What Columbo Can Teach You About Living with Uncertainty


The most recent Stress in America Survey by the American Psychological Association found high levels of anxiety. More than 75% of Americans said uncertainty about health issues was a source of stress. One third also reported feeling stressed by financial uncertainty. 

At times like these, you might want a role model who knows how to deal with the unpredictable. 

Maybe a TV detective like Lieutenant Columbo can give you some tips! No matter how complicated the mystery, Columbo kept smiling while he solved the case. Take a look at his example and find your own path to becoming more resilient. 

Lessons from Columbo on Dealing with Uncertainty: 

1. Be authentic. Imagine Columbo without his raincoat and 1959 Peugeot. When major changes disrupt your routines, you can remain true to yourself. Make choices that align with your values. 

2. Ask questions. Try to replace doubts and fears with curiosity. Researchers have found that children ask more than 70 questions a day, but inquisitiveness tends to peak at around the age of 4. Sharpening your investigation skills will help you to gather information and make sounder decisions. 

3. Keep going. Columbo was famous for coming back for one more thing. To reach your goals, it’s important to persevere through obstacles. 

4. Practice self-care. Even with a killer on the loose, Columbo would stop to eat a bowl of chili or admire a scenic view. Stay strong by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress. 

5. Slow down. You’ll enjoy life more if you stop rushing around. Living mindfully enables you to accomplish more with less effort. Take a deep breath and shorten your to do list. 

Other Lessons on Dealing with Uncertainty: 

1. Shift your focus. Devote your time and energy to changing the things that are within your control. Let go of the rest. Go do something constructive when you catch yourself ruminating about the global economy or the public health system. 

2. Reach out. Talk about your thoughts and feelings. Let others know how they can help you. Give generously and practice random acts of kindness. 

3. Resist comparisons. Each of us deals with uncertainty in our own way. Find strategies that work for you instead of judging yourself for being different from your friends or coworkers. 

4. Express gratitude. Make a list of things that you’re thankful for. You’ll feel more connected to others and more hopeful about the future. 

5. Remember your achievements. Build your confidence. Think about your accomplishments and the challenges you’ve overcome in the past. Show yourself that you’re capable of dealing with your current situation. Experiment with applying your skills and strengths to what’s happening now. 

6. Limit news consumption. How many hours a day are you spending watching CNN? If politics is making you feel sad and angry, reduce your viewing time. 

7. Keep learning. At the same time, it’s important to stay informed and educated. Monitor current events once or twice a day to discover developments that are relevant for you. Sign up for online courses that will add to your skills and knowledge. 

  1. Think positive. Look at the glass as half full. Studies show that optimism can enhance your mental and physical wellbeing.
  2. Seek counseling. Talking with a counselor may be helpful if you’ve stopped enjoying the things you usually like to do or you’re withdrawing from family and friends. A brief course of therapy may help you sort out your feelings and find effective ways to cope.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty lately, think about what Columbo would do. Thinking positive and sharing support with others will help you to handle ambiguity. 

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