It can be a powerful path to growth

It can be a powerful path to growth

A long time ago I met a friend whom I had not seen for a long time. We had a great time filled with laughter and stimulating conversation.

But as our date ended, my friend made an unexpected comment. “I have a feeling you don't really know what you want,” he said.

I asked him for clarification and he criticized me for being indecisive regarding my career plans and how I defined my relationship with the person I was dating. He even wondered why I wanted to meet him for no specific reason other than to hang out.

Although I was relieved that I did not have all the answers, it seemed to me that my life was in his view unproductive and my approach somewhat indecisive. For my part, I wanted to be open without constantly overhauling my life plan.

Dealing with uncertainty is not easy

As we grow, we are not only encouraged to learn, but we are rewarded for knowledge. We get good grades when we know the answer and the desired job when we succeed in demonstrating our skills.

Knowledge is something we constantly rely on to move the world forward. But is it possible to represent our life as if it were the periodic table of the elements? Is ignorance merely a sign of immaturity and indecision, or can not knowing really bring any additional value to our existence?

And Stady from University College London found that uncertainty can cause more stress than painful stimulation. The researchers showed that knowing that there is a small chance of receiving an electric shock can make people experience much greater stress than those who know that they will definitely receive the same shock.

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According to the authors, this uncertainty-related stress appears to apply to all types of situations. Just think about how you felt the last time your train was late and you didn't know how long you would have to wait. Or when you started dating someone new and didn't know if he really liked you.

So embracing uncertainty, especially in a society like ours, where progress and productivity are more important than ever, can seem at least terrifying, if not useless.

Now, what if I told you that not knowing can actually be a good thing?

The light is much better here!

At the end bookAuthor and economist Russ Roberts offers a compelling account of how to avoid confronting the fact that not knowing can actually be deceptive. Roberts uses a metaphor to illustrate this phenomenon.

Let's imagine that someone comes home late at night, realizes they've lost their keys and starts looking under the lamppost. Another person comes and offers to help her. They search for a while, but can't find the keys. The volunteer assistant asks: “Did you lose them here?” The owner of the keys answers: “No, but the light here is much better!”

Although he is an economist, a profession dedicated to modeling and forecasting our reality, Roberts suggests that the most important decisions of our lives (what he calls “wild problems”) are precisely those in which knowledge and analytical techniques can lead to not very useful results.

Limiting ourselves to only what we know is like searching for the lost keys where the light is, rather than exploring the full range of possible options that await us in the darkness. Only in the darkness can we discover who we truly want to be and connect with our deepest values.

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So, if you're wondering if this is the right time to make a radical change in your career, or if the person you're dating is right for you, a cost-benefit analysis in an Excel spreadsheet probably isn't the place for you. The right tool. Instead, taking a step toward experiencing uncertainty can lead to interesting discoveries.

The cloud of not knowing

But what do we do once we enter the darkness of not knowing? American writer and critic Tom Lotz reflects on this topic in one of his articles ConferencesMentioning the work of a Christian monk from the fourteenth century entitled The cloud of not knowing.

The best thing we can do when we don't know something is to try it, the monk claims. He recommends approaching it as if we were walking on a cloud. This in turn, in his words, can bring us as close as possible to God.

I don't know what you guys did, but I've never walked on a cloud. Now, I can remember my last walk through the countryside on a foggy morning. He could barely see through the small drops of water hanging in the air. My steps became slow and cautious, and the path only revealed to me with every step I took.

I could do nothing but trust and hope that at some point the weather would clear and I could move forward with more confidence or that those same steps would lead me to the right destination.

Ironically, the confidence that naturally flowed as I walked through the fog is harder for me to find when making important decisions in my life, because I analyze the same experience too much to maintain some control over it.

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A different approach to knowledge

The day may come when I will simply accept that not everything in life can be understood and modelled, thus avoiding the unnecessary pain that pain causes. bondage My mind Instead, I would receive another kind of gift, as you suggest Jess Lenz and Anna Secor: Connecting with something greater than ourselves, “a bewildering, unresolvable complexity.”

As Roberts rightly says, realizing that we have no control does not necessarily mean no control at all. Instead, he invites us to trust and remain alert to new information that emerges as we move forward. An opportunity to continually review the previous draft of our life plan.

So yeah: I'm guilty of not knowing for sure what I want in life! But growing as a human being means exploring our identity and learning from our experiences, right?

And if you're like me, someone who tends to over-analyze everything and relentlessly accumulate knowledge, I invite you to take a moment to gently bring your racing mind back to the present moment. It can be surprisingly rewarding.

Maja Wrzesien (she, her)Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Valencia

[Aquest article es publicà originalment en The Conversation.]

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