Most of us have a troubled relationship with uncertainty, often without even knowing it.
Our most difficult problems often stem from uncertainty: procrastination, overwhelm, distraction, anxiety, frustration with others, beating ourselves up, trouble with forming (or quitting) habits, health issues, relationship issues, financial issues, control or perfectionist issues.
At the root of these may be our troubled relationship with uncertainty. We don’t like uncertainty, we want to avoid or control uncertainty, and we get stressed when we can’t. And uncertainty is unavoidable: nearly everything is uncertain nearly all of the time.
The good news is that uncertainty doesn’t have to be this terrible thing that we hate and need to avoid. In fact, we can delight in uncertainty, and fall in love with it.
This new relationship with uncertainty can unlock so much for us—freedom and joy and the ability to take on whatever we want.
Let’s dive in!
Finding the Delight in Uncertainty
We might instinctively dislike uncertainty, but in truth, we would be so bored without it. Imagine watching a movie and always knowing how it turns out, or reading the same book over and over. We want surprise, adventure, and possibility.
Uncertainty is the place where we learn—if we are certain about something, there’s nothing new to learn. It’s the place where we form intimate relationships, create art, make something new. It’s the place of discovery, play, dance, growth. It’s the pre-requisite for adventure.
Connect with the times when you’ve felt the most meaning and joy: these times were filled with delicious uncertainty.
Imagine doing something meaningful for someone, with uncertainty along for the ride, adding so much meaning to the endeavor.
Imagine the uncertainty and dance of a new relationship, the vulnerability, and discovery of it.
Notice the uncertainty in your life right now: is there a way you could be grateful for it?
How to Practice
Of course, this doesn’t come naturally to most of us. We like our routine, we like our control, we like solid ground under our feet. Unfortunately, life doesn’t let us have that solid ground. Or maybe I should say “fortunately,” because life would be dull and meaningless without groundlessness and uncertainty.
So how can we learn to delight in the uncertainty? Practice.
Here’s the practice you might try:
- Notice the uncertainty in a task. A good signal that you’re feeling uncertainty is that you feel like avoiding it. If that’s the case, notice how turning towards the task (even thinking about it) causes you to feel, as a bodily sensation. This is how uncertainty feels in your body.
- Commit to dancing with it. Turning away from the uncertainty gives you certain predictable results in your life. What would it be like to do something different? Commit to doing something different: face it, be with it, dance with it. Give yourself 10 minutes to be with the uncertainty of this task.
- See the opportunity in the task, see the joy in it. What could you do with this task that would light you up?
- Let yourself move, physically. Get up, and move. Dance, do some exercise, walk, jump. If we’re stuck sitting, it’s harder to feel delight. We need to move. And to really see what the world is like in this moment—look around, find the delight in this ever-changing moment, and full appreciation for life!
What delight can you find in this task, in this moment? Keep practicing, each day, and see what happens in your life!
Leo Babauta is the author of six books; the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with more than 2 million subscribers; and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net