How Embracing Uncertainty Can Lead to a Better Life

3 min read

I remember sitting on a grassy hill during my first semester of senior year in college. It felt strange, literally not knowing where I would be in six months. With applications sent to several graduate schools as well as a sinking fear I may not be granted admission to any, I felt intense worry. I gripped a book a mentor recommended, “Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion.” Facing the unknown without fear. Something I aspired to.

Uncertainty is perhaps the most ubiquitous experience we have in life. We are blind to the roadmap that time takes, and very few things are guaranteed to us. Finding a way to master this puzzle can make a significant impact on our happiness.

There are two primary ways to meet uncertainty; to approach or avoid. When we approach, we allow curiosity and acceptance to guide us. We explore with values in mind. When we avoid, we stick to what we know. We hide or run to a space of security. Neither is right or wrong, it just is.

Strategies for Coping with Uncertainty

While I may have hoped for some magical certainty hidden within the book I held in my hands my senior year, what I received proved even better: a strategy for coping with uncertainty. It wasn’t an easy one. I didn’t learn how to chase my anxiety away or wave my hands in such a pattern that the world would bend to my will. Instead, I learned about acceptance and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice of embracing uncertainty through facing what is certain in each given moment: allowing us to be here, now. It’s a buzzword these days for a series of skills that can take a lifetime to fully cultivate. Sitting on the grassy hill, reading the parables I learned about mindfulness. Placing the book down to breathe in the crisp fall air, I worked toward it.

Psychotherapies that integrate mindfulness such as dialectical behavioral therapy encourage strategies such as radical acceptance (Linehan, 2015), and the skill of being open to what is including what we like or dislike. This does not mean an acceptance that something will never change. We have to accept something to change it. Rather, it is a strategy of allowing. Acceptance commitment therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy take very similar methods in showing up to uncertainty.

These are three strategies you can try to assist with embracing the uncertainty.

1. Just Breathe

Our breath is constantly in the present. A focus on the breath reminds us that all we have to truly worry about is right this moment. Reminders to breathe can come across as silly or excessive. Yet, essential. Cultivating an ability to breathe into the moment is necessary to even allow ourselves to embrace uncertainty.

2. Listen and Watch with Curiosity

Openness and curiosity about what is, whether or not it is what we hope it to be are important components of mindfulness. We have to allow ourselves to feel the reality around us to approach it.

3. Move Forward With Our Values

In most cases, embracing uncertainty is a means of approaching it with open eyes. We approach the unknown whether we wish to or not. Still, moving toward something intentionally with our values in mind and realizing that what we hope for may or may not happen allows us to cope with whatever does happen effectively.

These strategies appear deceptively simple. Still, I’ve found these invaluable. I am thankful for the time I took to read that book.

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