Accepting the Gifts that Uncertainty Offers
We all worry about our future and how things are going to turn out. But if we focus too much on outcomes, we’ll miss out on the life we’re actually living. Nothing in life is wrapped up in a pretty box for long. When the rug has been pulled out underneath you, remind yourself that everything changes and that this situation too shall pass. That there are no set-in-stone permanent outcomes, but instead, a continuous unfolding of our lives. Seeing uncertainty as growth and discovery takes a leap, but this view can help ease anxiety and build acceptance of what is happening now.
After my husband died, with my world turned upside down, I felt at loose ends. Within the span of a few months, my life was quickly unraveling: I locked myself out of the house, lost my cellphone, and had my car towed. A week later when I was at the train station, I realized that I had left my wallet at home. With no money and no identity, I felt out of control and all alone. I questioned if I would ever feel normal again as the life I knew seemed all but gone. At that moment, a stranger came up to me at the ticket booth and said: “Do you need help? Do you need money?” I realized then that I was not alone; I felt a connectedness with others, a visceral feeling that we really are all in this together. Over time, I was more able to view uncertainty as the natural flow of change, ripe with challenges but also discovery and growth. Even though I didn’t know how my life was going to turn out, I knew deep down that I would find my way.
Practice for Everyday
When you recognize a situation of uncertainty in your daily life—whether you’ll make it to an appointment on time, get a seat on the train, or find something you misplaced——give this a try…
Pause. Take a break. Bring mindfulness to your habitual stress response and try something new.
Relax. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths.
Reflect. Remind yourself that peace of mind and well-being are conditions for happiness, for yourself and for others. Reflect on what you can learn from this very experience. For example, if you’re habitually late for appointments, learning to leave earlier is the gift of this uncertainty.
Practice for Hard Times
When facing a situation in your life that you’re uncertain, stressed or overwhelmed about—it might involve your livelihood or a relationship with family, friends or co-workers—give this a try…
Pause. Take a break. Sit in a quiet place
Relax. Take a few deep breaths and settle into yourself. Gently touch/stroke your heart.
Reflect. Bring to mind the situation in your life that you’re uncertain about. Try exploring a new response to this uncertainty instead of relating to it only as something to be afraid of. Acknowledge your fear and anxiety, and then ask yourself if you can imagine any new possibility or path unfolding from this uncertainty that might be an opportunity for other emotions such as relief, joy, or excitement. Is there any way that growth and discovery might emerge? Take out your journal and write down any positive experiences that could possibly come from this uncertainty in your life right now.
Observe: When exploring the possibility of growth and discovery in your present situation, does it shift at all how you experience uncertainty?
If so, how?