Have you ever noticed how often you see faces in clouds or in tiles on floors or marble walls? The brain needs to see patterns. We look for and find patterns everywhere in compositions, music, art, nature, conversations, and relationships. The brain wants certainty, things that look right and whole. If there is even a hint of what something should look like, our brains fill in the blanks. This is the reason we don’t like uncertainty.
Uncertainty is that disquieting sense or feeling that something essential or important is missing; it’s not finished or complete. In conversation, if a partner doesn’t complete a sentence or a thought, we try to finish it for him or dangle in waiting expectation of what needs to come. It’s the suspense of not knowing.
We humans want to know what’s going on. In our relationships, we want to know what our significant others are doing; we understand behaviors and conversations; we recognize familiar patterns and settle into the routine and peace of each other’s habits. When a pattern is changed, we sense something is amiss. This can be in family or at work or with old friends. We prefer certainty. This is the reason for rules of the game, whether on the road, at work, or in family. Rules give us a pattern we can follow with a good degree of certainty.
Certainty helps us predict the future. That’s why we like the weather forecast; we can plan our activities around it. But when the future is not certain, we are not sure how to predict what’s coming or what to do. This is when we are cast into the unknown. How do we deal with it?
We are all predictors, which means that we recall our experiences of life as the basis of how we understand our circumstances and thus how we will anticipate patterns of actions. Our memories are the basis of our predictions; we remember things to better adapt to what’s ahead. Memories always forecast the future. What we have done in the past is what we expect will happen in the future.
In addressing the question of uncertainty, we are suggesting that we are in the process of decision making. All our past decisions are stored in our memory and impact how we make a new decision. How we decided in the past is the predictor of how we will decide now and in the future. The way we handled uncertainty in our previous decision making is the same prediction we use in the uncertainty of our current decisions.
Here we see how reflecting on our previous thinking process is so important. It is a review of our mindset; do we have a fixed mindset or are we continually creative in our way of thinking. We need uncertainty to challenge us in the creative approach we ought to have in new situations. Life is dynamic. True, our memories are there to help us predict the future; but the future is changing, ever dynamic. Our memories likewise should be changing and dynamic with the challenge of how we can do things differently.
We need uncertainty to remain fresh and insightful. Our decisions are prediction of how we handle the future. Life is like a river which is never the same. We can understand that the water in the river is dynamic; yesterday’s water is far down stream. Uncertainty is the water of our river of life. It’s still water but it’s also new water.
Uncertainty is the exciting invitation to try something new and different. Our predictions can have new insights into how we want to shape our future. The only thing certain is that we are alive and smart so that we can fashion our future with creativity and surprise. We are no different from the pioneers and explorers we read about in history. We are ready to make our own history in the certainty of what we may encounter. Let’s jump in and enjoy the flow of life with all its uncertainty.