Is your car where you left it?
Funny question, right? But really … do you know where your car is right now?
But how do you know? When was the last time you saw it? As I write this, I personally haven’t seen my car for more than four hours, but I’m assuming it’s there, just like you are assuming yours is safely where you left it.
The truth is, it’s uncertain if our cars are there or not. Unless we take up a day and night vigil standing beside them, we don’t know where these very expensive and useful pieces of machinery are at any point in time. And without even recognizing it, we live very happily with this uncertainty.
There are other uncertainties in life, however, that aren’t quite as easy to manage.
The uncertainty pyramid
Piggybacking on Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs,” here’s just a glimpse into how uncertainty can create doubt—and sometimes paralyzing fear and anxiety—in everyday life:
Physiological uncertainty: I just received a letter saying the doctor reviewed my lab results and has ordered additional tests. He told me not to worry when I saw him, but maybe the lab reports showed something he didn’t expect. What if there’s something really wrong with me? What if I’m really sick?
Safety uncertainty: I can’t believe it! The Jackson’s house was broken into yesterday, right in the middle of the day! Gloria and I had been talking about getting an alarm system installed. But I wonder… would it really stop a break-in? Our kids were really freaked out when they heard what had happened at our neighbors. Maybe I should go ahead and get one, but I’m just not sure if it’s worth the money, especially since we’re on such a tight budget.
Social uncertainty: My girlfriend has been acting really weird lately. I bet her old boyfriend has been contacting her again on Facebook. I wish he’d leave her alone. I know she really loved him, and maybe now she’s thinking of leaving me for him. But how do I really know what she’s thinking? Our relationship used to be so good, but now something is definitely wrong.
Esteem/respect uncertainty: Ever since I got laid off, when I have lunch with people who used to be my colleagues, I feel like they look at me differently. Liked I’m damaged goods. Like there’s something wrong with me. It makes it really hard to go into job interviews feeling completely confident, because I’m beginning to doubt my own capabilities and my own self-worth.
Self-actualization/meeting your potential uncertainty: I’m set to retire next year, and I’m really excited about it, but to be honest, I’m also a little worried. What if I feel lost without my work? Will I wonder about how I’ve spent my life so far? What if I don’t feel like I make a difference or matter anymore? After all, work was a big part of my identity for 40+ years.
There is a way out
Even in the times of greatest uncertainty, you don’t have to be mired in fear. Join us for an upcoming workshop on how to apply The Ten Steps Out When Stuck in Doubt to your own real-life situations. You’ll learn how to accept uncertainty and move productively forward in spite of …. any maybe even embracing … all of the unknowns.