“Embrace Uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”- Bob Goff
We are in the home stretch of 2020. A year that has felt like a suspense movie for many, where you are faced with new, unexpected challenges each day.
This year has been far from “typical”. We are a world currently weathering the worst wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the heels of a divisive election in the United States. Surges in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse have increased.
Many individuals and families’ incomes have been devastated by job loss. Those responsibly adhering to social distancing guidelines are feeling the effects of the isolation and are sick of relying on Zoom meetings to connect.
2020 has affected everyone differently and for some of you, let’s admit it—you probably can’t wait to leave this crazy year behind; even if you know that the first months of 2021 won’t really be any different. Sometimes it’s just nice to flip that page to the next chapter.
But before you get there, you still need to get through a few more weeks, all while acknowledging there is still so much uncertainty in what next year will bring.
Synonyms you can associate with the word, “uncertainty”:
Not words that are usually associated with “embracing” are they?
A few concepts which are often compared to “embracing uncertainty” are “lean into the pain” and “get comfortable being uncomfortable”. When we are uncomfortable, we just want to get the hell out of Dodge, we want out of the discomfort.
But it’s in those times of “embracing uncertainty”, “leaning into the pain”, and “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” that we can learn and grow, even though it can be hard as fuck!
All three of these phrases involve you taking a good hard look at the situation instead of doing what you want to do (run, hide or pretend it’s not happening).
On a deep psychological level, we as humans want certainty.
- We want to know what our grade is going to be after the test
- We want to know that we won’t lose our job
- We want to know that our mother is going to recover from cancer
- We want to know that next year is going to be better than this year
David Brooks recently wrote an article for the New York Times where he quoted:
“I’m beginning to appreciate the wisdom that cancer patients share: ‘We just can’t know. Don’t expect life to be predictable or fair. Don’t try to tame the situation with some feel-good lie or confident prediction. Embrace the uncertainty of this whole life-or-death deal.”
The fear of not knowing what lies ahead is difficult. We don’t know what’s going to happen next year, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But living in fear, running, hiding or avoiding because we are afraid to “lean into the pain” or “embrace the uncertainty” will only heighten your anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong, after reading this I’m not expecting you to be able to say, “Screw it, I have no clue what’s gonna happen, but bring it on 2021!!” But if you actively work on getting “comfortable with being uncomfortable”, you will find you are leaning in, more than running away.
The takeaway is to be comfortable with uncertainty — why? Because it exists and you should avoid running and hiding because you wish life was different. You grow and change by being exposed to uncertainty and confronting the unknown.
So How Do You Do It?
The answer to this question is different for each of us.
You can Google a million different ways to “embrace uncertainty”, “lean into pain”, or “get comfortable being uncomfortable”. I think there are a lot of great suggestions out there, however, not all of them will work for everyone.
Pick and choose what works for you, but my one suggestion or “tip” on how to do it ,that I think is universal is:
- When you start to get overwhelmed because of the uncertainty… Focus on the things you CAN control.
You get to control how you respond in situations. You can control how you are taking care of yourself. When you focus on the things you CAN control, it helps you prepare for leaning into the “uncomfortable” of the “uncontrollable” a bit more.
I loved this quote I read by Social Worker, Jordan Brown: “Embracing uncertainty is like taming the wind. You’ll never bottle up the wind and fully control it, but you can learn to use it to your advantage.”
Remember, You Got This!