Navigate your uncertain future – less the anxiety!

Navigate your uncertain future – less the anxiety!

It’s official: Your future is uncertain!

Just pick up today’s paper: New York to sink beneath sea (or so declares the headline in todays New York Times).   Continued economic instability. Companies restructuring and sending jobs off shore. Arghhh… the list is long.

There’s no doubt about it, uncertainty can be uncomfortable. We human beings are wired to want to control  our environment. We enjoy the stability that comes from having continuity between our past and future, a future that is familiar, stable and predictable. We like to feel that we are masters of our own ship, in control of our fate, and so it’s entirely natural to find ourselves feeling a little out of sorts when our future becomes an unknown quantity.

Funny enough it was a year ago this week that my husband came home from work and told me he’d been offered a job that meant packing up our home and life in the US and moving back to Melbourne, after 17 years away. I couldn’t have been less prepared or more surprised! Sometimes life’s biggest changes come without any notice!

From that experience a year ago combined with many other periods of uncertainty, change and anxiety over the years, I’ve learnt a few really important lessons:

  1. Trust yourself.  Too often we underestimate our ability to handle challenges so trust yourself that whatever happens, you can handle it – one day, even one moment, at a time
  2. Be grateful.  While not everything may be as you wish, you have a lot to be thankful for. Don’t fail to appreciate all that is wonderful in your world.
  3. Focus on what you can do. Don’t waste energy thinking about all that you can’t control or do.
  4. Don’t force outcomes. Let go any attachment you have to having things turn out a certain way.
  5. Embrace “not knowing”. While we are wired to want to plan and predict the future, life’s greatest opportunities are often unplanned and totally unpredictable.  Don’t miss them.

In an increasingly anxious and uncertain world, more and more people I meet struggle with uncertainty and try to compensate by becoming over-controlling.  Yet as they do, they get their knickers in a bit fat knot, and create lots of unnecessary, and unhelpful stress-inducing drama as they try to answer the answerable and worry about their ability to handle the future:

What lies ahead?  What if they restructure? What if I lose my job? What if I get relocated? What if my spouse is relocated? How will it affect my life and family? What adjustments will I need to make? What if I can’t make them? What if I don’t want to make them?!  What if I’m not successful? What if I am?What if… what if… what if…?

Whether it’s change you are choosing, or change thrust upon you, when the ground beneath your feet begins to shift, you can’t help but feel a bit off kilter.

I have been a queen of What Ifs? over the years. I know their futility. I know that when you spend your life dwelling on the What Ifs?  it can take away attention from making the most of where you are now and setting yourself up to handle the future in the most constructive way.

The reality is that nothing is ever truly certain, except uncertainty. However much you like to avoid risk and control your world, you can never truly know what tomorrow will hold. Just go to any ER department and ask a patient if that was part of his or her plan for the day.

Embracing uncertainty that exists in your life is crucial to coming out the other end of it with no fewer gray hairs than you went in (or at least, not as many as you would have got had you resisted it.) It’s also paramount to growing in wisdom, clarifying purpose and learning the valuable lessons that can teach.

Helen Keller once said, “life is a daring adventure or nothing.” So let me ask you:

How can you approach your future today with the greater self-trust, curiosity and adventure?  

It’s impossible to  chart a certain path through uncertain waters. You can only adjust your sails as you move along – with greater flexibility, more resourcefulness, deeper faith and a heightened appreciation of the mysterious nature of life.

Uncertainty can ultimately enrich your life, or diminish it.  What determines which it will be is how you approach it.  So trust yourself, whatever lies ahead for you, you can handle it. And knowing that, you can enjoy where you are today that much more and make the most of the opportunities that change always provides.