Handling uncertainty

close up shot of scrabble tiles on a white surface

Psychologists who study stress have identified three primary factors that make us feel awful: a lack of control, unpredictability, and the perception that things are worsening.

Or it is captured in one word: uncertainty.

What you can do to elevate uncertainty a little bit:

Into control

People have a need for freedom and autonomy. To feel that their lives and actions are within their personal control. That, rather than driven by randomness, or subject to the whims of others, they get to choose.

Jonah Berger

You can control only a few things, such as your emotions, judgements, creativity, attitude, desires, and decisions. That still leaves a lot out of your control. By focusing on what is in your control, you can know what is in your hands and what things you cannot control or influence and, therefore, could worry less about.

Increase predictability

Uncertainty suggests that there is not enough knowledge to have a reasonable prediction of the outcome or a good assessment of the chances of a specific outcome.

To improve your knowledge in this situation, you can follow these six steps:

  1. Identify the possible outcomes.
  2. Identify your personal preferences using the value of each outcome. Do you like or dislike specific results more?
  3. What is the likelihood that this will happen?
  4. Compare the different outcomes in value and consider how likely they are to happen in comparison to each other.
  5. Repeat these steps till you are done.
  6. Review the overview you have generated and decide what to do next.

Train yourself

Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority. Training is authority.

Ryan Holiday

To avoid things worsening, you can start by preparing yourself for the future. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished history into the future. It might not remove uncertainty outright, though it will give you tools, and a sense of control, on how to approach it.