How to deal with uncertainty

You’re afraid. You spend most of your life afraid. So do I. We all do. And we’re all most afraid of one thing — uncertainty.

The fear that comes from the feeling of not knowing what’s next is so palpable, even when it comes to something that’s challenging but ultimately benign like trying to change the circumstances of your life. You’re not in literal danger, but you feel like you are, and the way you interpret an uncertain future is based on these deep irrational fears.

You ask yourself:

  • What if I try really hard and still fail? This is hard psychologically because you have no coping mechanism to lean on.
  • What if I’m embarrassed or rejected? Lowered social status means death in your caveperson brain.
  • What if I wast time? This one is actually a derivative of the first question, really.

Why do we behave this way?

We’re wired to.

I won’t dive into a long explanation of evolutionary psychology here, but we put much more weight on fear and loss aversion than the upside of “risky” activities.

Understanding that your brain isn’t your friend can help you deal with your fear of uncertainty. See, if you think your mind is rational by default, well, of course, you’ll have a hard time combating it because you think there’s some inherent value to your thoughts.

When you fully understand your thoughts are total BS — created from a mind that’s stuck in a reality that no longer exists — then you stand a chance at change.

How do you change? You re-wire your brain by combining action with a gradually updated sense of how the world works.

Jim Rohn has a quote:

“I’ll tell you what changed my whole life: I finally discovered that it’s all risky. The minute you got born it got risky. If you think trying is risky, wait until they hand you the bill for not trying”

That was a pivotal change for me, too — realizing there’s no such thing as a safe position. “Job security” is a myth. Just change a few economic variables and your job can disappear just like that.

Why do you think I constantly preach having a side hustle on top of your 9 to 5 job? This isn’t just for fun. You want those many streams of income to mitigate risk.

I grew up in a middle-class family. My mom was helping me pay for college during my freshman and sophomore year but had to stop because of the financial crisis. She lost her corporate job and, because of her age, she got priced out of the job market once the economy recovered — they could find someone younger and cheaper to do the same job.

For decades her life was certain until it wasn’t. That always stuck with me. And I knew I wanted to be a position where not only I was doing what I wanted to do with my life, but also that I was able to do it in a way that provided abundance so a situation like that wouldn’t happen to me at her age.

I often preach to people in my age range — 25 to 35 — to second guess their life choices and understand where that ‘certain’ path can lead in a decade or two. A double whammy where you not only put off your dreams because of risk but didn’t get rewarded for it either. Maybe if the payoff for sacrificing your dreams was high, it’d be worth it. But it’s not. There’s zero safety in it. None.

So there’s another re-frame for you — you can’t run from risk in any situation.

Why not accept a form of risk that can at least help you live the life you want?

And you can do it in a way that’s not so risky. Even now, you can look for business ideas that require very little capital. Things like starting a blog for $3.95 per month in hosting, getting a cheap WordPress Theme, and selling affiliate products. Or starting a Medium account and practicing your blogging skills for free.

Find a risk-averse way to learn profitable skills that help you deal with risky situations in the future. Build your adaptability muscles so you can make a pivot next time s*** hits the fan. If I were to lose my income streams, which is definitely a possibility, I’d figure out a way. All because I’ve developed skills and understood that safety, in general, is a myth.

I’m leaning hard into economic uncertainty and building a career or business that matters to you, but dealing with uncertainty is also about doing the absolute most you can with life period, going after every dream because life is so inherently uncertain altogether.

When it comes to putting off your dreams, there’s always the risk that you could just die before you finally “get your ducks in a row.” It’s better to just start now.

I know the words in a single blog post aren’t going to give you all the motivation you need to do that, but having that continual conversation with yourself will.

Have that conversation with yourself, journal about it, take time to ponder it.

How are you going to deal with uncertainty in the future and use it to make you better?

How can you become more adaptable?

How can you come to understand how important it is to always focus on self-improvement and have new projects in the works?

I find myself pushing more into uncertainty every day.

Why? Because I realized the goal of self-improvement isn’t to be able to predict the future and know exactly how to hit perfectly crafted goals.

Self-improvement is meant to teach you how to be able to handle any situation. The goal is to have such a diverse array of skillsets and mental models — little pieces of knowledge — that you can not only weather the storms of life but thrive.

Take my case for example. Thanks to having practiced both writing and self-improvement, I already have contingencies. I’m always prepared to pivot.

The riskiest position is actually “being stable.” The more comfortable and predictable your life is, the more of a sitting duck you are.

That being said, you’ll always have two choices in life that guide your future.

In times of ‘stability’, you can settle into a groove or you can realize how unpredictable life truly is and use that as fuel to stay on your path and avoid complacency.

Whatever you’ve been putting off, I hope you have all the ammunition you need to start now.

This article first appeared on Medium.