Dealing with uncertainty

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Dealing with uncertainty

We all want to have more control over life's events and over the outcomes we get from the actions we take.

The level of control each of us demands usually differs from a person to another according to their ability to handle uncertainty.

Life is full of uncertainties. Whether you like this fact or not and learning how to deal with uncertainty is the key to being in control when things get out of control.

How to deal with uncertainty

  • Make uncertainty tolerable: In a previous article about Worrying i said that we worry the most when we are unable to face the worst outcome. By learning how to make the worst case more tolerable you can be more accepting of uncertainty. If for example you really hate to wait for a reply from a job interviewer then you might want to do more than one interview with many companies so that you can easily handle the uncertainty you have about your performance in one of those interviews
  • Learn how to be in control when you face uncertainty: The right way to deal with uncertainty is not avoiding it but it's learning how to be in control when you face it. Instead of trying to control the whole world around you it's much easier to learn how to control yourself and your response to situations that has unpredictable outcomes. see How to regain control of your life
  • Destructive thoughts and uncertainty: One of the main reasons that makes some people unable to handle uncertainty are the negative thoughts they get when they have no control over the outcomes. Those people keep thinking about the worst possibilities and so end up feeling more stressed and frustrated. Learn how to watch your self talk during uncertainties and then teach yourself how to stop these thoughts or replace them with positive ones. See How to stop negative thoughts
  • Act fast: If you are in a position to take action then do it as fast as you can because the more you delay your actions the more frustrated you will become and the more intense will your emotions be. When you take a fast action you communicate to your brain directly that you are going to deal with the matter and so it makes you feel better. See How to command your mind to stop unwanted emotions.
  • Don't escape: Uncertainty is usually accompanied by worrying which sometimes motivates the person to play it safe and to avoid anything that would lead to uncertainty. Playing it safe usually results in making your ability to face uncertainty weaker since you will never get enough training and so the next time you face uncertainties you will feel really bad and frustrated
  • You can't escape from uncertainty Some people believe that the best way to deal with uncertainty is to eliminate it by trying to over control everything in their lives. People who think that way don't only become control freaks but they are the ones who lose control the most when they face uncertainties
  • Don't risk more than you can handle: While uncertainty can't be fully avoided you can still plan your life in advance to avoid some of the uncertain situations. If for example you get really worried when you put your money in the stock market then you might want to risk a little amount of money so that you don't get much worried and so become more able to face the uncertainty related to the stock market
  • Find out if it can be reduced: In some cases taking certain actions can help reduce the uncertainty experienced. If that's the case then not taking actions might be the worst thing to do. If anything can be changed go ahead and change it
  • Always have a plan B: When you have a backup plan you will worry less about outcomes and so you will be more prepared to face uncertainty. Whenever possible make sure that you have plan B
  • Don't keep yourself busy: Contrary to what you might have heard before keeping yourself busy when you face uncertainty is a grave mistake. When you feel anxious you need to be working on calming yourself down through careful planning. Trying to keep yourself busy without first taking proper actions can force your mind to send you even more intense reminders. See Why keeping yourself busy when facing a problem never works
  • Take an action that delays worrying: Let's suppose that you are worried about your relationship with your boss. In such a case you should ask or a meeting with them as soon as possible. In such a case you will be able to stop worrying until the meeting time since your mind will know that something new might happen

Final words about dealing with uncertainty

The next time you find yourself facing a situation that has an unpredictable outcome remind yourself that uncertainty is a normal part of life that can't be avoided, try to control yourself instead of trying to control the whole world and don't ever escape by trying to play it safe.

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