Worry and uncertainty

In uncertain times, we tend to find ourselves in problematic situations. Take for example the work you can’t stop thinking, or something unknown coming in the future, the uncertainty of the matter makes you feel anxious. What we tend to do almost all the time, is to control every bit of our actions to be certain. We plan a head, aim to be early just in case and play it safe, so we know the outcome of things. What is it really about uncertainty that makes us worry and how to change the approach to uncertainty?

Worst case scenario
Everyone who has done a project or two knows that you must have worst case – best case scenario plan to make the project agile and flexible. This is great, because nothing ever goes perfectly aligned with the image you had about the way things should go. But what we sometimes forget, is that we must be careful on where we put our time to and have a well-structured idea about when to work with worst case, and when not.
Take a simple example like going for a dinner. You have a desire to have a delicious vegetarian dinner in this new restaurant near you and you want to give it a try. Now you are faced with a new, uncertain situation of an unknown restaurant. You are probably worried about the vegetarian options they have to offer, and more over, the quality of the service and food. You have clear worst case - best case here: Restaurant is competent with various and high-quality vegetarian options and it serves you well, or the place is cheap, and they don’t even offer your diet in their menu.
Now it gets interesting, when you consider, how do you approach this problem. If you are more familiar with the uncertainty, you most probably take this as an adventure, and see how the place ends up being and follow your gut, literally. Or if you tend to worry, you might want to check their website to make sure they are alright or even consider going to the same restaurant you usually do couple blocks from your place. Now you google the name of the place and you see they don’t even have a website. This makes you even more uncertain and you decide to go to the closest pizza place that has served you all these years. Next day you hear from a friend that the place was great and that the place publishes their menus on their new website next week.

Fear and uncertainty
Now, usually dinner is not that big of a deal and complex process, but within the metaphor, there is important lessons to be learn. Worry and fear go hand in hand, because if there would not be anything to fear, we wouldn’t worry. And when you think about it, worry is just a softer and easier toned word for fear. Considering basic idea of behaviorism, besides seeking for comfort, fear is controlling a big part of our psychic. By examining this, we can start to unwrap the deeper fear related to uncertainty and do something about it.
Let’s go back to the dinner example. The fear that caused the worry and thus the decision to go with the pizza place, had something to do with the problematic idea of being in the restaurant and having to eat bad food and so on. Even though sometimes this small level of fear can lead us to choose the known and familiar, there is probably something else happening. When you enter the place and see that it’s a cheap place, do you have enough courage to turn around and do the effort to go elsewhere? Also, the pressure in already sitting at the table and realizing, that there are no options for you and leaving is now even harder. Now we can really tap to the other motives one might be struggling, that is, the social anxiety one can have disease with.
We realize that the small worry in this case of dinner has awaken in us the deeper fears through our mind’s paths that affect us in various situations. In smaller decisions like going for a dinner, we make a lot of assumptions and rely on our habits to avoid mental fatigue. The auto pilot is helpful and we couldn’t live without it, but when trying to move towards change and new lifestyle, we need to get more aware of the though patterns that cause us to be victims of the worst case scenario and not be able to give chance to best case. Or in this case, chance at all.

Understanding uncertainty
There might be many factors in us that are causing disease, but the basic idea is to notice, that if we want to be able to go through change and experience something new, we have to look our anxiety and try to dissolve the fears and limits that control us and put our worry in context. What if the worst case happens? What does that mean? What if the best case happens? Even with small exercises like experiencing new restaurants, you can practice change management and build a habit of change. This way when you want to change something bigger in your life, you already know the mindset you need to have for that change to take place.
In the end, all of the scenarios are predictions and your worst-case scenarios of the situation are more or less unrelated to the reality of the matter. Consider for once, what is your best case for that specific situation instead and realize, that it is also as possible as your other scenarios. This is the real weight of things: Not only to shift yourself in “positive thinking”, but to realize, that the worst case and the best case are equally uncertain.

Listen to related story by Alan Watts (2min)
The Story of Chinese Farmer

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