The Benefit of Uncertainty

I stumbled upon a proverb which states, “there is nothing certain, but the uncertain.” That is, while we cannot be sure of our path or trajectory in life, we can be sure that it will be presented with uncertainty. Ambiguity is an inevitable aspect of our existence; however, thoughts surrounding our doubts do not have to be scary, or possess negative connotations. In fact, I argue that they are key components to success and opening up new futures.

The world is full of uncertainty, whether it be in the economy, politics, environmental sustainability, or simply towards our own endeavours. Humans find uncertainty particularly hard to deal with, due to the way in which we evolved through natural selection. Humans are wired to feel comfortable in environments where they are in control, events can be anticipated, things are foreseeable, etc. Uncertainty presents a grey area in which deliberation and contemplation take place. Indecisiveness was not an advantageous quality in the environment of our ancestors, as their lives were dependent upon making rapid, crucial decisions. It was important to make concrete decisions in order to be more efficient and certain in their surroundings. However, present-day humans are not threatened by uncertainty in the same way our ancestors were. Therefore, I argue that while ambivalence may make us feel uncomfortable, or uneasy, it can help us explore new opportunities and ultimately benefit us.

When we are in our comfort zones, we are less likely to take risks. Generally, we are complacent with the positions we have assumed and close off our minds. However, uncertainty forces us out of our comfort zones because it places us in territory that we are unfamiliar with. When confronted with the unknown, we may be forced to take risks that we otherwise wouldn’t have and to explore new avenues. The unknown may be seen as a space where infinite possibilities may be investigated. Thus, uncertainty may be viewed as a state in which an individual may grow, or expand their horizons.

Consider the example of going to university. One may be nervous about the experience of post-secondary school, as I certainly was. Particularly if one is travelling away from home, they may have to be away from their usual group of friends, or it may be their first time living alone. However, university is generally viewed as a positive, maturing experience for an individual, which works to ultimately benefit them as a person. For instance, learning to live on one's own is an invaluable skill which teaches independence, time management and organization. In addition, one is often presented with situations in university where new relationships may be formed (e.g. through clubs, class, and parties). Although university presents many uncertainties, whether it be towards academics, social life or lifestyle changes, that same ambivalence is what drives transformation.

Similarly, when we graduate university, we might be presented with the same sort of uneasiness that we felt when we arrived. The thought of entering new chapters in our lives, starting our careers or other endeavors, is daunting. However, if we're presented with this ambivalence, we should not panic in the face of it. Rather, we ought to see it as a multitude of possibilities to cease. The unknown should be taken as something to explore with an open mind, instead of something that causes us to become closed off. Therefore, one should not fear uncertainty, as it can be used as a tool to grow and transform the self.