Nothing preoccupies us more than the state of not knowing. Some part of each and every day is devoted to the unending task of making the unknown, known (in ways big and small). Unable to see if we can plan something in our future (“Will I get the time off work?”). Not being sure if we can count on something (“Will they deliver what they’ve committed to on time?”). Not understanding how you are perceived by others (“Am I liked and respected in my work?”) can be very draining. We seek comfort in the familiar, in what is clear.
Along the way our path is paved by small certainties, to capture the elusive “big” certainties in life. For example, we make decisions based on what we know to be true (even if it turns out we misunderstood or misjudged something). We form opinions based on understanding, but also on judgments and assumptions. We venture carefully into the unknown from the security of the known, and expect that the light we carry with us will always illuminate what we need to move forward safely and to achieve our intended outcomes. Often certainty demands a strategic focusing of that light in order to see clearly what it is we are trying to understand.
In focusing that light (from a flood light to a beam), we make irrelevant many things, not always to our advantage because certainty is something we need to balance very carefully, for it gives us both favourable and unfavorable results. Certainty of opinion can be useful to others, when we are teaching, guiding or being our best selves. It can also be divisive, laying the foundations for judgment. Being certain of something can be a restful state, but not when it can only be maintained at the expense of another; every major conflict in the world has been based on someone’s certainty that they were right. Certainty can become a demanding taskmaster that forces us to trample on our own values and principles in order to maintain the assuredness we have become overly attached to (or overly identified with).
We reach for certainty frequently when we are afraid; what that fear is depends on the circumstance. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being right. Fear of losing something you value. If you think about all the emotional and circumstantial states you want to avoid, the list is really quite endless. This is why (from time to time) looking at your motivations to reach certainty allows you to see what is driving this need. There is a wealth of information here that can help you to better know and understand yourself so you can make decisions from a place of wisdom and compassion (even when things are still uncertain). By holding on to something too tightly we destroy that which we seek to embrace. We need to balance our need for certainty with the impact we have on ourselves and others. Be open to what uncertainty has to teach you. Be curious as to why a need to know is asserting itself at this time, and then choose kindness, first towards yourself and then towards others.
“Uncertainty is a natural and guaranteed part of life. A journey isn’t intended to be seen from a birds-eye view. It’s rather meant to be lived in the moment through our own experiences. We don’t need to know what lies beyond what’s right in front of us. We’ll reach it eventually, in the right time.”