uncertainty, change, navigate change, how to change, wellness, empowerment, self-healing, self-empowerment, courage, be brave

The Upside of Our Uncertain Lives

“The suspense is killing me.”

“I’m absolutely certain…”

“Because that’s how it’s always been.”

These words roll right off our tongues–unconsciously–because we’re wired and trained to resist uncertainty. Honestly, very little unsettles me more. I’m a bit squeamish about not knowing what happens next.

But we can go to extremes to “know for sure:”

  • By creating stories that just aren’t true.
  • By being stubborn and dogmatic about “the way things are.”
  • By trying to control everything in our lives.
  • By marinating in the anxiety of what “could” happen (the worst case scenario).
  • By trying desperately to be perfect.
  • By numbing ourselves into oblivion.

Sound familiar?

But not knowing is also magic.

Nothing else but uncertainty makes having hope seem like a sane option.

Only uncertainty–acknowledging that we don’t always know for sure–opens the doors to other possibilities… For things to get better… For life to blossom… For solutions to our unsolvable problems to arise.

While the practice of being certain brings short-term comfort, in the end it limits what’s possible for us–it gets in the way of our success.

My uncertain life makes me more successful and happy

By keeping me curious and exploratory.

If I had all the answers there would be nothing new to ignite my interest and passion for learning. Opening the door, however slightly, to the questions, brings new insights and solutions.

By helping me become more optimistic.

The discomfort of uncertainty moves me to choose optimism. This soothes the ragged edges of not knowing and literally opens doors to greater possibilities.

By encouraging me to choose what I value most.

Not knowing presents me with choices. Scary as that is, I get to decide for myself what means the most. I get to wrestle with–and clarify–my own values.

By keeping life interesting and surprising.

In truth, my nervous system would prefer that things stay the same sometimes. In spite of my anxiety in the face of not knowing, I marvel at how life unfolds.

By keeping me on my toes–tuned in and aware.

I value being alert and awake to the people, ideas, and events around me. Not knowing outcomes keeps me curious and watchful. Being on the lookout keeps life interesting and usually brings what I need and seek.

By keeping me honest.

It helps me navigate toward the iterative truths of life rather than the stagnation of certainty.

By keeping me humble.

I don’t know nuthin’. I can predict, hope, plan, and wish, but in the end, life’s got the upper hand on me.

By helping me become more resilient in the face of life changes.

Yes, I get stronger and wiser as I face the ups and downs of life with my eyes and heart wide open.

By reminding me that there’s always hope.

The worst case scenario is as much a fiction as all other possibilities. If I hope for what I need and want, I take action in ways that lead to my success. The outcomes may exceed my expectations.

All my desires and triumphs are embedded in an uncertain life.

How about you?


Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.


    I agree indeed. I can see in hindsight that the ‘extremes’ were the gifts that eventually brought about a lot of pain. And that pain led me to embrace the absolute beauty of the uncertainty of life.
    Well said Karyn.
    Thank you


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