Free Press Journal

Dealing with uncertainty of the future


What are all the things that we can do to shape the future and reduce the uncertainty? The first thing to do is to become calm, writes Dr SHRIRANG BAKHLE.

“Will I get admission into the college that I want?”, “Will I get the job I want?”, “Will I lose my job?”, “Will I get heart attack or cancer?”, “Will my daughter go off and marry an ‘unsuitable’ boy?”, “Is my marriage going to end in divorce?”

All of us keep having worries about what the future holds for us. The uncertainty of what is going to happen in the future is a major source of stress and anxiety for everyone. We humans have an ability to make projections about the future. This ability has helped humans to make great progress. But, it is also a source of fear.

The anxiety creates problems in many ways. The first problem is that it colours our predictions about the future. For example, suppose, a student’s preparation for the exam is not very good. Both Passing and failing are possibilities. Now the mood of the student will influence his judgment about what is going to happen. If the student is in a sad or fearful mood, s/he is likely to believe that s/he is going to fail. In fact, we see many students whose preparation is actually good, their prior record is good. But if they become depressed or anxious, they start believing in the worst outcome. This irrational prediction actually worsens the mood.

This leads to the next problem: inability to function properly. The student is unable to concentrate on studies. The employee cannot focus on work. So the negative prediction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the bad mood increases the chance of the negative outcome! Also, worrying anxiously – without putting in proper efforts – leads us nowhere.

The thought that ‘I have NO control over my future’ is a major part of the future-related fear and sadness. But the most important point to be realized is that there is, really, a lotwe can do to shape our future.

What are all the things that we can do to shape the future and reduce the uncertainty? The first thing to do is to become calm. A calm mind is far more efficient than an anxious or sad mind. So put in efforts to cool down and get the right mindset.

Secondly, get more knowledge about the problem. Talk to experts in the field and others who have successfully faced similar problems. And then convert that knowledge into action.

For example, suppose your friend has died of a heart attack. So you are worried whether you are going the same way. What can you do about it? A lot, actually. You can take many precautions to avoid the heart attack.First, get to know where you stand. Go to a doctor. Get tests done. You will come to know if you have any blockages. Learn more about your problem. Then start the treatment. Take medicines, follow a diet, relax! Get into a healthier lifestyle. Your chances of getting a heart attack will reduce drastically.

This type of proactive efforts can help to tackle most of uncertainties of the future. If you are worried about loss of job, you can do many things: try and improve relations in the office – with boss and colleagues, get more knowledge or skills, talk to people to learn what they are doing and so on. You can also look for some other job as a part of the effort to tackle uncertainty.

But suppose, in spite of the best efforts, the results do not seem favourable. That is the time to mentally prepare oneself. What, exactly, is this ‘mental preparation’? Every person needs to become mentally strong when facing problems. What kind of an emotional reaction would you like to give when faced with problems: break down and collapse emotionally or face the problems bravely while maintaining your poise? The brave hearts face the problems better, put in the best possible efforts, help others more and recover to get on with life.

If you want to give this type of a brave response, then you must prepare for it. Decide, “Even if the result is negative, I am going to face it calmly and stoically”. In fact, we find that if a person has this calm attitude, the outcome is better. We all have seen sports matches where a player is about to lose. But the player does not lose her/his composure and coolly fights back to win the match! It is possible to learn this attitude.

The older saying was ‘hope for the best and be prepared for the worst’. A better version of the saying is: Cool down, get knowledge, put in lots of efforts for the best – and be mentally prepared for the worst! There is a lot you can do!