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How to live with uncertainty

How to live with uncertainty

Are you denying your freedom when you believe there is an enduring rightness in your decisions which will lead you to a point beyond which you won’t need to look any further?


Imagine a woman who has entered a new relationship, believing this to be ‘the one’ which will last a lifetime.  She compares it to past relationships and is gripped with the overwhelming sense of rightness of her decision to be with the other person.  The feeling is so overwhelming that she states, with complete certainty, that she will always be together with this person.  Three years down the line, she rethinks her decision and considers that she might be better off on her own.

This example indicates how a feeling of rightness in a decision ‘at one time’ may be translated to ‘rightness for all time’.  An overwhelming feeling of certainty at one time is just that – it doesn’t mean that it will feel that way or turn out that way for all time.  This is because we cannot be certain about the thoughts, expectations, motivations and actions of others.  Also, we cannot be sure how ‘we’ will act, think or feel about things in the light of information to which we did not previously have access.

People engage in various activities to stave off the anxiety of their uncertain existence.  People engage in religious activity believing that there is an objective authority outside of themselves which preordains how things should be.  Others develop elaborate routines in their lives to increase a sense of predictability and control.  Others act out of an imposed sense of duty, believing there is a sense of rightness in how they should act.  Culture and norms further hoodwink us into believing that things can be made certain.

Uncertainty is an existential reality and to avoid it results in existing in a mindless way with more anxiety in the long run.  Anxiety is the cost of living a meaningful life, one which is uncertain and which implores us to take full responsibility for our existence.

Self Reflection Exercise

Think of examples in your own life where circumstances revealed to you that life was uncertain.  How did you manage the inevitable anxiety this provoked and how do you now live with the reality of uncertainty?

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