• David Strittmatter

Uncertainty - how to deal with it

When nothing is sure, everything is possible

Summary:

  • We live in a world in which nothing is certain

  • Uncertainty isn't real, it's just a feeling

  • Uncertainty cannot only impair your life negatively but can also be a source of energy and motivation

Practical advice:

  • Adopt the right mindset: Build tolerance, accept it, and use its energy

  • Imagine the worst-case scenario

  • Use the experience of others


Dear friend,


With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have felt an unprecedented large-scale uncertainty that is more than difficult to handle.


However, we live in a world in which nothing is certain. In every phase of our lives, we face situations that don't have a definite outlook: Whether we start into a new job, move to a new city, fall in love, found a startup, or wait for the results of an exam.


Research shows that uncertainty can be appealing during certain activities like gambling or reading a mystery novel, but usually, it is associated with negative consequences. Uncertainty is a major cause of stress and can affect our mental and physical health.


Not surprisingly, we have a fundamental need for an orderly and secure world. We want control over our lives, especially in threatening situations. Our perception of personal control, however, is quite different.


In today's blog post, I want to share with you my experience regarding my current situation and past learnings on how to deal with uncertainty.


The right mindset


Uncertainty is a consciously perceived lack of security, whereas an actual lack of security is known as danger. Uncertainty isn't real. It's just a feeling, and, as with most feelings, we can cope with it by controlling our mind and adopting the right mindset. Thus, the first step in dealing with uncertainty is to change the thoughts that cause a perceived lack of security.


Build tolerance. We navigate uncertainty every day, like driving to work when we might not make it there safely. Acknowledging these everyday uncertainties that we usually gloss over and focusing on the fact that you still went about your life can build your tolerance for more significant uncertainties.


Accept it. Part of practicing acceptance of uncertainty is being okay with your feelings about it. Do you feel worried? Stressed? Fearful? Acknowledge what you’re feeling and give yourself permission to feel and express these difficult feelings.


Counter-attack. Uncertainty cannot only impair your life negatively but can also be a source of energy and motivation. When nothing is certain, everything is possible - as long as the outcome of something isn't definite, there is still a positive outlook. Often, you can have a positive impact on the outcome of a situation. For instance, you don't know whether you can land a job because of the COVID-19 pandemic and feel anxiety. Yet, even though the job market is relatively weak right now, you can still write applications and prepare for interviews to receive one of the few jobs available at the moment.


What is the worst-case?


A method helping me a lot is to imagine the worst-case scenario of the uncertain situation: What will happen if the most negative outcome becomes reality? Most often, the worst-case isn't that bad at all. Particularly, if we compare our situation with that of people in a much worse situation. For example, most graduates this year face the challenge to find a job. The worst-case is to be unemployed for a few months until the job market has recovered. This situation compared to the life of the billions of people in developing countries, clearly doesn't look that bad at all. You might need to borrow money, ask your friends and parents for help, sleep on a couch for a few months, eat sh*t, or make other unpleasant experiences. But that's the worst-case. And your worst-case is often the best-case of plenty of other people. Just imagine being born in one of the poorest countries in the world: no perspective, no education, no security, no freedom...


And even if the worst-case is very bad, it's still the worst-case, an outcome that is rather unlikely.


Use the experience of others


Another great "tool" to deal with uncertainty is to use the knowledge of others who have already been in a similar situation as you.


It's always a great idea to ask others for help if you don't really know what you can do to make the most out of the situation. In case of uncertainty, though, this might be the best approach available.


For example, you move to a new city and don't know anyone there. Ask in your circle of friends what they did when they moved to a new city, how they dealt with being new there, and what helped them to overcome this challenging situation.


The same goes, for instance, you fall in love with someone. Ask a good friend about how you can address this challenge. In this particular case, you should tap the experience of both gender, men and women. Women often think differently compared to men.


Every problem you will face in your life has most likely already been faced by a lot of people. Why should one duplicate work? Simply ask others for advice and use the experience of them.

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