There’s more to life than the American Dream we’ve been sold. In this series I present an alternative way to view the world and your surroundings. There is so much out there to experience, enjoy, and incorporate into our lives. It’s all there for the taking, but getting there is the hard part. In this series I show how to to change your paradigm to give yourself a fighting chance of taking the path less less traveled to live up to your potential. How you act on what you discover is up to you, but I hope you take your own plunge into a happier and healthier life.
Western society doesn’t value uncertainty very much. Or, let’s say that it over-values decision-making. Having the strength and determination to make decisions apparently shows leadership skills.
Does it really though?
I don’t know. Sometimes things need to be left to marinate. It obviously depends on what the subject matter is. If it’s pondering what’s for dinner or what to do for the weekend, fine, short time horizon. But if it’s what to do with your life, or whether to get married, or some of these big decisions.. What’s wrong with pondering?
Western life is quite difficult in this sense. You go to school, then at 18 you either start working or you pursue higher studies. Think back to when you were 18. What did you know? Maybe you knew more than me, but I think back to how ignorant and clueless I was about everything, yet I had to make a huge life decision as to what to study and in which direction I want to focus my life.
In this regard, I like how some countries have a “gap year” culture. This gap year could be the year between high school and university, university and starting a career, military service and university, etc. During this year people backpack in places far from home, volunteer in another country, or volunteer/intern at home somewhere to see if they like a certain career. Seems like a win-win situation and they can get to know another part of the world better if abroad, but in all cases get to know themselves better before making life-changing decisions.
Going back to uncertainty, it just seems like many of the people I know who have everything “figured out,” having minimized uncertainty as much as possible, lead the most absurdly boring lives imaginable. And apart from being boring, they often are the least equipped to adapt to or respond to change. It doesn’t fit with their very controlled and predictable way of living.
I write this post to say it’s ok to live with uncertainty. It’s ok to ponder the big stuff and not have the answers. It’s ok that the pile of stuff you don’t know seems to grow faster than the pile of stuff you do know. That’s how it’s supposed to be. It just means you are alive and actually living. Exploring the unknown makes you grow. Controlling the known makes you boring and probably unhealthy.
When you touch your neck or wrist to take your pulse, do you worry between beats? There is uncertainty there. How do you know if your heart will beat again? You assume it will despite having no control over the situation. Yet it doesn’t even concern you. You have faith in your body and your heart.
Take Your Pulse
Likewise, uncertainty is the pulse in a vibrant life. Have confidence in your ability to digest, accept, and act on the opportunities life presents. Don’t get caught up as much in making the optimal decision; rather enjoy the ride these decisions take you on.
When I was miserable in Denmark, this was one of the first things I had to go through as part of my corporate tool to nomadic idealist transformation. At first I was upset by the fact that I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happy. I had to forgive myself for not having all the answers.
You know what that did? It took the pressure off!
With the self-imposed pressure and anger gone (and spirits elevated), the more I sought answers the more I seemed to find them. It’s not magic. It’s just that through compassion we often find the best results, and it’s not easy to extend that compassion to yourself.
So, change your paradigm when it comes to the world of uncertainty. It’s not a bad thing despite what society says. Every innovation throughout history was born out of uncertainty. Embrace uncertainty in your own life story. Don’t be afraid. Let go of the societal and self-imposed pressure and see where it takes you. Welcome it actually, as certainty keeps you going with the status quo and uncertainty forces you to progress toward where you really want to be in life.
About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.