Whenever we deal with uncertainty, our knee jerk reaction is often to respond with fear. Instead of thinking of everything wonderful that can happen and everything that can go amazingly right, we instead like to focus on how the outcome can possibly ruin our lives. Maybe we all have a little Tolstoy in us, or maybe thinking of the drama makes our lives a little more exciting, but it's not necessarily the best way to go. And while I'd like to tell you to it's easy to just shake it off and focus on the positive, when something matters that's hard to do. Uncertainty keeps us grounded and makes us think of all the possible outcomes, and focusing on only the good can sometimes feel naive and like you have blinders on.
But the issue arises when you over-exaggerate the uncertainties and they cripple you from moving forward or trying something truly amazing. And at that point fear becomes a habit, and it convinces you that to do nothing at all and stay in your safety zone is the best route to go. Which can get real annoying, real fast. If you feel like you're ready to let doubt stop running your life, then below are seven ways to get over uncertainty.
1. Gather Up Everything You Are Certain About
Start with the positive: If you're in the middle of a major decision or about to take a gamble, calm yourself down by writing out everything you are certain about. And then right next to it, write down the piece you're unsure of. Seeing how much you know and then just identifying small holes in your knowledge will help make the situation seem less black-pit-esque.
Travis Bradberry, award-winning co-author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, wrote for Entrepreneur, "People who excel at managing uncertainty start by taking stock of what they know and what they don’t know and assigning a factor of importance to each. They gather all the facts they have, and they take their best shot at compiling a list of things they don’t know. They actually try to identify as many of these things as possible because this takes away their power"
If you keep the uncertainty rational and just a step you need to work on figuring out, you're taking away its anxiety-inducing power.
2. Reframe The Situation
Our reality is how we perceive things, so even if something is uncertain let's not view it as something dire. Instead, acknowledge that it's uncomfortable you're feeling this way, but it's OK and totally tolerable.
Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., an Associate Editor at Psych Central, said, "If the thought 'I can’t handle uncertainty about …' arises, replace it with: 'I don’t particularly care for uncertainty, but I can bear it.'"
Instead of thinking uncertainty will throw your life into a state of Code Red and sirens, reframe it. It won't, and it doesn't need to.
3. Take "Should" Out Of Your Vocabulary
When you linger over the idea of how you wish things could turn out, you're just setting yourself up for a world of hurt. How can you weather your situation or make a sound decision if you're worrying about a fantasyland that's not real? Stick to reality and not the super-deluxe-best-case outcome.
Tom Corboy, co-author of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, offered, "If we go through life attached to the idea that things ‘should’ or ‘must’ be a certain way, we are setting ourselves up for endless disappointment." If you have an image of how things should look in your head, but it's intimidatingly over-reaching, then you know you're setting yourself up for failure and your uncertainty will only grow.
4. Don't Over-Exaggerate
If you're uncertain about something, don't over-exaggerate the situation to paint yourself scary "what ifs" and create boogeymen where there are none. Instead, only look at the facts and realize you only have control over so much. You can only control yourself and the facts that you were given to come to a decision, and the rest is pure chance. As in, not for you to worry about.
Bradberry highlighted, "People who excel at managing uncertainty aren’t afraid to acknowledge what’s causing it. In other words, successful people live in the real world. They don’t paint any situation as better or worse than it actually is, and they analyze the facts for what they are." If you're handling the unknown, that's the only way to do.
5. Try To Stay In The Now
When faced with uncertainty we have the tendency to worry about what that will mean for us in the future. But take away that unnecessary stress by trying to stay in the now: Take it one step at a time. Granted if you're making a decision you have to look ahead, but if you're dealing with a tricky problem that's in the middle of untangling, stay in the present. There's no use freaking yourself out over what might or might not happen later.
Tartakovsky quoted Joyce Marter, MA, LCPC, a mental health counselor, "When we are firmly grounded in the present moment, our minds cannot worry about uncertainty." You know what you know right now — handle that, instead.
6. Don't Shoot For Perfection
If you have your sights set on perfection, you can only imagine how much uncertainty you're going to gather.
Bradberry explained, "Emotionally intelligent people don’t set perfection as their target because they know there’s no such thing as a perfect decision in an uncertain situation. Think about it: human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure." Instead of being happy in the results you got or how the chips fell, you'll instead be left worrying about all the things that you still failed to achieve and thinking about what you could have done differently. It's unnecessary.
7. In The End, Do It Anyway
The best way to beat uncertainty is to acknowledge it, feel it, accept it's there, and then go do the thing you're uncertain about anyway. Don't let doubts hold you back, because before too long they'll become a habit.
Tartakovsky encouraged, "That means getting on a plane if you’re worried about the uncertainty of flying, or not washing your hands if you’re worried you’ve been exposed to a germ."
If you want to get over your uncertainty, you're going to have to ignore it's worried protests every once in a while.