Hello everybody, welcome to episode 178 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is about accepting uncertainty.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Very happy to have you all here with me today to welcome with open arms a question that I don’t think any of us are strangers to. Uncertainty is on the table today. Our asker is working a lot on making decisions in spite of uncertainty as she tries to get more comfortable with it, but she’s not progressing as quickly as she’d like to. Well, let’s see what we can do about that. Let’s hear her question and try to help her out. Here it is…
QUESTION: “I'm a 20-year-old college student, and it's definitely uncertainty that’s troubling me. I've gotten a much better hold on letting go of what I can't control and remaining level-headed at unexpected turns of events. But despite learning to embrace it, I'm still not satisfied with how big of a role uncertainty plays in influencing my actions.”
All right, gotcha. Good question; a question that, rest assured, is shared by many – especially right now. Why, you ask? Well let’s list off all the things there are to be uncertain about, and I’m sorry in advance if this makes you queasy or want to hate me.
We have riots. We have a farming and meat industry that’s unsustainable. We don’t have enough resources to accommodate for the rate the population is growing at. We have a widening wealth gap. We have robots that are taking over, I guess?
We don’t know where to get our energy from anymore. We have, oh, yearly occasions on which the Mayans seemed to think that the world will end. We have any number of natural disasters depending on where you live. We have an alarming unemployment rate.
The list goes on, but it’s only a ten minute show.
Are We All Doomed?
Will all of these things cause us to meet our doom? No. Are they all as horrible as they’re made out to be? Highly doubtful.
But that doesn’t matter, because enough fearful and conflicting rhetoric surrounds them that there’s always a high number of very convincing people to tell us that we’re all going to die tomorrow.
So that’s the world. And then there’s you.
Are you going to get a good job? Are you even going to get the right type of education and college experience with how schools are affected right now? Are you going to keep in touch with your college friends after you graduate?
How are those student loans going to get paid off? Can you even walk alone from your dorm to the bar down the street?
And your list goes on and on as well, but you don’t need me to fill in the blanks.
Challenge: Make a List of Certainty
Amidst this whole storm of things to be concerned about, I challenge you to come up with anything that is certain.
Spoiler alert: if you make an honest effort at that, you’ll come up with nothing.
I’m reminded of a really intriguing study that was done in Britain about uncertainty. Researchers studied stress levels in two groups of people. The first group knew that they were about to get an electric shock. The second group were told that they had a 50% chance of getting an electric shock. Guess who remained calmer and more composed? The first group. Why? Because they didn’t have uncertainty.
Accepting Uncertainty: Change Will Happen
You already know this, but I’ll tell you once more so as to reaffirm it: change is going to happen. There is no way around it. We don’t know when, what it’ll affect or how it’ll happen.
But everything you know right now will go through one variation of change or another. There’s no need to be a part of the group who isn’t sure of whether or not the shock is coming. Find calm in knowing that it is.
The good news, however (and I know this episode has been nothing but good news so far), is that life changes are not always going to have the same detriments of a painful electric shock.
On the other side of uncertainty are changes that you deem to be bad and changes that you deem to be good. Key word: “deem.”
The question is, how can you adjust your mentality to interpret as much as good as possible in ensuing changes? How can you make just as much time for all of the good possibilities that change has to offer? They are not in short supply.
On The Cusp of Adulthood
Fixating on the way that even initially painful changes can go right is harder to grasp at 20 than it is when you’re older, because you’re not yet familiar with what change looks like in an adult setting.
Please don’t take that as belittling, it’s just that you’re on the cusp of adulthood right now, and thus can’t expect yourself to be an expert on what changes will feel like as an adult any more than middle-aged people can be experts on what changes will feel like when they’re elderly. You learn as you go.
But you can get a jumpstart by looking at those who are older than you and paying attention to how they’ve navigated the same changes that you’ll be going through, because it’s extraordinarily rare that you’ll ever experience a change or period of uncertainty that no one else has.
Are there not countless examples of people who have endured the same uncertainties as you and, due to their resilience, ended up just fine, if not better than before?
Think about this. What else would be the case for all the older people that you admire? Surely your admiration for them wouldn’t be as strong if they got to where they are from simply lucking out on changes their entire adult lives.
Accepting Uncertainty: Conclusion
If you want certainty in times of uncertainty, look to what you can control. There are a host of outer things you can control which would numb the pain – such as a having a daily routine in place.
But most importantly, it’s your mentality that you can control. Your mentality allows you to acknowledge that the only constant (and therefore the only certainty) is change.
That means that the only certainty is indeed uncertainty. Your mentality allows you to embrace this, welcome it with open arms, see it as a part of life and look to extract opportunities from it.
This is your only defense not against uncertainty itself, because there’s no stopping that, but against the pain derived from uncertainty. It’ll get easier with age, but until that happens, you have all the tools you need to make the most of uncertainty.
It’s ok if you’re dissatisfied with how uncertainty influences your actions, that’s where you’re at.
Move forward by creating better responses not only to the results of those actions you take, but to the results that end up in your lap anyway.
And that brings us to the end, my friends. I’m not sure this episode was full of any sage advice on my part (not like there ever is), but sometimes what we need is just another reminder of what we already know, yet have a hard time living by.
Either way, asker, thank you for sending this in and I hope that yet another rep of hearing the unbending truth about uncertainty has helped you lean into it a little bit more and made you more comfortable in navigating it. Very proud of you for confronting this question so fiercely and your determination to surrender to the truth of it.
We are done for now though so thanks for being here today everyone and for your continued support. I’ll be back with you again to wrap the week up on the Friday show, so be sure to stop back in. Until then.