I am one of those who likes to know what to expect. I prefer knowing what is going to happen, even if it is unpleasant, rather than wondering what might be around the corner. I hate to admit, although I am an optimist by nature, I assume surprises are going to be bad. Psychologists call this a “negativity bias.”
Perhaps, more than ever, uncertainty has been everyone’s constant companion. Even now, as I look out over the horizon of what is ahead, uncertainty looms big. In virtually every area of life, I do not know what is ahead.
In reality, none of us know what is coming next. Each day holds in it the possibility of unknown surprises. It is unnerving, even for the most optimistic person. I feel like I have been learning the needed lesson of embracing uncertainty, not as an enemy, but as a harbinger of hope. These lessons haven’t been easy, but as I slowly learn the needed lessons they cultivate steadfast health and growing contentment deep within me.
How do we come to embrace uncertainty when it is so uncomfortable and unsettling to us?
• Begin by acknowledging the inevitability of uncertainty and the illusion of control – When we operate as if we are in control of all around us, then the loss of control frightens us. The illusion of control distorts our thinking. We may influence the direction of our lives and choose how we respond to the unforeseen events and circumstances, but we do not have control. We live healthier lives when we admit this truth.
• Reframe uncertainty as possibility and opportunity – As we accept the inevitability of uncertainty, we can choose to reframe that reality as positive. When uncertainty confronts us, we can choose hope. We do this by getting our minds out ahead of our emotions. This becomes a powerful habit. We may always struggle with taming our emotions, but we can change the disposition of the day by beginning to reframe the unpredictable.
• Learn to live one day at a time – When we come to accept that we cannot control our future, we are more able to live in the present. We let go of the future and celebrate today. For years, my family had to live with the uncertainty that came with quarterly scans for cancer for my daughter. The anxiety around those times was excruciating. The only way we could survive was to rejoice in the day we were living and leave the future for another day. The lesson learned – Let go and live now!
• See interruptions as divine appointments – Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” Often, the sweetest, most meaningful moments of our days happen outside of our planned schedules. This is where we learn to turn uncertainty from a cause for fear, to an opportunity for growth. We embrace the unplanned interruptions in our lives as divine appointments.
Begin today to reframe uncertainty as unexpected possibility.