Our Love/Hate Relationship with Uncertainty

dc56bd2b-398a-43e7-b3db-6f9b1757b979If uncertainty is the state of not knowing what we need or want to know, then we must hate it…right? After all, uncertainty that matters is what we define as risk. Risk is what keeps us up at night. Worrying about it impacts our mental and physical health. It causes us to spend time and resources that we could otherwise devote to the certainties in our lives. We are wired to be afraid of uncertainty, to see it as a threat, and to protect ourselves from its likelihood and consequences by converting “unknowns” to “knowns.”

But wait…we must also love uncertainty, or at least we love the process of its resolution. We love not knowing for sure what’s inside that wrapped gift. Our brains release pleasure-causing endorphins when we hear the unexpected punch line of a joke. We are naturally curious about, and seek to explore and understand the world around us and the world within us. Without the “itching” of uncertainty we would not experience the pleasure that comes with the “scratching” that learning and knowing provides.

So I guess the bottom line is this. Love it or hate it, uncertainty is a commodity of life, which we need for both survival and fulfillment. What are your thoughts?

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About donmcalister

I retired at the end of 2011, after a 39 year career in the Aerospace industry as an Propulsion Engineer, Engineering Manager and Program Manager. My professional interests and expertise is in the areas of Program, Risk and Knowledge Management. I'm passionate about life-long learning involving a wide variety of topics and I'm committed to sharing my knowledge and ideas with those who are interested. My primary hobby is performing jazz music. I'm a jazz keyboard player, and vocalist, and I'm on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Simi Valley Jazz Club, which is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of jazz music from the '20's through the 60's.
This entry was posted in Better Thinking, coaching, Life, Personal Development, teaching, That's Life, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Our Love/Hate Relationship with Uncertainty

  1. Dawood.mamoon@umt.edu.pk says:

    If you understand and practice probability uncertainty is a measured risk every one would be willing to take

  2. Mike T. says:

    It seems like uncertainty (aka risk) is a bit like stress. The right amount, with a way to properly manage it, is actually healthy.

  3. “We are wired to be afraid of uncertainty” I don’t accept this as fact. If the results a pending uncertainty can be positive or negative, why “Fear” it. Even negative outcomes are rarely fatal. Healthy skepticism, alerted sense of awareness combined with a comprehensive system of procedure (the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time) should ease the anxiety people feel.

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