Reigning in Uncertainty

Last few months have been quite uncertain in my life. I have to deal with many uncertainties at once. Should I move back to my family? Should I go for post graduation? Should I switch my job? Should I start on my own? …. and finally the main question of What is it that I want in this life? May be bit of a stretch, but I was having a midlife crisis.

Right from childhood, my life has followed a clearly marked path. Go to school. Study hard to get into best possible college, and then maintain a good GPA. Finally join best possible company for you and get yourself some name while working there. Living by the book.

All of a sudden there is no more visible path ahead and when you feel that the most important things in your life are now out of your control, you feel worried and anxious. Trust me it’s hell.

What do I want in life?

Most of the decisions we make in life boils down to whether to float along the tide or swim across towards a goal. There is nothing inherently bad in either of them. But to set a life goal, how do I know that it is THE best goal? Well, I wanted to be a doctor at age of 5. Then an Electrical Engineer before college. Then a software engineer midway through college. Then I worked as a researcher in 3 totally unrelated fields in span of 2 years.

The point being our circumstances changes and our goals may change accordingly. Being fixated on a particular goal makes us blind to opportunities around us.

To add on to this, people all around us appears to be progressing in life. They seem to have a “plan” while you are directionless in life. This makes us do all possible things as we don’t want to miss out in life while others race ahead.

Fear of missing out

Animation for Google from dribble
We try to keep all options open…. just in case! But sometimes we need to close certain doors to unlock the new ones.

Many people don’t have the freedom to face this kind of uncertainty. They have a family to take care of or a loan to clear or some other responsibility. While freedom is certainly laudable and some of us are fortunate to have it, excessive choice can lead to decision paralysis, stressing us out, blaming on self for not taking that one other choice and eventually regret.

Embracing the uncertainty

Having certainty in life feels much better than uncertainty, but this longing for a clarity makes us take decisions just to avoid the deep discomfort of the unknown. Even though it may not be the right choice, we just tend make a quick decision to get back to our comfort zone.

Instead learning to embrace this discomfort can take us long way. Here is how I’m learning that.

  1. Anti-goals: Instead of searching for a right goal in your life, have an anti-goal — what you don’t want to be in life or what is the very basic things you need in life. Then take along any opportunity life throws at you that meets this minimum threshold.
  2. Being process-oriented: While goal oriented nature makes you happy on reaching a particular goal but that wouldn’t make you content. Then you need a new goal to be happy again. A never ending process. Instead switch your focus to the process. Keeping doing what you enjoy and the goals/achievements may be just side effects.
  3. It’s okay to do “useless” stuff: Not everything you do needs to fulfill some purpose. Do things like reading a novel, playing a game, developing a side hobby or apet project — for no purpose other than, just doing them.
  4. Improvisational flexibility: Instead of latching on to your goal, you should be flexible. Flexibility in not just the path you follow but you should be comfortable enough in changing the destination as well. If you are an entrepreneur or a trader like me, this one quality is essential to excel.

Let’s not put our faith in tangible goals which change with time and strive hard to achieve them, instead let’s strive to be ourselves. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a goal, but rather stay true to your own nature and let the goal be a side part of you.