“There is a plethora of companies, products, and services focused on helping us reduce anxiety by filling in the blanks of our future lives. But what if uncertainty is sometimes a good thing?”- Debra May
By Debra May
Biology created a human brain exceptionally resistant to, and fearful of, uncertainty. When you watch the evening news, or push a cart through a big box store, you realize that this fear of uncertainty is responsible for a great deal of the friction and anxiety in our lives. Uncertainty upends the most carefully crafted plans regularly and mercilessly, causing people to stonewall on critical decisions and avoid risks, even risks that could lead to amazing outcomes.
Since the pandemic, I’ve observed a growing, and frankly troubling trend among my clients and prospects to try and achieve 100% certainty about every money choice they make. Even clients who say they have a high tolerance for risk are sometimes compelled to over-analyze and procrastinate on financial decisions. Unfortunately, such hesitancy in making necessary financial moves is often detrimental and sometimes irreversible. There’s no such thing in life as being 100% safe or 100% certain. However, you can discover ways to shield as much of your personal economy from life’s unrelenting slings and arrows and create a more prosperous, less stressful financial future.
While I don’t blame people for feeling confused and afraid in uncertain and volatile times, I do encourage those with whom I work to confront their fears, grasp all the nuances, and do what’s needed.
Here are a few strategies that may help you on your path to embracing uncertainty.
- Stop resisting the challenges. You’ve heard the old saying, “what we resist, persists.” I’ve found that chestnut to be right on more than one occasion. Ignoring reality seldom contributes to your mental, spiritual, or physical well-being. It sure doesn’t help you feel better in the long term. One of the most effective antidotes for fear is the acceptance of what is. If you have debt, for example, you need to recognize it, own it, and then sit down with an advisor and find the cure. Leaving your bills unopened on the table won’t help you at all. Acceptance of your feelings about the situation as it is right now has curative effects. When you embrace the situation, you’ll be free you to find solutions and move forward.
- Practice healthy self-love. A little self-indulgence can go a long way toward improving your mental well-being and helping you avoid procrastination and self-sabotage. For instance, splurging on a new audio book, getting a pedicure, starting a yoga class, or engaging in a fun outdoor activity may seem self-centered and wasteful when times are tough. But, you should understand that human beings need an appropriate amount of self-care. You are your own most valuable resource and it isn’t wise to keep putting off your maintenance or deferring things that bring you joy. I’m not suggesting that you rack up a bunch of credit card bills and take a trip around the world or buy closets full of designer shoes. But, there are some less expensive alternatives that can contribute greatly to your happiness. Have some fun, and stop feeling guilty about it.
- Make your beliefs more obedient. Perhaps you grew up being told to not believe everything you hear. Well, sometimes it’s your inner voice that’s sending you the wrong information. Shovels full of doom and gloom are dished out continuously these days by news outlets, neighbors, and on social media. These snippets of woe can easily get lodged in your head with an automatic repeat button attached. It’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of negativity and fear that paralyzes you or causes you to make illogical decisions. Even though worst-case scenario modeling is a useful tool to help you plan and prepare, you don’t want to believe everything you think and start feeling depressed and threatened.
The upshot: There’s no way to tell the future or quell the brains natural aversion to uncertainty. Fears about the economy, climate change, and social unrest may have you cowering in a corner, afraid to act. However, there are ways to help ensure you don’t become paralyzed and miss out on opportunities or make money mistakes. Partnering with an empathetic, holistic financial advisor can help you get past your anxiety and create a better, more enjoyable financial future.