change and uncertainty

change and uncertainty

the only constant in life is change

an everyday example:

So my friends asked me to write a blog post about how to deal with change. Change is such a broad topic, but I divide it into the changes we don’t anticipate and changes we consciously try to create in our lives. Most of the time, the best and worst things that occur or the most memorable events are events which we did not anticipate, and brought spontaneous change.

Ironically, human nature and nature are at odds with each other on change. Change is considered natural, the very material of life. However, it is human nature to resist change and to crave familiarity and stability. Yet, to thrive, humans need both - we need some sort of structure/familiarity as well as the freedom to be spontaneous within these boundaries.

It’s no secret that environments and people that we continuously meet have a sort of familiarity and comfort to them, we know what they’re doing, they know what we’re doing etc. That’s probably why we can find change so hard, we can be scared that when we change up what we’re doing - it will catch others off guard and they can no longer predict what we’re doing and may retaliate or criticise us as depriving them from that comfort.

I think I need to ground change in an example - for me, a prominent change has been transitioning to university. A change that may be more familiar amongst people my age - in my journal I wrote that ‘I think the biggest difference between high school and uni is that this period of transition is the first time that I witnessed variation in what people my age do’. It’s the first time, where not everyone our age is on this same track of ‘school’, and I realised how much life can change - for instance, some students go to uni, some start a business, others do multiple things, some dive right into the workforce.

Growing up everyone went to school and it became something that everyone my age ‘just did’. I think, in this way, high school can give the illusion of certainty/security where if you just do well and excel in school you’ll be set for life. Like high school, uni is another institution that you participate in but academic prestige gets less and less tied to being a predictor of success (unless you’re interested in research or your career is super technical), hence the clubs and networking etc. In the variation of choices that I witnessed people my age start to make, I realised there is no one curriculum that guarantees success, security or happiness.

No, I’m not saying that everyone should boycott universities but unlike previous generations (especially third world countries), our generation makes it possible for us to make a living without a degree where experience is favoured over education (in some areas).

a reflection:

In this example, I want to stress how it is in our nature to create illusions of security and familiarity (e.g. school) in order to escape the changing nature of life, and provide an excuse to resist changes that may actually be necessary for our growth. Let me explain that better. University can be framed as ‘secure’, a well trusted institution where most people get jobs afterwards, but if I really see the path of university as superior to less mainstream paths, I limit my flexibility in life when change occurs. For instance, if there is an opportunity offered to me which would require me to deprioritise university, I’ve already created this false idea of university being my anchor in life that I would have to pass on opportunities that could arguably bring me more stability or joy.

Recently, I realised that the conventional path, or the actions you see most people around you make tend to become the ‘default’ - the one that ‘oh yeah if I do that I’ll be set’. The danger to this is that now other options that would actually be better for you become dismissed just because they’re not the ‘default’. I, for one, know that if certain people did the default and went to university, they would have ignored another opportunity and would not thrive as much. It would help build certain skills for sure, but they are more suited to the the opportunities that they actually wanted to do, and actually thrived in those environments the best.

Another way we tend to cope with uncertainty is through excessive planning. I remember where I had this phase of scheduling everything to the minute on Google Calendar. Funnily enough, nothing went to plan. I’m not just talking about time-blocking but planning exactly how your life will pan out. What often happens is that getting too specific and detailed leaves no room for the uncertainty of life in the schedule, which you actually need to account for. It’s kind of audacious of us to want everything to go exactly our way, it’s like we think we’re the ones that know how our lives should pan out the best - when actually things that we would never have dreamed of happening (honestly this could be unpleasant too, but it can also be pleasant) occur because we didn’t plan it. When we are so intent with our plan, we resist ANY change and that’s usually how changes that could lead to pleasant results pass us by. Basically, I can get so attached to this construct in my mind of ‘how my life should look/pan out like’ that I reject everything else that could actually enrich my life because it doesn’t match what’s exactly in my head.

In terms of scheduling, I prefer certain routines over set schedules but it definitely depends on the person. I think it’s because routines become activities I do at around the same time of day every day or every week that are typically periods in the day that are unlikely to have interruptions. This lessens the thinking and analysis paralysis time for me. Even with language apps, they’ll prompt with notifications at the time you last did a lesson because it’s more likely that you are free and will open the app. But if I have a task that is more high priority and really urgent, I try to schedule it in a time where I know there will be no distractions/interruptions.

an extra reflection:

In a world obsessed with clarity, there exists a pressure to be fully certain with every decision. We are not the all-knowing beings. And this expectation or pressure stems from a discomfort with the 'I don't know', like it feels like I cannot be okay with not knowing, which is ultimately a personal obstacle. Maybe I don't trust myself or my environment is unreliable. Either way I am also a constant in my life, so I think it's a safe bet to make my mind a reliable, secure place.

In my micro-scheduling era, I found myself feeling easily frustrated and angry when minor unplanned occurrences came up. Every time this happened I felt my plan had failed and I neglected changing my schedule to do the most important tasks, or felt guilty that I could not do everything how I planned out doing it. There was this inner voice of 'ugh why does nothing go my wayyy?' that kept getting reaffirmed - not by the minor occurrences but by the constant pressure I put on myself to only feel satisfied/successful/productive when my plan was followed to the very second.

Fear of the unknown was actually fear of being put in a situation where I could not rely/trust myself. It's not that things weren't going my way, it was that I pedestalized my vision of how things should be/how my schedule should look like to the extent that any unplanned variations warranted self-hatred or punishment for not being 'prepared' enough. But this prompted me to see how I could build greater trust in myself, for instance, trusting that I can adapt my schedule to ensure the three most important tasks get done (not perfect) and feel satisfied with that.

With that said, there are some thing you cannot pressure to have more certainty around - for example maybe you just don't know yet how your feel towards someone (friend/romantic). In these situations you've got to assume that the level of clarity you possess is all that is needed to take the next step. Maybe it's admitting that you don't know or expressing to another person that you want more clarity. 

magic in the mundane:

Uncertainty obviously can feel scary. Maybe there is a genuine need/desire to implement more structure and planning and that’s why uncertainty feels scary. For instance, creating morning rhythms/routines might actually bring more peace to your day. However, there are two tones of ‘i don’t know’. Theres ‘omg, I don’t know what will happen’ (panic/anxiety) and then there’s ‘ooh, i don’t know what could happen’ (excitement/anticipation). If I can’t increase my certainty around whatever it is I’m uncertain about, I try to opt for the second I don’t know, and hope that I’ll be surprised in the best way possible.

It’s also so ironic how we consciously initiate change, and glorify people changing/evolving, seeing this type of change as being super effortful. Yet, at the same time we are terrified of change that we do not intentionally initiate. Honestly, I used to feel really frustrated around the saying that ‘the only constant in life is change’ because the idea brought no comfort or security at ALL, which are the exact things we often crave when we’re scared of change. The key idea here is that while this phrase might be true - security and change can co-exist. Like a new job opportunity (change) can bring greater security and that would not have happened without change. So it’s not an either/or statement, it’s recognising that yeah I like the idea of stability and security, and I also make room for unpredictability in life because maybe that’s where my dreams/aspirations will manifest from, which brings security.

fromtheheart mantras:

  • Feeling scared of uncertainty is not bad. Maybe I actually just want to implement more structure and planning


  • I can learn to stop associating uncertainty with stress/anticipating something bad will happen. I can learn to associate uncertainty with pleasant surprises/opportunities


  • When we feel secure to the extent that we feel stagnant, we crave change. When we’re in the middle of change, we crave security. Let me realise I’m experiencing something that I was previously craving.


  • The level of clarity you possess is all that is needed to take the next step - the visual that always comes to mind is that image of walking down a really long path where you can only see the next few steps. If you stopped walking to try and see all the steps in front of you, you would get stuck at the same spot for a very long time.

what's on my heart?

The biggest contradiction I’ve realised lately is how disordered thinking around eating, food, movement and appearance is normalised (e.g. oh everyone must think this about themself, everyone must just hate how they look or restrict themselves etc. etc.) but the second people develop an eating disorder, people are SHOCKED -as if the normalised disordered thinking around food didn’t contribute at all and it was just the person’s fault it got to the extent it did.

  • And THEN it’s expected that they just overcome the struggles in SILENCE??


podcast recommendation <3

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