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Most of us hate uncertainty. We want clarity, we want out destinies clearly laid out before us, we don’t want our lives, careers, or relationships to be influenced by the fickleness of fate. Uncertainty creates existential anxiety, and existential anxiety is a very painful psychological state. Thinking about the paradoxical nature of choice can make uncertainty and the existential anxiety that accompanies it a little easier to tolerate.

In order for there to be psychologically satisfying certainty in your life, uncertainty was a prerequisite. You needed the existential freedom to make that one choice amongst many choices that solidified your path. In human life, if everything is certain and all your decisions are made for you, you are either completely out of options or living in an authoritarian system where you have no input. Neither of these situations are desirable to Westerners.

We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to have total freedom and yet not be responsible for making the difficult choices. We want everything in our lives to be sure and stable, yet we want to retain the power to affect outcomes. Imagine a prisoner who has been told in no uncertain terms that he will spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement and that his meals will be brought to him at the same time every day. His existence is completely certain. He doesn’t have to make any choices. His life path is limited to the four corners of the cell in which he lives. This existential situation is obviously unbearable. We need to have choices, we need the ability to influence our destinies and influence the people around us if we hope to be happy and psychologically healthy. We can’t have it both ways. Freedom implies uncertainty, because making one choice makes all of the other possible choices fall by the wayside.

Instead of a dangerous enemy, consider uncertainty your good friend because it means your life is still pregnant with possibilities. No uncertainty whatsoever would feel safe but would also signify a droll and pointless existence. You would no longer be in the driver’s seat. Think of the areas in your life right now where you do feel certain and happy. Once upon a time these areas probably had uncertainty surrounding them, and you solidified them by giving up other paths that might have been available to you. Humans are in a constant state of becoming so we face uncertainty until the day we die. Embrace it. Uncertainty probably means that you are free, and it certainly means that there are still possibilities, which means that you are alive.