It’s not difficult to find stories about people who have overcome a crisis and gone through a positive life transformation as a result of their experience, a process known as post-traumatic growth.
While the types of events and individual backgrounds vary widely, the one thing these resilient survivors have in common is their ability to see beyond the uncertainty of their circumstances to embrace possibility.
But have you ever considered the common thread in these two concepts?
Both terms are based on the premise that something may or may not happen, it’s just that our response to each is dramatically different.
Uncertainty tends to incite worry and resistance, which can lead to fear and anxiety, while possibility fosters a sense of empowerment, increased energy, creativity, and most important, solution-based action.
Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later. ~Bob Goff
How Do You Tolerate Uncertainty?
It’s normal to be at least a little uncomfortable with ambiguity, and common to be more tolerant of uncertainty in certain areas of your life than in others. For example, I am far more comfortable with risk and uncertainty in my personal life than work where I tend to be something of a control freak. 🙂
The lower your tolerance for the unknown the greater the probability that you’ll develop self-defeating habits designed to avoid uncertainty such as those outlined below.
- Constant need for reassurance.
- Refusal to delegate to retain perceived control.
- Seeking perfection as a form of certainty.
- Procrastinating to avoid facing uncertain circumstances.
- Avoiding change or new experiences.
These behaviors may serve to forestall having to deal with uncertainty, but each time you avoid facing up to your fears you relinquish more of your personal power which steadily but surely erodes confidence and self-esteem.
The vast possibilities of our great future will become reality only if we make ourselves responsible for that future. ~Gifford Pinchot
The Nature of Possibility
Before we look at how to develop the habit of looking for possibilities in uncertainty I want to take a moment to emphasize that possibility is not the same as positivity. An optimistic outlook on life surely contributes to the process, but thinking good thoughts isn’t enough.
If you lost your job you might be optimistic about your chances of finding a new job, but if you sit back and assume the phone will just start ringing with job offers then you may be in for a rude awakening.
More than likely you’d begin your search by applying for the same type of position with similar companies where you will easily qualify based on past experience.
Familiar people, places, objects, noises, work schedules, all deliver a comfortable level of certainty.
But what would you do if there were no comfortable options available or, like the survivors I referenced at the beginning, you suddenly found yourself facing a major life change that would forever alter your reality?
In my last post, I introduced a collaborative project featuring the inspiring stories of fourteen authors, Women Breaking Barriers. How I Discovered Who I Was Meant to Be is Lesly Federici’s story of how her life took a sudden and irreversible change in direction when she was diagnosed with Pseudoxanthoma Elaticum (PXE) is a genetic disorder that results in blindness.
So, what can I do without eyesight? That became the question and the drive to create a new future. ~Lesly Federici
She became a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, a Reiki Master, a certified Life Coach, and Hypno-counselor. She created her very first website devoted to online childbirth education and taught classes online.
Lesly was able to find her way through uncertainty to a world of possibilities.
The Search for Possibility
Saying that you should open yourself to a world of possibilities sounds like a grand idea in theory, but most people have a tough time picturing themselves outside of their current set of familiar circumstances.
So what’s the solution? Practice, lots of practice.
You don’t have to wait until you’re facing uncertainty to begin looking for possibilities for growth and increased resilience in your everyday experiences.
Monitor Your Self-Talk
This is where a positive attitude comes into play because to avoid stalling in uncertainty you must carefully monitor what is going on inside your own head. Trust me, if you give your mind even just an inch of negativity and worry, it will take a mile.
Increase Your Comfort With Change
The more uncomfortable you are with change the more you will avoid it and the more difficulty you will experience when you’re forced to deal with it. When we learn to become more comfortable with change, we’re able to move through it with greater ease.
A worthwhile exercise is to take some time to think about past occasions where you’ve faced either a significant or unexpected life change. How did you handle it? Were you able to remain positive or did you struggle with negativity? Were you open to new ideas or did you cling to what was familiar? Is there anything you could have done to improve the outcome?
Understanding how you’ve handled change in the past will help you focus and identify areas that may need attention so that you can become more comfortable with change and uncertainty in the future.
Challenge the Status Quo
Cultivate the habit of asking more questions. If you always go the same way to work, periodically try a new route. Look at your daily routines for opportunities to try new ways of doing things. Review your task list each morning and ask yourself where your greatest learning opportunity is for the day.
The activities that generate the most discomfort for you also represent your greatest opportunity for growth.
Learn to Love Your Detours
Interruptions and unexpected detours are generally seen as little more than annoyances, but if we’re able to remain open to the experience, sometimes the worst circumstances can send us on a detour that ends up taking us to some pretty wonderful places.
A good example of this happened to me several years ago when I was blindsided by a crisis and through a series of the most improbable events suddenly found myself the chair of the county food drive! I’d never done anything like that before, but gave it my all and it not only turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life, it led to a lucrative job offer and a whole new direction in my career.
Make More Experiments
I love experimenting! The eBook I referenced above, Women Breaking Barriers was an experiment for a much bigger project I plan to undertake later this year. Viewing something from the perspective of an experiment not only develops creativity and adaptability, it minimizes worry over whether you succeed or fail because the whole point of an experiment is exploration and discovery.
Learning to think in terms of possibilities may require you to alter your way of thinking about change and uncertainty, but in answer to the question “Is it worth it?” consider that one of the most common reasons people fail to achieve sustainable change is that they focus on modifying behavior without changing their belief system.
Embracing possibility thinking is about exploring uncommon solutions and stretching yourself in new ways that can create a better life than you may have ever dreamed possible.
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Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.