When I was a teenager, I thought I knew it all. I don't know if it was the arrogance of youth or the naiveté of living a life with seldom problems but nobody could tell me anything. I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I got older, who I was going to marry, how many kids I would have, and even what my first home would look like. But now ask me those same questions and I can't even tell you what I want to do tomorrow. (Actually, I want to go swimming. It's been really hot this summer.) Nonetheless, the idea of knowing everything, while once second nature, is now too exhausting to even imagine. As the certainty of my life slowly crumbled each passing year, I began to feel comfortable living without all the answers. Quite honestly, I feel like the older I get the more questions I have. And although we live in a world where the answers to many fundamental questions are a few clicks away, not having the answers to life's bigger questions seems more and more empowering.
“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” ~Tony Robbins
Uncertainty... For people dealing with depression, anxiety, and who are highly sensitive, handling uncertainty is very difficult. The unknown of life can be so debilitating that it can fell like a huge obstruction to our efforts to do anything during times of transition.
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” ~John Allen Paulos
But the one thing that is constant in life is change. The ebb and flow of life. We are never given all the answers to our questions. And not knowing all the answers becomes a blessing. Try as you may, you can not control life, you learn to adapt and have faith it will work out. Most of us operate on autopilot. Every preconceived notion is based on what someone has told us or our past experiences. We tend to rely on this knowledge to determine what we should expect out of our lives in the future. But all we have is what we undergo in the present. Being uncertain is a good thing. Instead of a rigid, fixed mind we find freedom. Freedom from what we think we are. And instead we find what we actually are.
Here are some tips for living with uncertainty now that you have accepted that you don't have all the answers.
1. Pay attention to your intention.
Psychologist Elisha Goldstein writes in his book, The Now Effect: “Our intention is at the root of why we do anything and plays a fundamental role in helping us cultivate a life of happiness or unhappiness. If we set an intention for well-being and place it at the center of our life, we are more likely to be guided toward it.”
2. Replace expectations with plans. Forming expectations leads to disappointment because you cannot control tomorrow. If you feel negative about a situation, it can block you from taking advantage of opportunities. Instead of expecting something specific, focus on what you will do to create what you want.
3. Imagine the worst. The most difficult thing about uncertainty is not feeling in control or the ability to plan. Sometimes it helps to imagine the worse. Go through the steps of that vision and finally decide what you could do to get out of it. Eventually you will realize that everything will be okay and you will make a way out of your worse nightmare.
4. Focus on what you can control. Stop obsessing about what you can't control and just focus on the little things that you can control. It will allow you to feel empowered. This will give you more confidence when dealing with a uncertain situation.
5. Practice mindfulness. When you are preoccupied with tomorrow, you are judging a situation that has not happened yet. This takes away from the present. Instead of noticing and appreciating the beauty in the moment, your thoughts get trapped in a fear-driven cycle about the possibility of pain down the line.
If you think you have all the answers figured out or you have created a predictable life for yourself; know that it's just a illusion. You may not know what tomorrow holds, but you do know tomorrow is coming. Take solace in the fact that you will encounter it, learn from it, and move past it in order to create another tomorrow.