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Biggest Secrets on How To Deal With Uncertainty, Without Stress and Anxiety

When the normal routine of our lives is shaken up, we can feel the angst of uncertainty. Why, though, does this kind of change cause us to feel anxious and stressed? And maybe more importantly, what can we do about it?

Humans are hardwired to crave certainty and the ability to reasonably predict what will happen next. It’s a physiological survival response, similar to fight or flight. When we see recognizable patterns in our lives, we have certainty that we can reasonably predict what will happen next. When those patterns are disrupted, creating uncertainty, we feel stress and anxiety. When the uncertainty feels resolved and recognizable patterns re-emerge, we get a surge of dopamine (one of the “feel good” hormones) and experience pleasure.

Uncertainty could be considered feeling a sense of insecurity about the future. It is uncomfortable and tends to cause us to feel stressed and anxious. Certainty, on the other hand, would be feeling a sense of security.

Here’s the deal though… Security is an illusion.

The unexpected can happen at any time. That is why is called “the unexpected”.

  • Your boss sells the company and you lose your sweet job.
  • You believe the wrong guy and lose money in a bad investment.
  • The person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with leaves for someone else.
  • You or someone you love end up in the hospital, fighting for life and with a massive medical bill.
  • You lose a parent or partner or sibling.
  • Your landlord decides to sell and you lose your sweet digs.
  • A wildfire burns your home down, or your entire community.
  • A global pandemic occurs.
  • A revolution starts.
  • Governments change.

There is literally no way to predict and plan for every possibility.

All of these examples occur through no fault of the people affected. We can be going along with life, having certainty that things will continue as they have been and it can all change in an instant. That sense of security you feel is truly just an illusion. It makes life feel comfortable.

Yes, uncertainty can be uncomfortable. It can also be accepted as natural. And, when you realize the sense of security you had is only an illusion, you have the ability to choose to become more comfortable with uncertainty.

I understand the need for certainty.

One of my early jobs was in a sales office, where I discovered the sales people would get charge backs and only find out when their paycheck wasn’t as much as expected (sometimes virtually nothing). I was so shocked. I knew exactly how much my paycheck would be and exactly how much I would spend on each of my expenses. My budget was practically to the penny!

I could not understand how they could live with such uncertainty. How did they make sure they had enough money to pay their bills? How did they plan? How did they sleep at night?

I have since learned how they did it… and why.

“Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening. It just stops you from enjoying the good.”

Author Unknown

I used to worry a lot, about everything. I even worried about making the wrong decision when ordering a meal from a restaurant. I would study the choices, reading each description in depth. If the menu was a book, oh boy… I would be stumped and my dining partners would be annoyed!!! I might find two items to decide between and I would agonize over making the right decision. What if it’s not as good as it sounds? What if the other option was better? I would stress out so much over making a choice. I was ridiculous.

I read a couple of books that were so helpful. Dale Carnegie’s “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living” and “Overcoming Indecisiveness” by Theodore Rubin.

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One of the best things I learned to ask myself is, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and “Can I deal with that?” Usually, while not necessarily desirable, I could. And I learned that the worst thing was super unlikely to happen.

Here’s a story…

The Worry Tree !

The Carpenter I hired to help me restore and old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

“Oh, that’s my trouble tree”, he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again.”

“Funny thing is”, he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick ’em up, there ain’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

Author unknown

Don’t worry about uncertainty. Rethink it. Redefine it.

Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening. It just stops you from enjoying the good.

Our physiological craving for certainty steers us to the patterns we recognize, which often amounts to the social norms where the rules are understood… Where success is defined by your job, stuff and money.

Social norms are ingrained in most of us… Until we choose to break free from them.

Change and uncertainty give us the opportunity to stop living so unconsciously, blindly abiding by the unwritten rules of society. We always have the option to change by choice, to evaluate what we believe is important and to re-define success according to our own values.

I used to be a big “stick to the rules” kind of girl… until I realized some rules aren’t even rules at all, they are social norms and so common, that people assume they are rules.

Do you stress out over sticking to the “rules”?

Are you a “color outside the lines” kind of person… or does that drive you crazy? Do you get stressed out when other people aren’t following the rules or their not sticking to the social norms?

Most people blindly go along with the crowd, assuming it just is the way it is. Unconsciously subjecting themselves to the restraints of social conformity.

You have more control than you think you do! You just have to own it.

Decide to become comfortable with uncertainty… because you recognize certainty is not real and security is an illusion.

Then you get to decide what you want your lifestyle to be like.

You get to decide what success really means to you.

When you become comfortable with uncertainty, it changes the way you see the whole world.

When you simply have faith and choose not to worry about those things over which you have no control anyway, you have unbelievable peace.

Here is a quote from the original self help book…

Do Not Be Anxious

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:25-34

Becoming comfortable with uncertainty is a choice. It is also a process. Keep your expectations realistic and allow yourself to grow into a new level of comfort.


What are 1-3 things you will do to become more comfortable with uncertainty so you can stop stressing? What was your biggest take-away from this post?


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