Your Brain And Uncertainty

It seems like everything is upside down right now. 

Just when things are getting better, all of a sudden something else happens. 

On top of everything going on in the world right now, there’s uncertainty in your personal life. 

Maybe you’ve lost your job. Maybe your family is falling apart. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with something you didn’t see coming.

Your circumstances are always changing and you can never know what to expect. 

I want to encourage you to think about this moment in a new perspective. Think about the bigger picture of your life. 

What else have you gone through that you thought was the end of the world when it happened, but you survived and realized that there was more for you?

No matter what you are going through right in this moment, I want you to know that you are stronger than you think. 

Enter: this blog post!

I’m sharing exactly what’s happening in your brain when you experience uncertainty, and what to do about it so you feel better.

Let’s take a look…

If you want to listen instead of read, here’s the podcast episode that goes along with this post — Uncertainty.

Your Brain Hates Uncertainty

First off, know that even though it’s a regular part of life, your brain is not wired to know how to handle uncertainty.

Your brain has evolved to survive.

Your primitive brain wants to make sure you get food, you are procreating, you are conserving energy, and you are protected. 

It just wants to make sure you don’t die.

Your brain doesn’t know how to thrive in moments of unexpectedness during modern times. 

Instead, your brain goes into fight or flight mode (aka survival mode).

Your brain thinks you’re going to die when it can’t predict the future.

Things are now much different from those old times where we hunted and forged for survival. 

In a modern society, your brain has the same primitive response, even though you live in a world with stocked refrigerators, internet, air conditioning, and fast means of transportation.

Your brain is now dealing with things like heartbreak, divorce, quitting your job, and failure. 

It’s not dealing with a bear that’s about to attack you or fighting for your true life or death survival.

But your brain doesn’t know this. It interprets the emotional fear the same it always has: fight or flight. It thinks you’re going to die.

What your brain doesn’t know, is that these things are all completely normal! 

It’s normal to feel uncertain, confused, and caught off guard by life. 

Did you know that it’s okay to feel uncertain?

It’s completely fine.

Knowing this can change your life.

Instead of thinking something has gone terribly wrong, you can watch your brain and be onto it.

I like to say to myself, “oh brain, you can calm down—nothing has gone wrong here; this is life, this is the way it’s supposed to be.” 


Example: Feeling Anxious

If your brain can “predict the future” (as in remember how things have been before) it can keep doing the same things over and over. 

By repeating the past your brain thinks you’ll stay alive because you stayed alive the last time you did xyz.

If you make a change, then your brain no longer knows what to do with the new uncertainty because it can no longer predict what is going to happen next. 

Uncertainty can trigger anxiety in your brain. Your brain no longer knows what is going to happen next. And it goes into survival mode.

If you can recognize that this anxiety is coming from a place of your brain not knowing what is going to happen next, then you can release the fear and lean into it instead.

You become the watcher of your own mind.

There is such a peaceful release of anxiety when you can realize the cause of your own suffering.

You can now relax and realize that just because you don’t know what’s coming, that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong. 

If you know that your brain is just reacting based on how it is wired, then you can control how you feel about the situation itself of allowing your brain to control you. 

Maybe the uncertainty isn’t something that you wanted, but now you get to take hold what happens next. 

Everything is going to be okay.

Uncertainty is inevitable, and you can accept it. 

COVID-19 has been the perfect example of this truth. 

If I had told you that this was all going to happen at this time last year, you probably would have never believed me. 

You might have even thought that I was out of mind my for trying to predict something like this. 

You might think that the government would never shut the country down and that we would be stuck inside our homes.

Your brain automatically assumes that things, in a years time, are going to still be the same way that they are now. 

That’s just not the way that it’s going to be. 


Why Uncertainty Is Inevitable

What I find most interesting right now is the idea that “certainty” is something to aspire to.

I think that’s the underlying problem: we want to go back to “normal” when things were certain. But the truth is, there is never any certainty.

We feel like we know the future. Our brain thinks it can predict what is going to happen next.

The truth is, that we never know what is going to happen to us next. We just think we do.

We think that we know what our relationships will be like. We think that we know what our careers hold for us. 

We think we know when we’ll have kids and how many kids we’ll have. We think that we know who they should turn out to be and who they may marry in the future. 

We try to do out best to make sure things will turn out the way that we expect them to be.

We try to take control of our lives. We take the actions that we think will lead us to where we want to go. 

We can do all the right things to get us where we want to go, but we also need to realize, that there are circumstances that will always be outside of our control. 

We can’t predict circumstances. And sometimes (as we’re seeing during COVID 19, we can’t even change them).

You could be diagnosed with an illness.
Your spouse could decide to end the marriage.
You could get an injury.
Your kids could decide to take a different path then you wanted for them.
There could be a burglary.
You might have to move across the country.
There could be Coronavirus. 

But if there is one things that we can always be sure of in our lives, it’s uncertainty.

I coach a lot of women in Grow You who are caught off guard when things don’t go as planned.

It’s so normal to initially react with fear, but if you have a good coach, you can move through the fear and forward into a new normal.

Here’s what the solution to uncertainty is…


The Solution Is To Redefine Uncertainty 

The solution to uncertainty is to redefine it completely.

Start with the actual definition. Uncertainty is a thought and a feeling. 

  • Saying that something is “uncertain” makes it a thought. 
  • Feeling the emotion of uncertain in your body makes it a feeling.

When you think a thought that causes you to feel unsure, you create that emotion in your body. 

All of your feelings are caused by the way that you think of things. When you think things are chaos, you are going to feel like you have no control. 

Instead of thinking about uncertainty as a bad thing, you can reframe your thoughts about uncertainty and believe that uncertainty is supposed to happen.

Feeling uncertain is not actually a problem, and you, my friend, are stronger than you think. 

Just because you don’t know what is next doesn’t mean that something is wrong. You can decide to think and feel different about the unknown.  

If you can decide that uncertainty is a way of life and that there are going to be things that you can’t control, then you can decide a new way to think and feel about the unknown.

You can embrace all of it.

I like to think… “If I were to lose everything I created and everything I owned, at the end of the day, I would still have me.”

I remind myself that the only thing that is truly certain is death. This may sound depressing at first, but to me it’s a reminder to take a broader perspective of the world. Bad things happen all the time and are supposed to. Throughout history, they always have. And the resilience of how humans overcome and forge on is unbelievably impressive.

So, what I want you to do is get out ahead of it. Decide on purpose what you’re going to think and feel about your circumstances right now.

Ask yourself questions, like these…
  • What if it’s not a problem to feel uncertain? 
  • What if you are already prepared for when something unexpected comes because you have already accepted it? 
  • What if you have chosen to be okay with uncertainty, so when it comes, it doesn’t pull the rug out from under you?
  • What if you decided that the unexpected is a chance for you to become a stronger person?

These examples allow you to reframe how you feel about your future.

Remember what I teach: you can imagine anything at any time. You don’t have to imagine an awful future.

This doesn’t mean you’re not prepared. You can be super prepared and precautionary AND you can believe in the goodness and prosperity of the world.

This new perspective can be magical for you.

When you do it right, you see that certainty, safety, and security is something YOU create. It’s something in your body that you know. It’s the knowing and feeling that you can handle whatever comes your way.

You then accept uncertainty as a part of your life, and you don’t resist it. You may experience sadness but you won’t experience suffering.

When something uncertain happens you can think to yourself, this was supposed to happen. You can allow yourself to believe that nothing has gone wrong. This means embracing the contrast of life. Not fighting reality. It means there’s pain but there’s no longer suffering.

Hear me when I say this: You’re capable of handling anything that comes your way.

I know this about you.

You’ve handled everything up to this point. And you’ll continue to handle everything that comes your way in your future.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel uncertain. You don’t have to fight it.

You can allow all of it.


How I Overcome Uncertainty In My Life

There are so many things that I’ve been through that were unexpected. 

During my childhood, things were always changing and somewhat volatile.

My dad was an alcoholic, so he lost his dental practice and was in and out of jail. My parents divorced and things were generally a bit up and down.

Even though things were uncertain as a child, I never thought anything had gone wrong. I never judged my emotions. I allowed myself to feel scared, worried, or nervous. And I didn’t beat myself up about it.

What I didn’t realize then that I do now is that this uncertainty was such a gift.

It prepared me for now.

I’m so much more resilient because of my childhood.

I don’t think everything is supposed to stay the same.

I think everything is supposed to change.

I don’t feel entitled to any of this.

I remember, always…

Life is uncertain. Nothing has gone wrong. I don’t need any additional suffering. 

I remember this today, too. When I’ve had uncertainty about dating, business, and money in the past, I never allowed it to stop me. I embraced it.

I quit my career as an attorney to become a CFP. Then I quit that career to go out on my own as a life coach.

I can’t think of anything more uncertain than that.

And yet, I believed that I could handle whatever came my way, including failure.

And the failures were real.
The negative emotions we experience are real.
The circumstances we don’t want are real.

You may not be dealt a fair hand. But you can always play the hand you’re dealt.


Useful Thoughts To Think About Uncertainty

As a life coach to so many women in Grow You, what I’ve found really helpful for my clients is to offer them thoughts to think that may serve them better than what they’re currently thinking.

If any of these thoughts feel true to you, use them.
If they don’t feel true for you, then forget them.

They’re just meant for you to be able to “borrow” and feel better in case your brain hasn’t thought of them yet.

Here’s a list of new ways you can think about uncertainty…

  • I can handle uncertainty.
  • This is uncertainty and it’s not a problem. 
  • Nothing has gone wrong. 
  • This is how I’m supposed to feel. 
  • I don’t need to know what’s coming next. 
  • I can solve any problem that is in front of me.

You can also come up with your own thoughts to practice instead of believing what random thought that comes up in your mind.

You don’t have to be so hard on yourself. You are a human that is doing the best that you can with what you have to work with. 

The unexpected will come no matter what, but you can prepare yourself for it! 

You will always be okay because you are strong. 


A Final Note

If nothing else, remember this: uncertainty is only a problem if you believe that it is. 

Instead of being scared of the unknown, realize that there will be moments of uncertainty and that you are still going to be okay no matter what. 

Accepting uncertainty can bring you so much freedom! 

This is the way that things are always going to be. 

You are stronger than you think that you are. Nothing has gone wrong.