Life or Death
The thing about flying a plane is that if something goes wrong, you can’t pull over and figure it out. You can deal with it or fall out of the sky. And when you fall out of the sky, there are no “do-overs.”
It is my first solo flight. Today there will be no one in the seat beside me to take control of the aircraft if I make a mistake. I am surprised that this is really happening. I am uncertain whether I am ready. What if I’m not? Today my life is in my own hands like it has never been before. A bad decision and things can go wrong very, very quickly. There will be no time to think things through. Today if I make a mistake, the aircraft may plummet to the earth while I’m frozen in panic. There will not be an instructor to utter those reassuring words, “I have control.” The uncertainty is almost overwhelming.
Uncertainty affects each of us to different degrees. For some it’s almost a complete non-issue. For others, it’s debilitating.
The fact is that nothing in life is certain. To live a happy, fulfilled life, learning to deal with uncertainty is an essential ability. Unshackling yourself from the chains of uncertainty is ultimately liberating.
How do you react to uncertainty? Really think about it. Here are some characteristics of someone who may have some issues with uncertainty. Each one on it’s own, experienced in moderation, is not likely something to be concerned about, but many of these signs, practiced to excess may mean it’s time to start working on some management techniques.
- Excessive worry
- Constant double checking
- Excessive list making
- Constantly seeking reassurance from others
- Avoidance of most low to moderate risk activities
- Fear of new places, experiences, and people
The Good News
If you want to improve your ability to deal with uncertainty, there is good news. There are well established techniques in place to do so. Many are free and readily available. Feelings of uncertainty are nothing new and people long ago began work on how to effectively deal with them. Some of these techniques have been practiced for thousands of years. The Stoic philosophers devised strategies and tactics for overcoming this obstacle. I can highly recommend “The Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William B. Irvine. Modern techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) use variations on the old Stoic practices to achieve proven and effective results.
If you fall into the category of “debilitating” when it comes to fear and uncertainty, there are professionals with a deep understanding of these issues and trained in effective methodology for overcoming them. In my personal opinion, the days of our lives are limited and we should do what we can to make the most of them. To spend our days held back and suffering is a mistake. Take action to get assistance to move forward to a happier existence.
In future posts I’ll talk more about some very interesting Stoic philosophical techniques and other methods for dealing with challenges that get in the way of happiness.
Fly, Be Free
I glance over at the empty seat beside me, and then proceed with my pre-flight checklist. I contact the tower and before you know it I am on the runway pulling back to full throttle. I lift off the surface and I am airborne. It is a wonderful feeling. My heart beats a little faster than on previous flights and when the uncertainty starts to rise in me, I remember my training. I trust in the people who believed in me. A short time later I approach the runway, reduce power, pull back on the yoke and settle gently on the tarmac. I taxi along the route as instructed by the tower and make my way to the flying club. I am happy. I am proud and I am grateful. I am smiling so hard it almost hurts. Any residual uncertainty is gone.