(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!)
This Week’s Journal Topic: Uncertainty & Risk
Spring is a hopeful time of year. In spring, we witness the energy of nature as fauna busily attend their young and flora burst forth with an array of spectacular shapes and colors. Human activity picks up pace for we begin making summer plans and thinking of love.
In nature, we can count on things like the seasons to happen regularly. In philosophy, what’s known as the principle of the uniformity of nature (PUN) dictates the rationality of assuming that the future will be like the past.
In spite of the PUN, the future is always uncertain – it can never be predicted with 100% accuracy. The recognition of life’s unpredictability causes distress and insecurity for many people. At some point, each of us must decide on a way to deal with an unpredictable future:
- Try to control it – the “control freak”
- Avoid thinking about it – the “ostrich” with her head in the sand
- Allow it to happen – the “cool cucumber”
The “Control Freak”
The control freak doesn’t like ambiguity and wants to control her environment – she doesn’t feel comfortable with risk. Instead, she seeks truth and rules because they create security. She might have plans A, B and C. Others’ unusual behavior or out-of-the-box thinking is worrisome because it contributes to unpredictability. The control freak is diligent, reliable, likes the status quo and avoids shortcuts that create room for errors and omissions.
The ostrich avoids unpredictability, not by creating security, but by not thinking about uncertainty at all – An uncertain world? What world? She might avoid talking and thinking about the future altogether. The ostrich avoids places, people, and ideas that force her to reflect on probabilities or plan for the future. Because the ostrich does not reflect on consequences in the real world, she might seem fearless, imaginative, and highly creative.
The “Cool Cucumber”
The cool cucumber is relaxed about uncertainty and does not struggle to control the external world. He knows that the future is unpredictable but is ready to take risks and even looks forward to change. Cool cucumbers are ready to evaluate possibilities in an attentive, relaxed and careful way. A cool cucumber finds too much structure unnecessary and limiting.
- In what areas of your life do you avoid taking risks?
- In what areas of your life do you enjoy take risks?
- How do you evaluate that a risk is too high – is it a gut feeling, an emotional reaction, the severity of consequences, or probability of undesirable outcome?
- Is your attitude towards risks similar to your family members or friends?
- Approximately how certain do you need to be about an outcome before you take a chance in order to get it – 50%? 60%? 90%?
- What is a risk that you want to take but have not let yourself take?
- What thoughts would you be thinking if you failed – is the self-evaluation “I failed at something I wanted to achieve” the worst part of risk?
How to Get the most out of Know Thyself 2019:
Don’t rush through the questions. Try to do only one question every morning, leaving space to add thoughts that might come up later during the day. The journal is designed to help you develop a consistent, daily practice of self-reflection.
If you liked this week’s post, please like or comment! I appreciate the feedback and use it to choose future topics. If you want to see more posts like this one, let me know!