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Acting On Uncertainty

One of the big barriers to action is uncertainty. Many times, we are hesitant to act because we are worried that we are not making the correct decision. There are many areas where this could happen: relationships, education, jobs, investments, artistic decisions, etc. Sometimes, this can lead us to obsess about big decisions and, as a result, causes mental agitation and sleeplessness.


In On Benefits, Seneca provides this following bit of wisdom:


When it comes to action, we can never wait until we have absolutely certain understanding for the entire situation. We only take the path down which we are lead by probability. Every "duty" must follow this path; for this is how we sow, sail, make war, get married, and have children. In all these things, the result is uncertain, but we nevertheless decide to undertake those actions which we think have some hope of succeeding.... We go where reason — not where absolute truth — leads us (IV, 33, 2).


People who care about succeeding in a current situation are bound to come across worry due to the acknowledgement that he/she might not have all of the information to make a proper decision. Here, Seneca implores that it is important for us to utilize reason to weigh our options. Perhaps one way to tangibly use reason in respect to a future decision is to make a pro/con chart. After we list out the pros and cons of an action, it can inform us about what we should do given our goal.


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