In conversations with my therapist, my friends and loved ones, uncertainty comes up often. How will I meet Mr. Right? How, when and where will I find my dream job or land my first client? When will I or how do I start to lose weight? Uncertainty in life often feels like the greatest hurdle to our happiness, but it is actually a huge blessing, we just need a better understanding of its nature and how to move through it. Here are some lessons I have learned about our elusive friend, uncertainty:
Lesson One: No Uncertainty = Boring Life
I know it seems brutally wrong and insensitive. Why can't I just have a road map that shows me exactly which Starbucks location I need to buy a latte from to meet my future husband? Why can't someone tell me where I will get my next job opportunity, and if I will get the pay raise I've been fighting for?
All these things that cause you angst because you just don't know the when, where and how of it all are the crux of living. I mean, truly living. Imagine if you had a road map that detailed everything that would happen to you from now until the day you die? How boring! Not only would there be no excitement (and fear and anticipation) in the unfolding of your future, you wouldn't get the awesome right to shape your destiny as new information and realizations come into your existence; allowing your destiny to remain fluid as you evolve and grow.
You don't need to love the angst of uncertainty, but the fear and anxiety do not have to stop you from going after what you want in life. Recognize that those emotions are there, take a deep breath, and go for it anyway! Begin to contemplate that the butterflies in your stomach are more than just discomfort -- they are life's way of telling you something exciting and unpredictable is unfolding. Without it, there would be very little to look forward to. If we can begin to embrace it just a little, our life can take on a whole new meaning.
Lesson Two: Temporary setbacks often arrive hand in hand with uncertainty, but success is around the corner (if you refuse to give up)
How often have you heard someone say that getting fired turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to them? At the time, they probably had tremendous anxiety about the situation, yet suddenly out of a really tough situation many of their dreams were borne.
At a recent concert I attended where Aloe Blacc performed, he mentioned that his journey to becoming a successful performer started with the end of a job. He also talked about meeting Dr. Dre for the first time. Dr. Dre didn't shower him with compliments -- he told him his music was good, but he thought Aloe could do better. While I am sure that must have stung a bit, it also forced Aloe to go back to his craft. Arising from ideas that had been simmering in his head for years, Aloe created his hit song "The Man" which was eventually featured in a commercial for Beats by Dre.
You may think life is being tough on you (and only you), and sometimes it is (yet you are not alone), but it will always allow you the opportunity to take something valuable away from the experience. Challenges are there to test your metal, to give you the chance to go back to the drawing board, and dig deeper inside of yourself for something that is truly amazing. Everyone who pursues a dream will encounter challenges before bringing that dream to fruition.
In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill states that: "Before success comes to most people, they are sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and perhaps some failure. When faced with defeat the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit. That is exactly what the majority of people do. More than 500 of the most successful people America has ever known told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them."
Lesson Three: You have to know what you want (Plus it's fun to imagine what you want in life)
As Paul Arden said in his book It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be, "Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. Without having a goal, it's difficult to score." For example, you are dreaming of leaving your boring job in the cubicle doldrums. One day you are complaining of the job you despise, and someone asks you what your dream job is -- but you can't answer the question!
You need to spend more time thinking about your innate talents and desires, that little voice inside that is screaming at you to do something that will make your heart sing. I always heard people say "do what you love" and "what you would do for free." Yet having listened to that, it has taken me a long time to figure out what that thing was. I finally discovered it was writing and communications. I have been writing since I was a tween and I am in my mid-30s now! Last year alone, I hated my job, and I kept getting all these little freelance opportunities that involved writing and communications. I would ask myself the question, "Hmmmm... I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me?" Long story short, I finally figured it out -- the thing I loved was writing. The universe had smacked me upside the head with a few two by fours, and I finally got the message.
Get a journal and write down what you want in a life partner, a career and life in general. Create a vision board with all the fun images of what you want your life to look like, now and in the future. Spend more time in your imagination, picturing all the awesome things that would happen in your life (if reality didn't seem to be in the way). Maybe, just maybe, reality will start to adjust to accommodate your desires. It has for me!
Lesson Four: You have to remain open and have faith in your dreams (and yes, it usually takes longer and is bumpier than you expect)
In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said, "Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith." This is from a guy who is revered and changed the world as we know it. He was specifically referring to when he had been fired from Apple, the company he founded. He was devastated and debated leaving Silicon Valley. But somehow he found a way to forge ahead, doing something he loved, and well, the rest is history.
We have everything worked out, but when it doesn't work out how we planned, the voices in our head go crazy -- I was supposed to be working by now. I was supposed to be further along in my career by this age. This is something I should have done in my 20s. I am too old to reinvent myself. Who is going to want to date me at this age, with this disease, with children, with a divorce, with this set of couch cushions?! Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I'm telling you, if life pushes you then it is just begging you to push it back. It has something great in store for you if you just refuse to give up and keep true to the vision of what you want your life to be. Life is not easy for anyone, but the people that have "made it" are those that forged through the rough and murky waters of life. Remember the stories of Aloe Blacc and Steve Jobs -- they struggled through numerous challenges before succeeding. Even Winston Churchill's defining moment occurred in his mid-60s during World War II. You never know when a turning point in your life will occur, but you must have faith, you must know what you want, and you cannot give up. And yes, you may feel like giving up, have a bad day, or hide out until you figure out what your next move is. Let it flow, and let it go!
Transition and discovery is the marrow of life. It is overwhelming, sometimes exhausting, and often exhilarating; without it we are bored, predictable, listless and underwhelmed. In the words of Ayn Rand in The Voice of Reason, "Don't ever give up what you want in life. The struggle is worth it."