astronauts, but in our own lives, instead of attempting to change what can’t be changed, we can change how we respond.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when faced with a fear-inducing situation:
- How can I adapt to what’s going on around me?
- What problems can I solve based on what the world needs right now?
- What am I doing that’s no longer relevant in light of crisis x —and how can I use my skills, products, or services in a way that I haven’t used them before?
If we ignore what we can’t control with respect to the fear inducing situation and focus on what we can—our own actions and contributions—we'll be far better off as a result.
Consider the Serenity Prayer as I think it sums it up nicely;
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Food for thought is these uncertain times!
*Modified from an article originally written by Chris Kresser L.Ac