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I got 99 uncertainties but doubt ain't one of them

Updated: Jun 5, 2019

We got a whole trolley of uncertainty luggage just being alive in the 21st c, add on the excess baggage of all the social and environmental disaster warnings and it's a wonder we can get out of bed at all. Seems like the more we chase after certainty, the more uncertain we become. So what's going on?


TWO FACTS:

1. Life is uncertain.

2. The human mind is hard-wired for problem solving.


Put them together and you get the chaos that is solution driven thinking. Great in a maths exam, not so great when we're trying to figure out why our relationship just went down the wrong trouser leg.


Have a quick ponder on this quote from HH Dalai Lama:

If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.

Great quote, eh? If we can fix something we go ahead and fix it, if we can't then we get to relax and not worry about it.

NOTE: Doubt was in the bathroom when this quote was handed out.


As uber-fabulous as this quote is, it doesn't take into account the huge UNCERTAINTY MOUNTAIN of trying to figure out whether we can fix something or not.


First: Doubt isn't the same as uncertainty.


Doubt isn't uncertainty - it's a response to uncertainty. Slot them both into a comparative sentence you get why this is important:

  • I am uncertain if anyone will read this

  • I doubt anyone will read this

Doubt might share the same dressing room as uncertainty, but it sure as hell ain't singing the same kind of music. If uncertainty is disco, doubt is emo. But that doesn't stop doubt feeling like uncertainty - which means we don't always see it for what it is. This is important, because if we're not seeing it for what it is, then understanding it is like trying to open the car with the TV remote.


Second: Doubt sounds like the truth.


Let's face it, we HATE uncertainty. Anything that promises to give us an answer gets the thumbs up. And doubt has that itchy, sneaky way of bargaining. Before we know it, the most unlikely suggestions are starting to sound like the truth.

Couple this with the human tendency to identify with our thoughts, and the brightest and bravest of us can be convinced that we don't have the knowledge, ability or courage to do anything productive.

The less we trust ourselves the more uncertain we feel. The more uncertain we feel, the more doubt gets involved. The more doubt gets involved the less we trust ourselves. The less we trust ourselves the more uncertain we feel. Around and around and around we go.

Doubt is like a friggin' drug. The more we use it, the more we need it. Way to self destruct.


Third: The opposite of doubt isn't certainty.


Feels like it shouldn't really matter, right? But it does matter. Coz most of the time doubt is out there hawking for certainty as an antidote to feeling uncertain. WHICH IS A BIG PROBLEM.

Because certainty is a full stop. It doesn't allow for movement. It doesn't allow for mistakes or different points of view. Once we use certainty as an antidote to uncertainty, man, all sorts of divisional crap gets let loose.


The opposite of doubt is actually confidence. Which is a whole different ballgame. Confidence has loads of room for movement, it allows for mistakes and different points of view and once we start feeling confident, then all sorts of unified stuff starts to happen.


Forth: Doubt isn't the same as belief.


Everyone knows the self-doubt routine that goes: The world is a horrible place. I'm

useless. No one will help me. I can't do anything. Feels like doubt, right? But this little slipstream of thinking isn't doubt, it's belief - I know these things to be true.

Any doubts that profess to be true are not doubts. They're beliefs.

Doubt on the other hand won't fix it's damn flag to anything.


Fifth: Doubt is about choice.


Doubt might make us feel like we can't trust ourselves with our own legs, but in a messed up way it actually allows us to stop and assess a situation.

THE PROBLEM WITH THIS STRATEGY is that doubt always comes with that familiar stench of failure - which triggers every single one of our anxieties. Right about now we couldn't jump if our lives depended on it.


Sixth: Doubt can be uber useful.


In a weird, backhanded way, doubt is showing us where we are most uncertain. Which is great, coz it's not always obvious. AND Lucky for us doubt stinks of failure. Which lights up areas of uncertainty like a runway.

Doubt gives us an opportunity to stop and look at our options. And instead of paralysing us, doubt shows us where we most need to focus our understanding and attention by highlighting the areas of our lives where we feel the most powerless.


Doubt isn't screaming out for certainty; it's just waiting on confidence.



HOMEWORK SECTION


Doubt comes across as the mother of all saboteurs, but actually it's a part of an awesome creative process designed to protect us. So how about we spin this Negative Nelly on it's head?

  • Get curious about doubt: Next time you catch that familiar whiff of failure: stop, look and listen. And instead of scrabbling for certainty, relax into confidence. See what happens.

  • And talking of uncertainty: see if you can spot the mind's tendency to crave solutions. There are times when we just don't have all the information yet, or we're just not ready to make a decision. What if 'I don't know' was the right answer? Try it out. See how it feels.

It's like we have this fabulous toolbox of knowledge and experience, and we just go on using the same old hammer and screwdriver. By trying out different ways of looking at our thinking habits we become more creative, more tolerant and more accepting of ourselves, and through a process of association we become more creative, tolerant and accepting way of being out there in the world. Way to go, us!


DON'T FORGET, finding out the things that don't work is as important as finding the things that do. Don't believe anything - test it all out. Take it slow. Cut yourself a load of slack, and remember that change is the hardest thing we ever do.

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