When sharing his secret to happiness, the great philosopher Jiddhu Krishnamurkti said, "Do you want to know what my secret is? I don't mind what happens." I think many of us reading this quote can understand why this state of mind leads to freedom and happiness. If we don't mind what will happen next in our lives, we would have no reason to be stressed and worried today. Although this sounds like a ticket to emotional freedom, most of us cannot help but care what happens next in our lives. We care about keeping our jobs, having enough money, our children being healthy, and a slew of other crucial aspects of our lives. We want to make sure that the things we want to happen actually do happen and that is exactly where our need for certainty begins. We want to know what will happen next so we can rest in the moment knowing everything will be okay. Yet we can't control everything and life is filled with twists and turns; sometimes our efforts to secure certainty leave us far from the life that we desire. And we mind.
Our "need to know" can become the foundation or priority for every choice that we make. In fact, our search for certainty affects how we face life, approach work, maintain relationships and even how we parent. At work we may lean towards a particular job with a "certain" future or pay grade or we may analyze a problem with a limited view of all possibilities. We choose relationships that feel secure and engage in activities we know and with which we are comfortable. We make choices for our children that seem like the most prudent paths to success. Sometimes these decisions work out great. But often we are ignoring new opportunities, stifling creativity and true desires for the sake of certainty. And let's not forget that nothing is certain, and even choices that seem prudent at the time can change when the unexpected wind blows our way.
If we can find the courage to face the unknown, we can "mind" our futures more gently. We can examine new ideas, go places we never expected to go, or develop a relationship with someone that is different from us. We can let our children quit the soccer team if they want to spend more time with friends or pursue a new interest. Mindfully releasing our need for certainty also creates more tolerance and patience as we give up our view or our path as the only way. This in turn can open us up to the blossoming of a life filled with wonder and maybe even happiness. It is amazing that the very thing we avoid can be the catalyst for creating the life that we really want.
So how can we start to release our need for certainty? Here are a few suggestions to start to change how you make the choices in your life in the face of the unknown.
1. Let some Maybe into your life. The idea of Maybe reminds us that life unfolds more than one way. Just because we don't know the answer or we are unfamiliar with a problem, it doesn't mean that it won't work out to our satisfaction. Maybe what we are experiencing is good, Maybe it will get better, or Maybe we can find a new way to handle the situation and still be okay. Maybe we can take a risk, Maybe we can just peek at some new possibilities and see how it feels. Maybe is an invitation to view life differently. It doesn't demand it. Instead Maybe is supportive and allows us to realize that the unknown has gifts and benefits. Sometimes this little word can become the platform for making new choices in life because it shows us uncertainty is filled with hope and dreams that have yet to manifest.
2. I know people talk a lot about gratitude and it seems too simple and basic to tackle our relationship with the unknown. However, the mindset of gratitude is a wonderful and strong platform to launch into something new in your life. Sometimes we are so afraid of the unknown, we become fixed on what we don't have, what never works and what can't change. When we start listing what we are grateful for, we start to see the things that have worked out. Sometimes we recognize risks that we took that we didn't realize or beautiful aspects of our lives that manifested and blossomed from a place we could have never imagined. It gives us some support and hope that life can work out and we have good things in our lives supporting us on the journey.
3. We also can increase our awareness in our decision making process. Sometimes we can't even get to a Maybe or a gratitude mindset because we don't realize we are choosing certainty over another possibility in our lives. A great way to create awareness is to review various choices you made throughout the day or week. Ask yourself did I make this decision for certainty? Did I make this decision to feel more secure or to pursue my goals? Does this decision make me feel joyous or dreadful? Do I think it will lead to new opportunities and experiences? What if I wasn't afraid of the unknown, would I have made this decision? If you find you are making more "certainty" choices than ones that align with your true desires, MAYBE you can rethink your decisions using the steps above.
These are just a few ways we can start to reduce our need for certainty. Be gentle with yourself and see if you can build some resilience to face the unknown road ahead. The more expansive we can be, the more likely we will find new opportunities and possibilities because we are willing to shift our perspective to a larger playing field. Over time, we begin to understand we can either try to avoid the unknown and play it safe or embrace what we don't know and expand our lives beyond our imagination.
Maybe facing uncertainty is the beginning of a new life filled with more joy, less stress and new opportunities!
Originally published in Psychology Today