Embracing Uncertainty

How to reduce stress and improve your results by embracing life's uncertainty.  

There is a positive thinking movement also known as the Law of Attraction. As a Humanist, I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, I like the idea of being positive.  I like the idea of imagining a better future and then working toward those goals.  After all, without positive thinking, the motivation to do and try new things wouldn’t be there.  We have to believe we can create change to even try.

The problem is that all that positive thinking doesn’t help you if it prevents you from planning for potential difficulties. The road to a better, happier life isn’t easy and no amount of positive thinking is going to change that basic reality.

Life is uncertain.  You can plan for success; however you define that, all you want. You can do everything right and still fail through no fault of your own. Good people have bad things happen to them. That is just the way of the world. Life is uncertain.

I think one of the reasons why people are so attracted to positive thinking is because it gives them a way to control their fears and nervousness.  It is a way for them to believe they have control over things they don’t actually have control of.

The Humanist approach is to embrace reality. And that means, embracing uncertainty. Accepting that there are some things beyond your control doesn’t have to cause you stress. It turns out that the fear you don’t have control is worse than accepting that you don’t. Once you accept that the outcomes of your endeavors are ultimately unknown, it frees you up to focus on the things you can control instead. Do your best and hope for the best. But it is always a good idea to be prepared and to have an alternative plan in place just in case things don’t go as you had hoped. That isn’t pessimistic. It is just good planning.

What do you do to control the stress created by uncertainty? Do you use the Serenity Prayer? Do you have a silly little ritual you perform that helps or a mantra that you repeat to yourself? Don't  be ashamed, we all do. I personally close my eyes and remind myself of how much I love my husband and son when I get stressed out. It helps me every time. Rituals are a way of coping with the stress of uncertainty. I’d love to hear what your quirky ritual habits are. 


  1. Great post, Jen. A rational alternative to the law of attraction, etc. while still being positive, thank you.

  2. Love this post! My stress ritual is talking- to myself, or to someone I trust. Somehow hearing my own words bounce back at me is affirming, calming.

    1. LifeonLiverpool - Interesting, because that's basically what my ritual is. Not to deny uncertainty, but to accept it as ok by reassuring myself of what is known by, yes, talking to myself about the people I love.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I say "it is what it is" and that means in my head the serenity prayer with out any appeal to the supernatural.
    Some one needs to do a good rewrite of it for the secular.
    Oh, and yes, another great post. Thanks

    1. I love it. I do something similar - I ask myself - what am I doing with my life and why? My answer - living it. Relax - I'm succeeding at that. LOL And yeah - the serenity prayer as a secular thing - I'll get on that - though I think all that is required is the deletion of the first few words "God Grant Me" - The rest is secular if I am not mistaken. We can replace that with "What I want" - to have the courage .... I think for Humanists - our emphasis is on the "wisdom to know the difference part" I use the serenity prayer a lot in my talks to segue into the need for critical thinking.

      And thanks for the kind words! Glad you enjoy the blog.

  5. Personally, when things are really bad, I recite to myself the mantra from Dune (yeah, go figure) - see http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Litany_Against_Fear.

    The main issue I have with the Law of Attraction is that you are supposed to get something in return. Plus. merely thinking something is supposed to have some impact on the world. So, it's fine on the surface, but once you dig it's broken.

    Think positive? Fine, but also prepare for significant and realistic eventualities.

    Good topic, Jen.

    1. Peter - I had totally forgotten about the litany against fear from Dune! That is so totally awesome and a great way to confront the fears and move on despite them.

      I must not fear.
      Fear is the mind-killer.
      Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
      I will face my fear.
      I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
      And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
      Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain.

      I am so teaching that to my son! (He's 7 and gets scared a lot over things like potential neanderthal groups in his bedroom - he has a good imagination).


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...