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One of humanity’s greatest psychological weaknesses is the fear of the unknown. The ongoing pandemic has perfectly illustrated what people do and how they react when faced with the abyss of uncertainty.
People tend to hold on tightly to their beliefs and assumptions to take the edge off, and somehow insulate themselves from the fear of the unknown, and that is when things take a risky turn.
Anything that we do has an amount of risk attached to it, and we seem okay with it as long as the risk is measurable and acceptable. If we are able to do a cost-benefit analysis of the risks, we can take a call.
When the risk we are taking is unknown, and the uncertainty is above the threshold of information, beliefs and knowledge, then our animalistic instincts kick in, and any blind belief, no matter how absurd, is hedged against the risk which is now unacceptable.
Too much uncertainty is a fertile ground for all kinds of anxiety issues and other mental disorders, as our future itself feels like a threat.
Even if we do not become mentally unstable due to this fear of the unknown, it affects our decision-making skills, work performance, and happiness levels.
On a larger scale, extreme uncertainty makes society cling towards authority, corruption, and makes them less tolerant of alternative viewpoints.
Many people would want to obey an all-powerful religious or political figure, if it means less uncertainty, even if they are oppressed.
We create schedules, routines and habits to build an illusion of certainty, linearity and an expected order of events and circumstances.
Governments, religions and institutions know this mental need of certainty and create an illusion of stability in peoples minds by providing them with rules, laws and rituals.
Even if we know something is certain, it may or may not be true, just a trick of our mind for it to feel stable.
We all need a dose of uncertainty in our lives, to boost our immunity. Just like being exposed to certain bacteria and viruses provides our body with the strength and know-how to fight with other viruses.
Escaping from unpleasant, uncomfortable or challenging situations makes us weak, and unable to cope up at a later stage. Ignoring your anger, anxiety and discomfort only makes all of that worse.
To deal with uncertainty we need to handle well all that is in our control.
Building habits and routines that stabilize us helps counterbalance all the uncertainty that is around us. This includes changing our environment to help us accomplish our goals.
Example: Not having chocolate ice cream in the fridge will help you stick to your diet plan, as it lowers the chances of you eating it.
Just by doing the basics right, and just showing up with an intention towards positive action can help us with making life more certain.
Your chances of running a few miles, and getting the much needed exercise will increase when you get up in the morning and wear your tracksuit/jogging shoes, instead of staying in bed.
We need to embrace the unknown as an untapped spring of opportunity.
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The best things in life will most likely be hard, and if you spend your life avoiding discomfort, you’ll miss out.
One of the most important skills you can develop is being okay with a degree of discomfort. If you get good at this, you can do anything.
If you can accept uncertainty, you’ll be open to many more opportunities.
If you’re afraid of uncertainty, you’ll skip starting a business, for example. You can’t really know for sure how things will turn out, and so if you have this need to control the outcome, you’ll avoid great opportunities.
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”
We misunderstand the value of fear when we think that being constantly hypervigilant will keep us safe.
Being afraid all the time doesn’t keep danger away from us. Instead, we need to learn to recognize key signals that could predict risk, in order to actually feel calmer and safer.
When we walk around terrified all the time, we can’t pick out the signal from the noise.
If you’re constantly scared, you can’t correctly notice when there is something genuine to fear. True fear is a momentary signal, not an ongoing state.