When you think you are sure about something, how can you be certain? And what is the cost to you if you are wrong?
There are actually two kinds of certainty – one kind is healthy and the other is not. Here’s a recent example from the Hill household which shows the unhealthy sort in action.
My wife has a faith in machines which I don’t share. She believes in the possibility that machines can repair themselves. I have a different view which comes from indelible memories of having to fix old cars in my youth.
So when our fridge/freezer started to make high-pitched screaming noises, it did not take me long to write it off. I argued that modern appliances are not designed for DIY maintenance so it was obviously time to buy a replacement.
She, on the other hand, made practical precautions. She transferred all our stock of food to her mother across the village and then switched off our fridge. While mealtimes now entailed more travelling than usual, she became curious as to what could make the noises.
The internet was strangely unenlightening but, after a couple of days, a chance conversation at a dinner party(!) opened a new front. Our dining companion had a similar fridge which had previously made very similar noises. The cause had turned out to be accumulated ice.
The next day, our fridge was plugged in again. Surprisingly it ran silently and, as it started to cool, it remained silent. Once at operating temperature, we cautiously retrieved our food. Now four weeks later it is still silent, functioning perfectly.
So maybe machines can heal themselves! Either that or my belief that it was broken was never true in the first place.
You can see that my certainty almost cost £600 upwards on an unnecessary replacement. Yet this cost is trivial compared to other ways we close our minds.
For instance, what is the cost of believing you are the sort of person who can never be successful in life? Or, what is the cost of being certain you can’t reach your dream?
Such unhealthy certainty is reached by biased thinking. It’s supported by partial evidence and jumps to conclusions. And we cling to this sort of certainty with a feeling of vulnerability so that we have the need to defend and argue our case.
Healthy certainty is the opposite. The accompanying feeling is quite different – it’s calm and comfortable. Healthy certainty comes from our inner wisdom rather than an intellectual process so we don’t feel vulnerable. Instead we have a deep sense of knowing.
The great news is that your inner wisdom is always available. It just gets hidden when stale thinking clutters your mind. When you stop giving those thoughts so much attention, you open an opportunity for your inner wisdom to be heard. It’s like when an orchestra falls silent and allows the soft flute, which has been playing along, to become clear.
You can always use your feelings as a guide. If you think you are certain but feel resigned or defensive, you are misleading yourself. But if you feel calm with a deep sense of knowing, then you are listening to your healthy wisdom.