In a culture that worships people who “have it together,” it seems as though today’s millennials and Gen Zers have been conditioned to fear uncertainty as if it were the plague.
Today’s college students are multitaskers, go-getters and just about every other hyphenated phrase in the book. But even with so many opportunities on our plates, we tend to veer away from situations with unknown outcomes. Today’s young people are still too easily shut down by the fear of unpredictability.
Uncertainty is a pervasive emotion that roots from different social and psychological factors.
In a society that values the busy, it’s not unusual for people to go to great lengths to ensure their daily schedules are meticulous blueprints laced with set plans rather than blank boxes of opportunity.
Interestingly enough, many people fall back on the comforting and the familiar, especially when it comes to products that help us organize our lives.
For example, although we have seemingly endless options of digital calendar apps and ways to set reminders on our phones, paper planner sales in the U.S. increased by more than $50 million in the past two years, according to market research organization NPD Group.
Psychologists believe a fear of uncertainty has the power to either threaten or challenge. This means that while some people see uncertainty as a threat to their stability, well-being and goals, others view it as a positive challenge that motivates them to persevere through the fogginess.
It’s the same reason why some students dread open-ended essay questions or projects that lack a right or wrong answer, and why other students love assignments that go against the grain of step-by-step instructions or rigid rubrics.
But many situations and stages in the life are inherently more threatening than the fear that comes with doing a creative project in the classroom.
For example, feeling unsure of where to be in two months or two years, while some people have expertly crafted five-year plans, is a recipe for self-doubt that constantly haunts college students.
Whether it’s feeling anxious about post-graduate life or worrying things won’t work out how you envision them, the reality is that everyone battles with uncertainty. And as we go through life, we're bound to encounter more of it.
This is why instead of dreading the (mostly imaginary) ways uncertain situations could turn our lives upside down, I think as college students, we owe it to ourselves to embrace uncertainty and the possibilities it brings.
Let’s remember we have the power to turn uncertainty into a challenge that can push us closer to our dreams. Let’s not be paralyzed by the unknown but rather inspired.
Darcy Schild is a UF journalism junior. Her column focuses on sociology and human behavior.