Choose Uncertainty over Unhappiness
Welcome to Self-Mastery — a place for exploring timeless ideas to become the architect of your mind, create yourself, and do less, better.
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart…
Live in the question.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Change is a funny thing. Most of us want it and fear it at the same time.
I recently re-watched a video dissecting Tim Ferriss’ prolific book ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ which gave me so many great ideas about creating happiness by embracing the unknown.
There was one thing that Tim said in his book that struck a powerful chord in me.
“Most people choose to be unhappy rather than uncertain.”
It’s a bold and perhaps critical statement to make. But it is true for me. A few years ago, I was happy to submit to a life where everything was predictable and certain—even if it was making me miserable. It applied to both my life and work. While I liked to think I was someone who takes bold risks and tries new things, this was not as true as I wanted it to be.
There were clearly places in my life where I avoided change. There still are. But I was once more than happy to suffer with “how things are” and allow fear to stop me from doing things differently, even if the way I’m currently doing things isn’t really helping me. Can you relate?
Go back to my first sentence; change is a funny thing. Especially in the past year or two, with so much swirling around us—at work, in the news, in our families, and more—it’s as if we’ve become more afraid of risk. And while this makes sense given the way things have recently been, a life of risk-aversion isn’t making us happier or more fulfilled; in fact, it has quite the opposite effect.
Ironically, no matter where we find ourselves on the risk continuum (not going for any risks, taking a bit of risk or going all-in), we all have had plenty of experience with risk, change and stepping into the unknown. Though we can often dwell on such “negative” experiences (and use it as justification for not doing things differently), you’ll have way more successes than failure when it comes to change and delving into uncertainty.
We make ourselves feel scared of leaving our job or trying something new, even if we’re unhappy about it all. We prefer the certainty of being unhappy rather than the uncertainty of being happy.
However, think of the things you’ve done in your life that felt risky at the time—but you were so glad you did. For me, there have been countless times I was thankful I did something even though I dreaded it; or there was a strong uncertainty of me being happy or succeeding at it. Every hard training session I’ve done when the weather was crap. Every time I write, even though nobody could care. Every time I spoke up for myself despite feeling terrible and anxious. Every social outing I did, even though I didn’t want to go.
It’s the stuff that confronts you in the moment, or that may worry you about the future, that causes you the most anxiety. And this is why I find it incredibly important that we look back, to help us create more confidence and vitality, live better in the present moment, and see from who we were that who we are now is a sterling improvement.
Right now, for you and me, what’s necessary (and rather essential) is that we live lives of meaning, direction and focus. To fulfil that commitment is to consciously be out of your comfort zone, take more risks and choose uncertainty over unhappiness.
Are risks scary? Yes, of course. Will things work out? Not always—at least, not always in the beginning. But is your level of fulfilment in life directly connected to your ability (or inability) to lean into uncertainty? Absolutely.
What’s on My Mind
An excerpt from Henry David Thoreau.
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone.
I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
Great partnerships and social connections are incredible. To have unbreakable bonds with friends, family, and companions is something everyone should protect. But I find it important that we feel complete, happy and at peace when we’re alone. Most people can’t do it. They can’t be happy alone. But to do so can make your time around others feel sublime. It makes your emotional bonds stronger. It makes your mind clearer and your energy cleaner.
It’s about balance at the end of the day. But to be happy when you’re alone, there are few things greater.
"Everything good needs time. Don’t do work in a hurry. Go into details; it pays in every way. Time means power for your work. Mediocrity is always in a rush; but whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing with consideration. For genius is nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly."
Article of the week
In all situations in life, you have three choices: change, accept or leave. This week, I wrote about the only three options we have to make our lives better.
Interesting Thing of the Week
James Clear’s 3-step process of finding your ideal life.
Question of the Week
What could you improve, and what could you remove?
Until next time,