Benjamin Franklin once declared, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. That leaves an awful lot of room for uncertainty!
How’s your current level of uncertainty? Are you constantly anxious about what’s around the corner? Or are you bored with the ho-hum of everyday life?
Some uncertainty in life is great, necessary in fact. We all have a need for variety, adventure, novelty, change, excitement and challenge etc – although in differing amounts for each of us. This, of course, is counter-balanced with our opposing need for certainty -stability, comfort, predictability and safety. Too much uncertainty causes stress, anxiety, doubt and fear. Too little finds us bored and apt to invent our own drama!
Of late, my own level of uncertainty is good. Comfortable. I have just enough to keep things interesting and balanced which I appreciate. The past few years though? Way, way too much. I constantly felt like I was in limbo, from the moment I started wondering whether my marriage was destined to fail, not knowing where I might be in a month, or six, or next year.
After separating and moving out of the home I shared with my husband, my son and I rented a house while we looked for somewhere to buy. I did my best to take control of my life and my future, but knowing we were going to move again when we found the right house was always in the back of my mind. I never fully felt settled in that house, even though it was a comfortable enough place to be. I didn’t want to invest to much time, energy or money in making it “home”.
About 18 months after moving in we finally signed the contract on a brand new house, and prepared to move in just under 2 months. We gave notice on our rental. Enter the spanner! The paperwork for the house was not finalised and the title couldn’t be released until it was complete. Worse, nobody could tell me when it might be likely to settle – we would get just 2 weeks notice when it was ready.
What followed was over 7 months of the most intense uncertainty I’d experienced in a long time. The positive was that I had an extra 5 months to pare down our belongings in preparation for the move – sorting paperwork, selling lots of stuff and donating even more. The negative side was that I procrastinated on almost everything else in my life, particularly my coaching studies, while I sought to balance the uncertainty.
Procrastination is an un-resourceful way of meeting our need for certainty when we have too much of the opposite. It is an attempt to re-balance things. After all it feels a lot safer to clean your desk for six hours than study for a test on a topic you aren’t confident with. It feels much more comfortable to watch TV all evening, while avoiding talking with your partner about a difficult issue.
Other unsustainable ways of dealing with an abundance of uncertainty are wasting time online or on social media, taking drugs or drinking alcohol, overeating, or even getting angry and controlling others.
The key to preventing negative habits like procrastination is working out how to back yourself in the face of uncertainty. Sustainable ways to do this include taking practical steps to ensure our financial security, having unrelenting faith in ourselves to handle what may come, and creating maintainable routines or rituals in our home or work life. A great ritual is one which you can do simply for enjoyment, but which also has inherent challenges as you get better, allowing you to progress (without the pressure of needing to!). Running is a great example. It’s healthy, you improve over time, which allows for progression and you’re moving – which brings clarity. Maybe learning to knit is your thing. Or taking up tae kwon do.
If you are suffering with a bit too much uncertainty, I encourage you to develop your own daily/weekly ritual to bring a bit more stability back into your life. Unfortunately for me I didn’t learn this little gem until I picked up my studies again after we moved and I finally felt settled! Only then did I realise that this had been the source of my procrastination. Now I am determined not to waste any more precious time, and I hope you are too!
Wishing you a week of just enough variety! 😉