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. In fact, it almost seems like the norm these days.
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 of all, we can start to focus on everything that could go right, rather than everything that could go wrong (which is often the first tendency).
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
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 seize opportunities. If you expect the best, you may create a vision that’s hard to live up to.
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 meet friends.
Prepare for Different Possibilities — The most difficult part of uncertainty is the inability to plan and 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 here is to allow for some expression of energy and interests, while staying flexible enough that you don’t get the cart in front of the horse.
Whatever you Need — Ask for It! In a seminar I attended a while back, 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. It’s just as important to express this as a “note to self.” If we don’t declare our intentions internally, how can we expect them to manifest externally?
When You Notice You’re Doubting Yourself, STOP. Are you a Dream Catcher or a Dream Smasher? Often, it isn’t the uncertainty that bothers us so much. It’s our tendency to get lost in our feelings about it.
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?”
Okay, 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, label the emotion as fear and stop the cycle, we stand a better chance of snapping ourselves back into the realm of possibilities, rather than spiraling down into an abyss. Shift your thoughts by asking yourself, “What are three things that could go absolutely right for me in this situation?”
Develop Coping Skills — This isn’t the same as “expect the worst.” It’s more about assuring yourself that you can handle any difficulty that might arise. The concept of “defensive pessimism” is when you consider the worst so you can plan how you’d handle it. This has actually been shown to help some people manage anxiety.
Use Stress Reduction Techniques — Finding your center will help you feel better prepared 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.
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. That way, you’ll be engaging in some short term solutions while you’re waiting for the longer term situation to come into focus.
Let Go. Surrender the Outcome — Stop living for tomorrow, for his or her response, for the paycheck or some future result. The only constant in life is that it will involve change. Happiness depends on our ability to set our intention, give it our 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, puts things into perspective. “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or trust what has happened. Everything is either an opportunity to grow — or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”