I remember a particular time in my life when everything felt uncertain. What I mean by ‘felt’, is that my whole body experienced each uncertain moment as both an emotion and a bodily sensation. Every action I took was to gain control over what was out of control. I was doing this unconsciously. When I began embracing uncertainty everything changed for the better.
Uncertainty is a phenomenon that takes place when we cannot predict the future. When we’re uncertain about something we cannot predict, we feel afraid. To face this fear, we can choose to embrace the uncertainty. This requires us to be OK with not predicting the future. For example, we might approach a situation by saying: “I don’t know what’s going to happen but I’m going to be okay with that, and I’m willing to give it a go anyway.”
Think about a recent situation where you felt uncertain, and try to remember how your body felt at the time. What did the fear feel like and in what part of your body did you experience the fear? Did your posture alter? Was your breathing more rapid, or your muscles tighter than usual?
Uncertainty is defined as two things:
- Doubt or hesitancy about a future that you can’t predict
- Predicting the future in an unfavourable way e.g. through fear
Uncertainty stems from your thoughts and opinions – often about yourself and your ability to cope – and is accompanied by emotional responses and bodily reactions. The body’s response to the assessment, and therefore the associated emotion which accompanies it, depends entirely on the assessment.
How Our Bodies Process Uncertainty
Our bodies process uncertainty in two contrasting ways:
- By identifying the uncertainty as a threat. When we assess the uncertainty to be threatening we can automatically assume we don’t have the capacity to deal with it.
We seek to protect ourselves in the best way that we know how. This is a survival instinct that originates in the interests of self-preservation, or defence. Whether the threat is real or perceived we are likely to avoid it, and withdraw from taking a particular action because the associated fear outweighs our motivational drive. Because the fear outweighs our motivational drive it is possible we may even pre-empt this scenario and act defensively before we are harmed. For instance, we may resent someone for doing a particular thing ‘to’ us. The underlying motivation behind this blame may be fear.
Fear affects your body in numerous ways. It may feel as though your height is diminished – so subtly that we barely notice it, especially if we’re not paying attention. Sometimes people experience pain through the ongoing tensing of the body. The chest can concave and breathing shallow.
- By embracing the uncertainty: Embracing uncertainty requires an observation of the extent to which we experience uncertainty. If we observe, we can decide. Observing on its own doesn’t necessarily eliminate the threat, but by acknowledgement, we have some control over how we cope with the threat. We can change the assessment and in doing so, believe we have the capacity to deal with it, and consequently feel that we will be ‘okay’.
We might say something like: “I’m not sure what’s going to happen with ‘X’ but I’ll be okay, and I’ll wait to see how it turns out. It could even be interesting to find out”.
A Mood Of Inquiry For Embracing Uncertainty
When we react in this way, we’re more likely to experience a mood of inquiry, and explore different possibilities, give things a go – embrace an attitude of trial and error.
Your body may respond to embracing uncertainty with open posture and a wide chest. Your feet may feel grounded and your stomach relaxed; your shoulders back and down, supporting your open chest.
The extent to which you embrace uncertainty can positively influence the way you go about living
Amy Cuddy in her Ted Talk Your body shapes who you are says: “We make sweeping judgments on body language and we tend to forget the other audience that’s influenced by our non verbals, and that’s ourselves. We are influenced by our non verbals, our thoughts and our feelings and our physiology.”
She goes on to say…
“Expressions of power happen when we open up. Women feel chronically less powerful than men.” and “…we know that our minds change our bodies, is it also true that our bodies change our minds…thoughts, feelings and physiological things that make up our feelings?”
“What do the minds of the powerful versus the powerless look like?
Powerful people tend to be not surprisingly more assertive, more optimistic. They also feel that they are going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to feel more abstractly. They take more risks.”
“The study showed that when you adopt the high powered pose your risk tolerance goes up. It also showed that high powered people experience about a 20% increase in testosterone and about a 25% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol” and “…2 minutes (power poses) lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to be either assertive, confident and comfortable or really stress reactive and feeling shut down.”
If you can shift yourself from worrying about all the uncertainties, you will live a much happier life.
This challenge is really going to help you shift out of feeling anxious, and start you on your path to embracing uncertainties and help you function confidently.
Dealing With Uncertainties For Embracing Uncertainty
When we embrace uncertainty, the body will already be prepared to accept and we will naturally release hormones that help us cope with the uncertainty. This is great news! The more tools we have to deal with uncertainties, the more we are likely to embrace our future head on.
To sum up how you can embrace uncertainty…
Change it up: Instead of saying something like: “I’m worried about what might happen and I don’t think I’ll cope with the outcome”, try replacing those thoughts with something like: “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I’m curious about this, and I think I’m going to be okay regardless of the outcome,” or: “No matter what, I’ll cope, and I accept I can’t predict the outcome.”
Change it up: There is a greater likelihood of experiencing the mood of curiosity and wonder when you change your language. What does the mood of curiosity and wonder feel like to you? Curiosity and wonder moods are moods of experimenting, inquiring, exploring, trial and error. What do those feel like to you in your body?
Change it up: Employ a wide-eyed, chest opened, confident posture, and feel your sense of self-consciousness disappear.
“Where you want to use this is to evaluate situations – Social threat situations.” – Amy Cuddy
Using these methods of language, emotions and physiology for embracing uncertainty will prove helpful in all situations you perceive as a threat. Anything from starting a business to finding your purpose, exploring a new relationship, attending an important event or sharing your thoughts and opinions in a learning environment.
Practice embracing uncertainty in every situation you feel like withdrawing from.
What is one thing you can do to start embracing uncertainty today?
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I wish the best of care for you this day and every day.
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