Dealing With Uncertainty Through A Crisis

Blake de Vos
5 min readNov 16, 2020
Photo by Gozha Net on Unsplash

There once lived a farmer who had a wife and teenage son. The sons’ job was to help the farmer with the chores, while the wife prepared dinner for the family. On the farm, the family had a horse, which allowed the farmer to plough the fields and travel into town. The horse was the mans best friend and was by his side every single day. One evening, after feeding the horse, the son forgot to close the gate. The next morning, the farmer awoke to find his horse missing. The horse had run away. A neighbour heard what happened and said to the farmer, “You’re so unlucky to lose your horse”. The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no”.

A few days later, the horse came back. It had returned with six other horses, so the son opened the gate, letting the horses in. The neighbour rode by and saw all the horses together. He said to the farmer, “You’re so lucky to have had all these horses come into your paddock”. He replied again, “Maybe yes, maybe no”.

One of the new horses on the farm was wilder than the others, so the son tried to break the horse of its bad habits and tame her. The son was thrown off the horse and broke his arm. The neighbour spotted the boy in a sling and brace and said to the farmer, “What bad luck you have, your son has broken his arm”. The farmer once again replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no”.

A few days later, the government had conscripted all able-bodied men in the area to serve in the military. The troops came through and saw the boy with his sling and brace. He did not get admitted into the army. The neighbour heard the news and went over to the farmer, “Surely your son falling off his horse was a good thing. You’re so lucky he doesn’t have to leave for the army!” Again, the farmer lamented, “Maybe yes, maybe no”.

The Moral Of The Story

Very few events can be judged fortunate or unfortunate the time they occur. In many cases, time will tell the story. We can’t consider something as good or bad because of how we think the outcome will play out. And that is the reason why the farmer had led such a peaceful and happy life.

How To Deal With Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of human life. What’s the weather like tomorrow? Do you think we can get a booking at our favourite restaurant? It is often associated with a negative and aversive nature, but can also be found considerably attractive. For example, when watching sports, we have anticipation on who will win; but we love to watch the outcome. But have you ever wondered how to deal with uncertainty?

Quite often we don’t know how bad things will get, and it’s reflected in our behaviour. We know it’s not how we usually live, but we struggle to deal with it. Whether it is a loss of a job, a move overseas, or an unforeseen circumstance, we all can deal with it in a way that is beneficial to us. Here are three ways on how to deal with uncertainty:

1) Improvise and Listen With Others

Improvisation is known as having no plan or scripted words to get through a conversation. We improvise every day without even knowing it. Whether it’s friends, family, colleagues; improvisation is almost impossible if we aren’t listening to one another. Imagine a waiter asking you “We have two options, what would you like to order, the chicken or the fish?”, and you respond, “I’ll have the lasagna”. You haven’t listened to a word the waiter said, making it impossible to come to any solution. Listening to people builds off our ideas and responses, instead of continually seeking to find out how to solve problems.

We don’t know we’re doing it, but we are improvising off what other people say when we listen to them. To deal with uncertainty through improvisation, we can reach out to people we trust, and listen to them. They may not be in the same crisis, but they may have experience in being in something similar. Listening helps manage our thought process through uncertain times.

2) Adapt To Change With Implementing Habits

We are the only ones that can change ourselves, even when the entire world around us changes. It’s important to be psychologically flexible to allow for an adaption and change in our routine and habits. When going through a crisis, your habits and practices are going to be affected either physically or mentally. The more your brain focuses on better habits and situations outside your routines, the more the brain learns to adapt without panicking. The mind focuses on neuronal connections based on what we repeatedly do- both good and bad. Making or breaking a habit involves a neuroplastic change in the brain.

We want something because our plastic brain has become sensitized to an experience and causes us to crave it. When we are satisfied, dopamine (a feel-good neurotransmitter) is released. The same shot of dopamine is also an essential component of breaking a habit. The first time we implement positive behaviour, dopamine comes after the event. The more we start to continue the behaviour, dopamine hits earlier and earlier. When the dopamine injection precedes our action, we can be confident that something has become a habit, and we have adapted to change.

Our brain learns to stay calm amongst the chaos by practice. It knows to view previous obstacles in a positive light and not send too much stress to the brain. By focusing on good habits in times of stress will help you strengthen your mind and help you become well equipped in adapting to change.

3) Focus on What You Can Control

Many things in life are out of your control. The key is to distribute your energy on the right things. The only thing you truly have control over is your deliberate thoughts and actions. Engage in a problem-solving thought process when problems can be addressed or prevented. Never use energy to solve what is out of your control. What you can do instead, is look at how you respond to any struggles that come your way and not let it manipulate your behaviour. An improvement in happiness, growth and opportunity presents itself when shifting our focus onto what you can only control. In turn, this helps acknowledge how to deal with uncertainty.

It Comes Down to Practice

Being able to manage ambiguity strategically is an essential skill in any environment. Focusing on these strategies and practicing them can help us handle how to deal with uncertainty in times of crisis. They show us that in the long run, we can control how we deal with unforeseen situations that come our way.

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Blake de Vos

A writer, reader and sports lover. A Bachelor of Business graduate. I write about productivity, habits and writing creativity.