I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves is permission to “not know.” We, including myself, spend so much time trying to search for answers, or make life more predictable so that we don’t have to feel afraid, or suffer YET the truth is that NOTHING In life will ever be certain. Not one thing. This seeking of certainty doesn’t make you flawed, it makes you human- we are biologically wired to avoid things that have unknown outcomes…it’s what helps us stay alive. But here’s the thing, we also have the ability to “over ride” this need for certainty by working on changing our thoughts and our actions. We can move towards more psychological flexibility when it comes to certainty, and allow ourselves to accept the not knowingness of life (yes, I just made that phrase up) if we are willing to challenge our old ways of thinking and being. It’s really not rocket science, but it’s also not easy. Making room for, and even welcoming uncertainty into our lives takes a lot of practice, and calls for you to extend a whole lot of grace to yourself as you learn.
I want to be very honest about the fact that even myself, who has extensive training in this concept and teaches it for a living, often times struggles with accepting uncertainty. Just like you, my ability to welcome uncertainty ebbs and flows, but as long as we are willing to continue questing for it – we are moving in the right direction.
So what does welcoming uncertainty actually look like? It looks like loosening our grip around how we think things “should be,” or how things “might turn out,” and making room for the unknown. It looks like living from a place that is lead by our values, not by our fear. It looks like practicing mindfullness by allowing ourselves to be present in the moment opposed to traveling back to the past or forward to the future. In fact, I lied earlier when I said nothing in life is certain…UNCERTAINTY is the only thing that is certain. So, when we demand that life be predictable, or expect that we will always be safe, or pick the "right” choice we cause ourselves to suffer, time and again.
I don’t mean to preachy, but I get passionate about this because so often I watch people allow fear to take the wheel (and I’ve been there before) and simultaneously their world gets smaller. I have yet to meet a single person who’s goal in life is to be less free….it may sound kind of ridiculously obvious and that’s because it is! I think it’s safe to say that we all want to live a life that feels more free, more full, and more in line with our values.
My challenge to you (and myself) is to think about your relationship with uncertainty. Think about how you tend to respond during the times when situations presented themselves that made your feel unsure around what the outcome would be. Maybe it was going off to college, or making a career change, or deciding to commit to something or someone, or deciding to have children, or waiting on that test result. Or maybe, on a smaller level, it’s deciding which restaurant you should eat at, or what you should do for the 4th of July…then point is, we don’t have to look very far (at all) for uncertainty- we are presented with the opportunity to resist it or welcome it all the time. So where do you fall on the spectrum of welcoming? Do you crave certainty? Do you love not knowing, but only when it comes to the fun stuff? And then consider what it might be like, how your feelings might change, or how your life might change if you opened up your arms just a bit wider to the unknown. Inviting uncertainty into our life is temporarily scary, but resisting it guarantees that we won’t live a life as full as we hoped it would be.
If you want to know more about actually HOW to welcome uncertainty, and tangible ways you can practice this concept, take a listen to my podcast @mother_more (episode 02 particularly) around learning to live well with worry. This coming Sunday’s episode will also go further into this idea of giving yourself permission to “not know” and to live more fully and freely in the present moment!