The Happiness-Certainty Conundrum

Here’s the conundrum: we want to be certain about everything and anything that might happen to us and around us, and, at the same time, we want to be happy. Our dilemma lies in the fact that, for many of us, our level of happiness is closely tied in to our level of certainty. One is dependent on the other. We sure like being sure about stuff. And we sure hate being unsure. It makes us feel vulnerable and unsafe. Which makes us unhappy. As a result, we strive for absolute certainty.

About everything.

On some level, we want to know the unknowable.

We want to be certain that we’re not being lied to. We want to be certain that our kids won’t use drugs. Or date a loser. We want to be certain that we make it to heaven. Because hell is very unpleasant. Apparently. Well, we’re not really sure that hell exists but we do the right things just to be certain. An eternal guarantee, of sorts. We want to be certain that our partner will never cheat on us. We want to be certain that people won’t discover our secret. We want to be certain that we’re financially secure. And that we’ll live happily ever after.

The uncomfortable truth is that almost everything about the human experience is uncertain. Love. Health. Friendships. Careers. Situations. Circumstances. Events. The government. The economy. The way other people will behave, choose and react around us.


Of course, many things are probable or likely, but are they necessarily absolute? No. Nobody can know with absolute certainty what tomorrow will bring; just watch the six o’clock news any night of the week. For many of us, the fact that our ability to be happy revolves around our need for certainty makes sustained happiness almost impossible. If anything, our need for certainty (which arises out of fear of the unknown) is more likely to produce high levels of anxiety and discontent, than any kind of lasting joy.

Our need for certainty is a self-created psychological and emotional anchor. It’s an anchor that keeps some of us tied to misery. The relevant question today is not, can you find certainty but rather, can you find happiness without it? 🙂

“Happiness comes from letting go of that which makes you unhappy.”

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