Live Life Fully: Quality of life relates to how we deal with uncertainty
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Do you feel like you live in a world of "mights?" This might happen, or that might happen. In reality, we all live in this world. It's just the way we handle the uncertainty that makes the difference.
Here's a clue. Do you freeze? Or run? Or agonize over every potential outcome?
Let's face it. Some of us are better at dealing with the unknown than others (a little shout out to my control freaks!). And it's definitely an uncertain world out there.
"The quality of our lives is directly related to the amount of uncertainty we can live with comfortably," says author and speaker Tony Robbins. Well, when it's put that way, uncertainty seems a bit more inviting.
So, how can we lessen the stress on ourselves -- not to mention the feelings of fear, anger and insecurity -- when dealt a hand of uncertainty?
First, we can start to focus on everything that could go right, rather than everything that could go wrong (which is often the first tendency). When you hear that nagging voice of doubt in your head, stop to label the emotion behind it. Suddenly, you've "disarmed" the hold that it has on you.
Here are a few tips from authors Lori Deschene and Erin Lanahan. According to Deschene, "happiness depends upon our ability to make friends with the unknown, to respect and enjoy it, and to fully embrace and welcome it." While that may sound a bit lofty, you could develop some discipline by practicing the following steps.
Dealing with uncertainty
1. Replace expectations with plans.
When you form expectations, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. You can guide your tomorrow, but you can't control the exact outcome. If you expect the worst, you'll probably feel too negative and closed-minded to notice and seize opportunities. If you expect the best, you may create a vision that's hard to live up to. (While I respect the author's caution flag here, I still come down on this side of the equation).
Instead of expecting the future to give you something specific, focus on what you'll do to create your experience. For example, if you're planning to relocate to Los Angeles, you could think of it in two ways: "If I move, I might enjoy L.A. Or I might be lonely." None of that is in your hands. What is in your hands is what you could actively do when you get there to make friends.
2. Prepare for different possibilities.
The most difficult part of uncertainty is the inability to feel in control. Until you know what city you're moving to, you can't plan what neighborhood you'd like to live in. You can plan for possibilities, though, by checking out yoga classes or golf courses in the general area. The challenge is to allow for some expression of interests, while staying flexible enough that you don't get the cart in front of the horse.
3. Whatever you need, ask for it!
In a seminar I attended we learned about the "Five Points of Power." The fifth one has always stuck with me: "Ask for what you want. All of what you want. Without withholding." It sounds so simple. And, yet, we expect people to read our minds sometimes.
4. When you notice you're doubting yourself, STOP
Are you a dream catcher or a dream smasher? The second you start indulging fear, you can get lost in a cycle of reactionary thoughts. "I might be lonely" leads to "How will I meet people?" Before you know it, you've somehow traveled all the way to "What if I become a recluse, start overeating and develop restless leg syndrome from sitting too much-alone--on my couch?"
OK, so that's an exaggeration. The point is that speculation leads to feelings, which can lead to speculation and then more feelings. If we can catch ourselves and stop the cycle, we can prevent spiraling down into an abyss. Ask yourself, "What are three things that could go absolutely right for me in this situation?"
5. Develop coping skills
It's all about assuring yourself you can handle anything that may arise. The concept of "defensive pessimism," shown to help manage anxiety, is when you consider the worst so you can plan how you'd handle it. Just don't stay there!
6. Use stress reduction techniques
Finding your center will help prepare you to tackle uncertainty. Whatever does it for you -- a long walk, deep breathing, meditation or a hot bath -- just do it! Build up your reserves.
7. Focus on what you can control
We often overlook the little things we can do to make life easier while obsessing about the big things. While you're in a "holding pattern," look for small actions that can make a difference.
8. Let go. Surrender the outcome.
Stop living for tomorrow, for his or her response, for the paycheck or some future result. Set your intention, give it your attention and then let it go.
Trust and allow that what you want -- or something even better -- will show up for you. Maybe not the way you scripted it. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But in a form, and at a time, when you're ready to receive it.
Dr. Wayne Dyer, psychologist and author, offers a perspective. "With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or trust what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow -- or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose."
Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.