The Discomfort of Uncertainty

My goal in life is to become more comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty. How should I proceed when the way is ambiguous, obscured, or completely darkened? It is easy to feel fear—to worry. I do that often. The question is: Can I still make progress? Can I still take steps forward in life when the future is unclear? I must, because sometimes it’s the only way to get anywhere.

As a student, I loved questions. I liked being prompted (through instructional inquiry) just beyond the boundaries of my understanding into knew knowledge territory. I still enjoy feeling mildly frustrated—struggling, but knowing that I will make something out of the effort. Whether mentally (e.g., crossword puzzles) or physically (e.g., exercise), I find pleasure in doing things that test me without breaking me.

Certainly, I also like that some things in life come easily. I’m glad I don’t have to hunt for my meals or make all of my own clothes. However, there is a particular level of challenge that I find inspiring—so long as failure versus success isn’t a matter of safety versus injury or life and death.

There is something interesting about a bit of ignorance as it relates to the future. Will we win the game? Will I secure the job/client/raise? What will happen on this trip or adventure? Is this the beginning of long-lasting love? How will this decision factor into my future? Uncertainty can be terrifying, but it can also be exciting and motivating. Questions keep us on our toes. They keep us striving.

And isn’t that why we don’t really want a map of our whole life all plotted out and certain? There is beauty and joy in discovering—in coming to something (some place within ourselves even) that is novel, unchartered territory—so unexpected it feels foreign.

If all of life were known beforehand, it would loose much of its luster. So many of the things that have added value to my existence are people and experiences I didn’t see coming.

So while it is easy to feel fear and discomfort when I can’t fully plot out my way, I’m working on holding less anxiety when an area of my life grows muddied or gray. Can I take steps forward even when I can’t perceive the whole path? Can I embrace life’s questions and all the lessons they have?

The Discomfort of Uncertainty

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

 

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