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The Happiness Connection  

Finding a tricky balance between certainty and surprise

Mystery or certain doom?

Balance: a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

— Oxford Dictionary

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about achieving work/life balance, but that isn’t the only area of your world that requires equilibrium if you want to be happy.

Humans have a need for both certainty and uncertainty. Too much or too little of either can cause problems.

Certainty helps you feel safe. You know what to expect and can prepare yourself for what lies ahead. Studies show that people would rather know they are going to lose their job than think it is a possibility. Certain doom is preferable to possible disaster.

I guess that explains why it is so hard to wait to find out whether an application for a job, university position, or contest is successful. Wondering what might or might not happen throws you out of the safety that comes with certainty.

However, uncertainty has its own charm. It offers the mystery and magic of possibility. Wondering what unexpected things might unfold is part of the excitement of life.

Humans are awash with contradiction. You want to feel safe, but not too safe. Too much certainty leads to boredom. Just like too much uncertainty causes anxiety and fear.

Getting the balance right between these two states can be tricky, especially in times like the coronavirus pandemic.

When the reality of COVID-19 struck a few weeks ago and we entered unchartered territory, uncertainty levels ramped way up. People felt unsafe and scared of what the future might hold. Remember, humans don’t like to be surrounded by too many unknowns.

If you find yourself worrying about the future, use this knowledge to help you. Remind yourself of all the things you are certain of.

Think about your friends and family, your skills and abilities, and times in the past when you survived challenges. 

I know that I am blessed with people who love me, that I am incredibly resilient, and that I always find a way to make things work out for the best.

Be like Oprah. State all the things you know for sure. This will help your mind establish balance.

While you may be dealing with too much uncertainty in the world around you, the opposite situation could be happening within your living space. 

Has the novelty of staying home and being separated from others started to wear off? Are you feeling bored?

I’m willing to bet that your day-to-day existence has taken on a familiar pattern. When you wake up, it is likely that you have a very good idea how your day will unfold. 

If you are feeling bored with life, you have too much certainty about your day-to-day existence. Try adding a little more spontaneity and mystery. This will help break up any monotony that may have developed.

Humans love routine but try to shake things up a little. Because you are limited in what you can do, be creative and think outside the box.

Keep healthy habits like writing in a journal, exercising, or meditating as part of a routine if you want to make sure they don’t get overlooked. Other than that, don’t be too regimented.

  • If you are living with family or other humans, take turns deciding what to do, and when to do it. 
  • Take different routes when you walk your dog.
  • If you’ve been doing a lot of gardening, spend a few days working on a different project. 
  • Choose a few things that you will only do on the weekend to differentiate those days from the rest of the week.
  • Write the tasks for the day on pieces of paper and put them into a container. Instead of doing everything in the same predictable sequence, draw the slips out to create a random order. 

Anything that adds a flair of mystery and encourages a level of uncertainty will help combat boredom.

Every person is unique, and your pandemic experience is unlikely to be exactly like someone else’s. Trust that you have the answers to feel both safe and engaged in a time when the equilibrium of certainty and uncertainty are being thrown out of kilter. 



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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