*This picture was taken on my phone when leaving Finland on my way to Sweden. I thought it would be an appropriate header for this post as I was literally sailing through the ‘unknown’. I didn’t know where I was going or what would lie ahead but I was up for it, and knew that there was the possibility for something amazing to happen.*
Every year footballers face uncertainty. Uncertainty in where they will be playing, will they be playing regularly, what income will they be bringing in, where they will be living, career progression… the list goes on. Uncertainty is one of the greatest fears of footballers and we attempt to avoid it at all costs. It drowns us in distress, worry, and anxiety. Many of us will exchange growth for certainty and security in our careers, meaning that we rather stay where we are or even digress in order to avoid the risk of uncertainty when trying to further our career. The irony is that the profession we have chosen is not one of security. There are so many uncertain scenarios that can arise, that there is no way to foresee the future. In a book called ‘The Fighter’s Mind‘, Ben Rosenfeld compares the life of an artist to the life of a fighter. He refers to them as people who want to do something different; a job without security. He says:
Don’t let the uncertainty bring you anxiety; let that uncertainty generate excitement. If you cannot make the switch from anxiety to excitement, then this job is not for you. You won’t make it - Ben Rosenfeld (The Fighter’s Mind)
There is not a way to avoid uncertainty in our profession so we must not only learn how to deal with it, but also learn how to manipulate it to drive us forward. So lets get into it…
Psychology has proven that our brain is wired to impulsively look at uncertainty with a negative bias. What happens when uncertainty arises, is we tend to see the loss-side of the equation. The voices in our head start yelling out all the worst-case scenarios that might lie ahead. This outlook is what fills us with these uncomfortable feelings that paralyses our ability to progress and deal with the situation we are in.
For these reasons, uncertainty has this bad stigma attached to it, like it’s a horrible thing that you want to avoid. But this all stems from the way we have been taught to perceive it. If you look at what uncertainty actually is and detach it from yourself as a separate entity, you can see that uncertainty brings directly the opposite of what it is perceived to be.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, ‘Safety’ and ‘Security’ are categorised as basic necessities for human life. However, there is a misconception that safety and security is gained through certainty, and that’s why uncertainty has a bad onus.
So let’s look at what ‘certainty’ actually is… The search for security is an attachment to ‘the known’. What is ‘the known’? ‘The known’ is our past. The only thing we know for certain is what has already happened to us. So by searching for certainty you will become a prisoner of your past, and there is no evolution in that; it is the death of creativity, thought, and growth. So essentially the search for security is an illusion, and the solution lies in the wisdom of uncertainty.
Uncertainty means stepping into the unknown, where the possibilities are endless. This generates excitement, adventure and mystery. It opens the gates to pure creativity and freedom that allows us to orchestrate and create the manifestation of our future.
I know that sounds very philosophical and spiritual, which can be difficult to relate to. However, there are many ways to rewire the mental impulse of seeing all the negatives that can come from uncertainty and instead look at the endless possibilities that arise from it.
The first thing you need to do is detach yourself from the scenario and look at it with an analytical approach. Give yourself a clear understanding of what the situation is; get as much information as possible about it. Speak to other people who have been in similar scenarios and seek insight from them. By acquiring as much information as possible it helps you understand the situation you are in, and it will in turn bring you clarity on how to deal with the situation proactively. You then can start to ask yourself questions like: What opportunities lie here? What doors have opened that were once closed? How can I turn this predicament into something amazing? There will be endless possibilities that enter your mind and now the uncertainty, that once drew fear and anxiety, now draws excitement, belief, hope and positive expectation. This will have a direct effect on your preparation for what’s coming, and when the opportunity does arise, you will be the upmost prepared mentally and physically to drive into it with momentum that you generated in the process leading up to it.
I hope to be clear in recognizing the distinction between striving for your long-term goal and being over-consumed by it, as these will naturally overlap by staying on course. It’s important to know the direction that you are heading and where you see yourself in 5 or 10 years from now; but you don’t need to know ‘how you’re going to get there’, in fact, it’s actually irrelevant. Remember that there are many ways to get to your ultimate goal, and when faced with uncertainty this actually means you are on the right path. Because there will be many opportunities that will arise and you never know which one of them can take you to a completely different level, then if you stayed on the secure path that you were on. By keeping your eyes on the bigger picture, it will bring you comfort and wisdom knowing that the journey must go on and continue for you to get to where you are meant to be.
I personally, like to look back at past experiences where the road was looking unclear, and looking back there has never been a time where I have been completely helpless, where I had nothing and I was doomed. An opportunity always arose and the journey continued and for the most part, it’s always been a better one then I previously had. You must trust the journey, and believe that it will always look after you. When you experience uncertainty, you know you are on the right path. Because in order to grow and progress you need to take risks which naturally brings uncertainty. The worst thing you can do is worry and get stressed. You don’t need to have a rigid idea of what’s going to happen to you in the coming future, because by attaching yourself to this idea it will prevent you from seeing the endless range of possibilities that can lie ahead. The best thing you can do is stay ready and prepared to give yourself the best chance to make the most of the opportunity that is on the horizon, even though you may not see it yet!
“When nothing is certain, every is possible”
I love helping players optimize their soccer careers + lives through actualizing their potential.