A great teacher of mine once told me that the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.
This means that if you can handle a lot of uncertainty, you tend to have a higher quality life. A higher quality life is a life where a person experiences more high quality emotions – they feel better more of the time. If uncertainty is something that you avoid like the plague then more than likely you will experience less pleasure and joy.
So what is uncertainty? It is the state of being uncertain. Some synonyms include: unpredictability, unreliability, riskiness, chanciness, precariousness, unsureness; changeability, changeableness, variability, inconstancy, and fitfulness.
This is definitely something to think about. I wanted to explore this concept further so I started to talk to people around me about the level of uncertainty that they could comfortably handle. I wanted to see if this statement was actually accurate in my world.
I have one friend who loves uncertainty – she adores not knowing what is coming and is adamant that if life was predictable and certain she would absolutely go mad. “In fact, I think I might even die” she said.
She works in the aviation industry as cabin crew, has an ever changing roster and rarely starts work at the same time each day. Sometimes she will come to work thinking it will be a six hour day only to learn that in fact it is now going to be a ten hour day. This excites her – she likes the uncertainty that her job brings her.
And yes, she is very happy. She is someone who puts herself in new situations regularly and is comfortable starting up a conversation with a complete stranger. She regaled me with a recent story of her car breaking down and how she ended up having coffee with the man who pulled over to assist her. She framed the situation as “an adventure” and now has a great story to tell her friends.
I have another friend – she also flies as cabin crew yet has a very different attitude towards uncertainty. This lady likes to control everything, wants to know what’s coming at all times and spends hours thinking, planning and predicting how her life should be going.
When I chatted with her about uncertainty, her belief was that things can be controlled (and should be controlled) so that everything works out “how it should”. I asked her how she goes about controlling everything that she can in her world and she replied: “To be honest, life does feel like a bit of a battle sometimes. I just hate not knowing how or what is going to happen”.
This lady’s energy is that of a warrior, and not a happy warrior I might add! The tension she lives with is visible – she often feels like the world is out to get her and there is an obvious lack of joy in her life.
So does this come down to uncertainty, or wanting to be certain all the time?
I wasn’t sure so I looked around at the people in my life who are truly happy and content the vast majority of the time and I thought I would ask them.
It surprised me how consistent the answers were to my questions around uncertainty (change, disruption to life, spontaneity, adventure, unpredictabiilty) and certainty (safety, security, comfort, knowing, routine, predictability).
There was definitely a common theme amongst these people. They could handle higher levels of uncertainty and they actually enjoyed it. Life wasn’t “doing it” to them, this was just life and life is sometimes unpredictable. They said things like, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and “Everything is an opportunity, you just have to see it that way”.
Interesting!! So I have come to the conclusion that my teacher is right. The more uncertainty we can handle, the more joy and happiness we have in our life.