“Stop trying to control everything and let the chips fall where they may”
We, humans, are smart, to some extent.
But we’re weird. Like, really weird.
We often try to be something that we’re not1No, I don’t mean faking who we are, I mean we expect from ourselves to have powers that no animal has (or will ever have)..
For instance, fortune telling is impossible. We all know that.
However, deep inside, we want to know the future in order to figure out what’s going to be painful and what’s going to feel good, what’s going to work and what will fail, who will stay and who will leave.
If you look at this desire, it’s nothing but an attempt to control the uncontrollable. It’s a desperate attempt to be in control. He who is in control is certain and won’t feel anxious or afraid. Won’t feel stupid or uncertain because s/he doesn’t know what might happen. It’s also a desperate attempt to stop anxiety.
You might think that this is a rare and an extreme desire, but many of us are guilty of wanting to control the uncontrollable.
Why do I claim that many of us want to have ultimate certainty and control everything?
It’s clear in the way we don’t take action sometimes. It’s clear in the way we over-think some situation.
Here are a few examples:
- Wanting to ask someone out but being uncertain about their response. So, we over-analyze everything they do. We stalk them and try to figure out what’s going on in their mind. We don’t make a move until we’re 100% sure. And because we are never 100% sure, we never make a move.
- Wanting to change your job but being afraid of doing that. Being afraid that people are going to judge you. Being afraid that you are going to be broke. Being afraid that you would be in a position where too much is demanded of you. And as a result, you’re stuck at your same job feeling very bad and yet doing nothing but over-thinking.
- Wanting to start a business but being paralyzed by the possibility of failure. So, you spend nights analyzing the marketplace. You spend thousands of hours reading about what works and what doesn’t work. You do your best to come up with the perfect business idea and launch a flawless product. But most of the time, you’re sitting there and taking no real
To have such control over anything, you need to have an absurd amount of information about that thing.
But in reality, you can’t have that amount of information about anything, no matter how hard you search.
This is an unpleasant fact about life. You’ll never have absolute control. You’ll never know all the answers that you want to know and you’ll probably never understand everything.
That means you have to deal with lots of uncertainties and doubts.
To be able to survive and take action despite these uncertainties and doubts, you need to give up your desire to control everything. And to be able to stop trying to control everything, you need to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty. This is the point that I want to take further in the rest of this article.
Uncertainty is about the fact that failure and getting hurt can be part of the process.
Handling it is about being OK with that.
Some call it fear; some call it vulnerability.
It’s when you work on a project while having a voice in the back of your head telling you that it won’t work. It’s when you want to change your career but you’re afraid of throwing everything you already have away. It’s when you want to ask someone out but are afraid of rejection.
And the uncertainty is real. Fear can be real. Many self-development schools tell you that your fears are unreasonable2I think the right word isn’t “unreasonable” but “exaggerated.”. But the truth is that your fears can be very reasonable sometimes. At least, they feel reasonable for you at an unconscious level.
Yes, the project you’re working on can fail. When you make a career change, many risks are involved. You’re (probably) leaving a secure job and going to start a career you have little to no experience in. That’s risky; you might spend some time broke and you may screw everything up. You can ask someone out and get rejected, for rejection is always a possibility.
That doesn’t sound positive, but it doesn’t have to.
“To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is risking nothing.”
Some level of uncertainty is involved in whatever you might consider important in your life. I hope we could change that, but it’s more productive to learn how to handle it than to change it; it’s more productive to become stronger than to hope that the enemy was weaker.
So, where’s the way out?
OK, we have a few options that we can consider:
Option #1: eliminate uncertainty once and for all by creating certainty
There will always be uncertainty. This is a fact.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some certainty in our life!
This certainty isn’t about being in control. This certainty is about confidence, faith, and (believe it or not) accepting uncertainty.
You need this certainty else you will become timid and lose your powers because you won’t even use them.
Being humble enough to realize that you can’t control everything is amazing. But also being wise enough to realize that you need confidence in your life is amazing.
We will expand on this point in a second because we first need to understand this:
Option #2: change your attitude towards failure
This means not being threatened by failure. It means being willing to fail. It means being OK with the fact that you’ll fail and/or be rejected. It means being OK with getting hurt. It means being willing to put your 100% and fail after that because it feels better than not trying at all.
If you’re not threatened by failure, uncertainty won’t stop you even though it scares you. (Yes, you will still feel scared and uncertain but that won’t be what it takes to stop you.)
Which option should you go with?
Both of them; we are going to explain them in more details and mix them together. But before we do that, let me show you how you can practically change your attitude towards failure.
A practical way to change your attitude towards failure:
Here we go, follow these steps:
- What does failure mean to you in the first place? First, ask yourself, “What has to happen in order for you to feel like a loser?” Being rejected X times? Failing X times? Failing in a certain way? Embarrassing yourself? For example, if I got rejected by him/her, it means I’m not good enough. If I failed this time, it’s all gone and I’m done. Find your own definition; you need to be aware of it.
- Challenge your definition: if you’re reading this article, and have reached this far, chances are you have an extreme definition of failure. And you need to challenge it. Who said that getting rejected X times means that you’re meant to be a failure or unworthy of love? Who said that you can’t solve this problem and grow from it? Who had failed miserably before and then succeeded? Who said that you should stop now? Challenge the already existing, and unhelpful, definition of failure in order to destroy it.
- Work on a new definition of failure: we need something that we can handle. Something that won’t destroy us. First, It’s not a shameful to fail at something or to be rejected. In fact, it’s unavoidable and you must fail somehow in your life. Second, you need to learn how to pick yourself up from failure. That alone can help you define failure differently. After that, get a definition. Failure means giving up. Failure means not trying doing your best. Failure means settling and stopping. Failure means being a coward. Failure means not trying. And condition yourself to believe in this new definition by repeating it, acting upon it, and reading success stories that back it up.
- Work on a new definition of success: people who have an extreme definition of failure usually have an extreme definition of success too. That is, they make it very hard for themselves to feel successful because they have too difficult rules. They never feel proud of themselves because of their extreme definition. That needs to change. You want to start looking at success in a different way in order to, paradoxically, be OK with failure. Success is doing your best. It’s about fighting even when you’re not sure whether you’ll make it or not, but you rather take a chance instead of wetting your pants wondering, “what if?” It’s about daring to dream and about daring to go out there and actualize that dream even though you might fail. It’s about risking failure. It’s about putting yourself out there. (That’s not easy, by the way!)
- Imagine the worst case scenario: when you start trying to control the uncontrollable and over-thinking the situations, I want you to do this: Imagine the worst scenario possible. The worst thing that will ever happen. Imagine your worst nightmare happening and write it down.
- Approach it with your new definition of failure: take your worst case scenario and think about it again using your new and empowering definition of failure. Chances are you’re going to feel differently about the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is scary because it makes your previous definition of failure a reality. With a new and empowering definition, it should affect you less (if not at all). Work on your definition of failure until your feelings toward the worst case scenario become less intense or change entirely.
- Approach it with your new definition of success: do the same with your definition of success. Take your worst case scenario and think about with your new definition of success and see how you still can succeed. Work on your definition of both failure and success until your feelings toward the worst case scenario naturalize or at least become less intense.
- Repeat and condition yourself: most probably, the transformation won’t happen right away. It can but let’s take the worst-case scenario. Try again and again. Keep conditioning yourself until you’re there. Condition yourself by repeating this process and also by reading success stories and applying this process to any situation you find yourself trying to over-think and control everything.
- You don’t become less afraid; you become braver: you are not going to reach the point where you are no longer afraid or moved emotionally by failure (or the possibility of failure). You are going to be braver and stronger and thus keep on going on.
Now let’s mix everything together to come up with a better way to handle uncertainty.
Option #1 + Option #2: certainty you’re going to make it + accepting the uncertainty and moving despite it
The idea is to mix those 2 solutions together and create some balance.
Confidence in your abilities (or in your ability to develop your abilities). Faith in God. Believing that the dots will be connected down the road (thanks, Steve Jobs!). It’s believing that even if you have failed right now, one day you’re going to be successful. It’s about believing that your vision will become a reality one day. You do know you’re going to make it someday; you do want to make it very bad.
And, trust me, this “certainty” is going to be tested.
It’s going to be tested through obstacles, failure, hardships, doubts, and naysayers. Difficult situations will happen. There will be people putting you down and people who don’t believe in you.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a “technique” or a “hack” to help you keep your certainty levels up. That’s something you need to figure out by yourself. You have to keep it there as if your life depends on it3It does!.
You need to pass these tests. You need to stubbornly and confidently stick to what you believe in.
And regardless of your religious beliefs, faith is required. To have certainty in an uncertain world, you need to believe in something bigger than yourself.
Certainty doesn’t mean:
A foolish and stupid stubbornness. It doesn’t mean lack of flexibility or close-mindedness. It doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to become successful or to change. Just because you think you will be successful, it doesn’t mean that success is going to be given to you without work or sweat. You still have to work for it. And, of course, certainty without action is merely an illusion.
Now, let’s look at the other side: uncertainty.
Accepting the fact that you’re not invincible; you’re vulnerable. Accepting the fact that you may fail when you try. Accepting the fact that you might get rejected, judged, called names, or even hurt when you express yourself.
And even though you’re vulnerable and not invincible by any means, you still go after what you want. Even though you may fail, you’re trying. Even though you may get rejected, you say it anyway.
And the paradox is that when you act upon uncertainty this way, you’re more likely to produce the results you want. And you are more likely to be satisfied with the results.
When you act despite the uncertainty, it’s strength. When you risk failure, being rejected, or being judged, that’s strength and courage that will make you more likely to succeed.
And if you don’t (surely, a couple of times you won’t), at least you have tried. That’s enough honor.
Uncertainty doesn’t mean:
Worrying and wetting your pants because you’re gutless. It doesn’t mean taking actions timidly. It doesn’t mean spending sleepless nights thinking anxiously about what might happen.
That’s cowardice, indecisiveness, and weakness.
What you need to do now is to create some balance between those two concepts. You need to make them both work at the same time, building each other instead of destroying each other. They’re not fire and water; they’re fire and air.
These are not tips that you’ll go out there and do. These are mindsets and beliefs that you need to start acting based on.
Start cultivating some certainty in your abilities. Start having faith in your vision. Start dealing with uncertainty, doubt, and fear by acting despite them. Be OK with the possibility of failure or getting hurt by knowing that you have done your best.