“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” ~Tony Robbins
“Uncertainty” may be one of the least popular places to hang out.
I hear this all the time from my clients, friends, and truth be told, from the voice inside my own head. Certainty is almost always preferable to uncertainty. Humans like to know.
I wanted to know when our house was on the market last year. Would it sell? When would it sell? How much would we get? Should we start packing up closets now, or wait until the offers start rolling in?
I found it difficult to be in the moment with all of that uncertainty swirling around. It felt so difficult, in fact, that I found myself creating action steps that were not yet necessary—such as packing up closets—in an attempt to distract myself from the uncertainty-induced anxiety I didn’t want to feel.
Similarly, I really wanted to know when I was forming my business a few years ago.
Rather than revel in the excitement of the unknown, I wanted certainty. I wanted to know what it would look like in one year and in ten years. Where would my clients come from? What would my days feel like? I wanted to know exactly how everything would fall into place.
Mostly, I wanted a guarantee that it would “work” the way I hoped it would. Faith wasn’t going to cut it. The thrill of anticipation? No, thank you.
I had no interest in fuzzy details or that wide open place where you’re not sure what’s happening but anything is possible. I would have taken certainty any day of the week.
Wide open views and unlimited possibilities aren’t all they are cracked up to be.
Most of us, it seems, want to know. We want to know where we’ll live, what our next career will look like, and how it will all go down.
It almost doesn’t matter if what we know is accurate, beneficial, or true.
We aren’t searching for truth or clarity or insight as much as we’re simply searching for something reliable to grab ahold of.
But the more I’ve worked to foster inner peace and the more I’ve tested the uncertainty waters with curiosity and a little less fear, the more I think uncertainty gets a bad rap. Maybe it doesn’t have to be so bad.
Here are four steps we can take to make uncertainty bearable. Exciting, even.
But let’s start with bearable…first things, first.
When uncertainty strikes, our mind goes to work trying to predict how things will turn out. We choose from the options that are apparent to us—the ones we can see in the moment. But those options are never the whole story.
In the middle of uncertainty around my new business, I could only see a couple very limited possibilities. I could fail miserably. That possibility was clear. Or I could squeak by. Those were about the only options I could even fathom.
Although something in me knew that there were many, many more possibilities, I continually came up blank.
In the middle of uncertainty-induced anxiety, our vision narrows, literally and metaphorically. Flight or fight takes over and our vision literally focuses sharply while our brain diverts resources to survival, leaving no energy for creative problem-solving.
Know that this is what is happening and remind yourself that there are options that you can’t possibly see right now. Just because you see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Acknowledge that there is a whole lot that you don’t know that you don’t know—and that some of those unknown, currently unforeseeable options will make you very, very happy.
In 5, 10, 20 years from now, you will feel grateful for things you can’t even imagine today.