When uncertainty clouds the future, people generally set about trying to eliminate it. There's nothing wrong with wanting to minimize our "not knowing," but here's the dilemma: Sometimes uncertainty won't yield to our efforts ... we personally can't make it go away. Even if our natural inclination is to get rid of the uncertainty, often we just have to be wih it.
This doesn't mean you should resort to a wait-and-see attitude. You can wait-and-do, busying yourself in productive, gratifying, peace-giving ways while uncertainty has its hour. You can use this vague, ambiguous time for your own discovery and growth ... for uncommon accomplishments.
The key is to manage yourself instead of trying to manage the uncertainty from a merger. But don't count on your instincts to guide you—doing what comes naturally leads to self-defeating behavior. Uncertainty requires special treatment, counterintuitive moves, before it will reveal to you its best possibilities.
Is it worth the effort? The rewards go far beyond what you might imagine.
This time and circumstance, whether troubling or promising, may not be of your own choosing. But this is your life unfolding—your creation—and you will own what emerges from this uncertainty.
What if you could eliminate uncertainty?
Would you actually have the guts to do that? Do you have the strange notion that you’d be happier, more successful, or otherwise better off in a world that you could totally, accurately predict?
Keep in mind, now, that life wouldn’t change per se. Your five senses would still work the same way. You’d still face success and failure, so-called good days and bad. You’d be the very same person, in the same old world, married to your same existence—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health—till death you did part. (Oh, by the way, you’d see that coming, too.)
Nothing else different than before. Just no surprises. No unknowns. No guesswork.
But, of course, the elimination of uncertainty would change everything. Profoundly. And you would suffer unbearable feelings of loss. The tension on this string of everyday living—something we take so for granted, and so often complain about—would go slack. The sparkle of anticipation would vanish, the delight in things unexpected would disappear. Hope, all of a sudden, would become a meaningless concept. Your positive emotions would flatline. Life would become bleak. Desolate.
This uncertainty that we too easily curse would soon be seen in a totally different light. We would quickly discover that it’s a precious condition, a catalyst for meaning in life, a force for shaping our individual destinies. Given a second chance, we would rush to embrace uncertainty. Passionately. We’d seize the opportunity to experience fully this vague and uncharted space, grateful for the chance to define ourselves better by how we choose to live our way through the fog. We would devour these limbo days, hungry to see how they evolve, savoring the raw “becoming” that is the essence of being alive.
Uncertainty offers us an opening into a future we can help design today, even as it further influences who we shall be tomorrow. Sure, much about the situation lies beyond our control. And uncertainty may carry with it some bad outcomes. But then life always leaves scars, just as surely as it eventually leaves us altogether.
The wisdom lies in our approaching uncertain times not just as a problem, not merely as a threatening lull where we wait helplessly for our fate to arrive. Instead, we should look at it as a grace period, a staging interval where more of our life is being born. Viewed from that angle, we could consider it a gift, one whose treasure will be defined by how we choose to participate in this unfolding of our world and our selves.
“A person who claims personal authority
is no longer a victim.”
—Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way