Beyond Uncertainty Lies a World of Possibilities

Written by on January 23, 2017 in Adaptability

A World of Possibilities

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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.

Related articles …
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

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.

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. ikechi
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita

    As usual, it is just awesome to read your post. Uncertainty does make people worry but it is dangerous to cling to your comfort zone.

    It does take a lot of practice to be open to changes but as you brilliantly shared, once it is embraced, one discovers that it is the best thing of life.

    Thanks for sharing. Take care

  2. emi says:

    Beautiful post Marquita,
    Going through big changes myself, I truly appreciate it.
    For me, the best things in my life are always a result of taking risks and just go for it.
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi Marquita,

    As usual, an insightful and inspiring post.
    I have been discovering lately that so much I have done has led to new possibilities.
    For example, I have been interviewing people for several years on my internet radio show.
    Often I would wonder if it was worth the effort because it didn’t seem to bring any income.
    Then I created my first virtual summit and I actually spent more than I earned and again wondered, “Was it worthwhile?”

    At this point, I have my answer loud and clear. YES. When we do something because it feels right to do it because it seems to come easily and be the next step,
    by pursuing that thing we are opening the world to new possibilities.

    A few years ago I had written a chapter in the book Adventures in Manifesting. Dr. Marilyn Joyce had also written a chapter in that book and we had an opportunity to chat on the phone. That book did not seem to do much for my online success. However, recently Dr. Marilyn’s publicist contacted me to interview her on
    my radio show. And – because of that – she suggested a few highly successful people that I might interview on my upcoming summit, Men and Love. And – the bonus, is that I bought her amazing book about how to be healthy. She healed from cancer 5 times and has lived to tell about it and continues to thrive.

    So new possibilities arise everywhere when we follow our heart and do what seems to be the next step along the way.

    Warmly,
    Dr. Erica

  4. Edward Thorpe
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow! You’ve really struck a nerve with this excellent post, Marquita.

    Theoretically, most of us accept change as the only constant. However, unexpected and life-altering change is always lurking in the shadows.

    My fairly ordered life was knocked out of orbit just this past week. Really surprised at my reactions. Historically, change excited me with anticipation and possibilities. Not this latest one, I’m afraid…

    It’s early days still, but this post has prompted me to go back and hopefully, help me expand upon my options. Thank you,
    Edward
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…Importance of Dental Hygiene as a SeniorMy Profile

  5. Lydia Brown
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita, for several years now uncertainty has not haunted me like it did when I was in the workforce. There was so much governance and accountability when I worked with methadone treatment and the program directors were the ones held accountable for so much. Then my mom got sick and uncertainty brought with it so much fear and helplessness until I built up a good network. Thanks for sharing this brought back many memories it gave me an opportunity to see how much I have grown and where work is still needed.

    • You definitely deserve to give yourself create for how far you’ve come, and interestingly enough, that happens to be the topic of my next post! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us Lydia. 🙂

  6. Summer Price
    Twitter:
    says:

    Uncertainty is really hard for me. I don’t like the unknown. I like to have a plan and know exactly what to expect. I do get very anxious when I have to walk into a new situation or place and I don’t have the opportunity to do research or know anything about what is expected etc. This was definitely something I needed to read!

    • I’m glad the article gave you something to think about Summer. As someone who continues to fight off perfectionist tendencies I can appreciate how you feel, at the same time I can also tell you that if you choose to become more comfortable with uncertainty it will be well worth the effort.

  7. As a perfectionist I have had to learn to let go of needing all the answers and learn to move with the flow of life. Not an easy journey for me but a very transformational one. Great post and insight!

  8. Vatsala Shukla
    Twitter:
    says:

    This post has touched me in a way that I can’t articulate right now, Marquita.
    It brought back memories of the time when I had lost my father and my mother needed help to cope with her grief and rebuild her life without him.
    I was working half way around the world in a job that I loved but I also knew that my Mom needed me.
    The Marketing Manager in the company was a good friend and very perceptive. She sensed the conflict within me about pursuing my dream career and my duty as a daughter. I’ll never forget her telling me that there were people in the world who had no choices and they made the best of what they had. In my case, I had the choice to do my thing or go back to a parent who needed me and create a new world for myself where I would have peace of mind. Needless to say, I chose the new world and maximized it with the power of positive possibility thinking.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…If you identify with Big Brother Cat’s style of management then you REALLY need to read thisMy Profile

    • That was a difficult and very brave choice Vatsala! A lot of people wouldn’t have had the courage to move forward the way you did, but that’s why you are so good at what you do to help others. You walk your talk girl! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us!

  9. Sue Kearney says:

    Monitoring my thinking. That. I like what I heard in a 12-step meeting a couple of decades ago: When I’m alone with my own mind I’m in a bad f’ing neighborhood.

    So. Monitor I must. And for someone of my type, I also gotta get support. Run it by someone else. Get honest.

    Otherwise — wrong neighborhood.
    Sue Kearney recently posted…Return to love — new beginnings at the New MoonMy Profile

  10. As someone who doesn’t really like change, unless it is initiated by me, I have practiced being open to new possibilities that I cannot even imagine. This practice for me came out of my work with Arscura-School for Living and Social Art, as all of the work we did had us stay open to what was coming towards us from the art we were creating. Although one might go into a process with one thing in mind, inevitably the art has its own ‘mind’ and speaks back to us what it needs…not what we want it to be. Now I practice this in other areas of my life as well, Marquita, and find it helps to alleviate the stress and worry the unknown often brings up is us. We really do live in a world of unlimited possibilities. It is a matter of us being open to not only that concept, but also to seeing the possibilities as they present themselves. It’s up to us to say “yes” or not. Thanks for the thoughtful post, as always!
    Beverley Golden recently posted…You Say You Want a RevolutionMy Profile

  11. Sushmita
    Twitter:
    says:

    Marquita, it’s such a coincidence for one of my article on a website my topic is the same as your headline.
    Well, of course, the subtext is same but briefly written differently 😉
    Also now I feel my post is not as well written as yours, loved it like always.
    You each week provide the push needed and thank you, my friend, for that 🙂
    Sushmita recently posted…Personal Branding Tips for Introverts you need to know!My Profile

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post Sushmita. I’m not familiar with the post you’re referencing but I’m sure it’s wonderful and presents your own unique view. 🙂

  12. Such a timely article for me. I’ve been going through a lot of change lately and have really been having to work at being comfortable with change in general. I’m especially working on my self-talk, and it really seems to be helping!

    • Good for you Deborah! It’s easy to overlook the things we say to ourselves and yet that dialogue can impact us in many significant ways. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  13. William Rusho
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a wonderful post, I like the part to Learn to Love Your Detours. When I read posts like this I always reference my favorite movie quote, which comes from Parenthood, the grandmother talks about being on a roller coaster when she was younger
    “I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

    We all should think of life that way, go the path where you get more out of it.
    William Rusho recently posted…Surviving A Long Winter in Medieval EuropeMy Profile

    • Oh, what a wonderful quotation William! One of my very favorite’s is from Hunter S. Thompson, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO” what a ride!” Sign me up!

  14. I have one particularly honest friend who tells me how she hates change. Yet, I can look at what she’s been through in the ten years I’ve known her and say: My dear, look at what you did here and here.
    She laughs.

    Looking back over the areas that I’ve been triumphant over a situation is probably one of the most reassuring ways I’ve approaching impending changes. I think we all freak a little when faced with something unexpected, but keeping our minds open and relying on our positive historical changes, can sure help.

  15. Anita Kaiser
    Twitter:
    says:

    Another fantastic post – I love how deeply your posts make me think and connect in – no pretending! I’m kind of lucky in a way having gone through various company restructures in my early days of working in the corporate world it prepared me for the changes to come. AS much as life hasn’t always thrown me the change I was looking for (or at least it didn’t seem that way at the time) I have managed to find the silver lining (although it may have taken a bit of time!)
    Anita Kaiser recently posted…Here’s what you can find in my Natural Medicine CabinetMy Profile

  16. Joy Healey
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita,
    Great post, and lots to think about.
    I have to confess I’m not terribly good with “change”, but my business has recently gone through a big change and a request arose for me to go way outside that comfort zone (sorry!)
    I wasn’t “happy”, but I would have been crazy to turn it down.
    It’s not easy, but I’m starting to see possibilities I hadn’t expected before.
    Joy – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…How To Be A Successful Networker In Home BusinessMy Profile

    • Hahaha! It’s okay Joy, as I mentioned earlier, haven’t found an effective substitution for the term “comfort zone” yet and it does the job of describing the issue. I’m glad that you’re opening yourself up to new possibilities. It can be a challenge, but it is so worth the effort!

  17. Tatia S.
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for this post Marquita. Lately I find uncertainty to be something to embrace, as long as I have a cushion to fall back. For me the biggest area that comes to mind is balancing financial risk with opportunities to experience new things. Having a routine is key to peace of mind, but like you mentioned it’s important not to avoid change which is part of life.

  18. Janelle says:

    I always had a problem dealing with Uncertainty most of my life. Although, I do try to create possibilities for myself. It’s a very tough thing to acknowledge change. Dealing with change is not easy, but taking the steps to manage how to get through it is more helpful.

    • Awareness is half the battle Janelle. If you really want to become more comfortable with change you can do it, just start small but the key is to be intentional about steadily increasing your capacity. 🙂

  19. Donna Merrill
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita,

    If there is one thing we can count on in life it is change. It will always be there so we have to get comfortable with it or else we will fall into avoidance, fear, anxiety…you know the rest.

    The uncertainty of life is a fact and one we have to live with. It has to be part of our own comfort zone. I do find that self talk is my best friend whenever I get caught up in this kind of mindset or event.

    -Donna
    Donna Merrill recently posted…Blog Analytics Is Easier Than You ThinkMy Profile

  20. Cheryl
    Twitter:
    says:

    Uncertainty can be disconcerting. As someone who has not taken change well in the past I know this from personal experience. However, once you accept that change is good then your perspective changes and you embrace it. Great post!
    Cheryl recently posted…12 Simple Ways To Secure Your Home From BurglaryMy Profile

  21. Jen Monks
    Twitter:
    says:

    Very insightful. I really must read Women Braking Barriers. I too have overcome some unbelievable challenges, so I love ready inspirational stories. Positive self-talk is the key. I remind myself to remain centered and grateful when I’m faced with a challenge or negative situation. Lovely post!

  22. I love the quote by Bob Goff, Marty: “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”

    I have had to live like that, as when you are a caregiver and you put the needs of the other person first, you often have uncertainties in your life and don’t have control over when/if certain things will ever happen. I’ve come to accept that and live in the now.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Swiss chocolate travel to VeveyMy Profile

  23. Elise Cohen Ho
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love the idea of experimenting. It really does seem to lift off a great deal of pressure. With this we can be unafraid of failure and ready to simply embrace what life has to offer.
    Elise Cohen Ho recently posted…Enjoy The Holidays Feeling Great And Avoiding Weight GainMy Profile

    • Glad you like that Elise. For me, experimenting is about mustering the courage to try for something bigger. When you’re focused on winning or losing it’s very tempting to play it safe and go small.

  24. Lesly Federici
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita,
    From the moment I wake up, life is uncertain. But I know when I wake up it’s the only real day I’ll experience. Tomorrow is a thought, yesterday is a memory, Now – this moment is real. We live with uncertainty every day … but the sun continues to rise every morning … wonderful and thoughtful post as they always are …

  25. Everyone goes through the phase of uncertainty and rises above that phase as long as one is in positive spirit.Yet, it is so true that just thinking positive is not enough.Positive thinking along with action level efforts is the key. I particularly like the idea of ‘experimenting ‘ as this way we would keep trying out without thinking about the consequence.
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Doing spiritual practice in the current eraMy Profile

  26. Ruth Bowers
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love this post Marquita! I can see I have some work to do on myself, because I am one of those who does not deal with change and uncertainty very well.
    Ruth Bowers recently posted…Are Content Upgrades Right for You?My Profile

  27. I have found – in looking back at a long life – that times most quickening to the pulse; times of real personal growth, often occurred after embracing uncertainty. My granddaughter like to think of herself as “brave.” I like that. The other day, as we were on a hike in the woods, we heard sounds that gave cause for fear and uncertainty. She was ready to run back to the house. But, I remember telling her that now was the time to be brave; that, you can’t be brave unless you are scared first. April 22nd, at 73 years old, I am going to attempt an ironman event. I am scared to death. Now it is my time to face the uncertainty; to be brave.

    • Wow, Marvin you inspire me! Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and story, and I’ll tell you what, I’ve just made a note on my calendar for April 22nd and copied your comment there to remind me and I’m going to be thinking about you on that day and imagining you crossing the finish line. You CAN do it!

  28. Dave
    Twitter:
    says:

    It’s so easy to be comfortable with the status quo. I know this article isn’t exactly about expanding our comfort zone, but the two have always been tightly coupled for me. It’s not until I am nudged in a direction that I resist when I finally embrace (usually out of a strong sense of obligation) a change the ultimately serves me well – not only from a goal or accomplishment standpoint, but also, more importantly, from a mental perspective.

    Your suggestions, Marty, are the perfect little nudges that we can all use to encourage courage and help us become more comfortable with embracing uncertainty and the myriad of possibilities that exist when we take a chance and break out in a new direction. I look forward to giving a few of these a go, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • You are so right Dave, this topic does relate to comfort zone. I confess I purposely avoided using the term because I really hate it … okay, hate is too strong a word, but it definitely bugs me. I’d love to come up with another term, a goal to add to this year’s already lengthy list. Anyway, I’m glad you found value in the article Dave. I thought that considering what’s going on in the country, and the world, at the moment it might be good timing to try and create a positive spin uncertainty. Thanks so much for sharing your insightful thoughts, always appreciated. 🙂

  29. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Uncertainty is exciting for some and terror for others. Change is difficult for those who like knowing what they are doing, for those who like to be in control. I recall a new system being introduced at work and I worried I would not understand it or learn it as fast as my peers. It takes me a while to process systems and procedures. I now give myself additional time to learn processes and procedures even if it means using my personal time to do so.

    I struggled with being a perfectionist for many years; my reasons were not wanting to fail, my need to feel “good enough”, my need for acceptance. As no one person is perfect, I lived a life of condemnation and a constant feeling of missing the mark. I had a high expectation of myself and others and was often disappointed as a result.

    I am learning to be at ease with not knowing how, when, who, what and it required me to “let go”.

    • You’ve made some excellent points relating to the value of self-awareness Phoenicia. When we know how our mind works and understand how we respond to various circumstances and triggers it not only increases our capacity to function it greatly reduces stress. Thanks so much for sharing!

  30. Mark
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow M!

    I’m not really sure where or how to begin!LOL! But first I have to say, I totally love your quote from Dale Turner!

    And thanks for clarifying, the subtle differences, between having a positive outlook and possibilities.

    Oftentimes, you just erroneously use the terms interchangeably.

    I also appreciate, your perspective, on viewing new projects, through the lens of experimenting, that definitely does lower your initial stress levels!LOL!

    And you couldn’t be more right, about what happens, when we don’t meet or face our fears head on!

    We just gave the doubt gremlins, far more real estate than they deserve!LOL!
    Great insights as usual M!Thanks! I’ll definitely be sharing your extremely helpful insights!
    Mark recently posted…How Some Extremely Savvy Entrepreneurs Make Being Consistent Profitable!My Profile

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post Mark. Yep, as I indicated I am a big fan of experiments, and reducing stress is surely a part of it, but maybe even more important is giving ourselves the freedom to try new things. Thanks for contributing to the conversation, always appreciated. 🙂

  31. Jeri
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’ve been working really hard at embracing uncertainty these past couple of years. I have to since everything changed so drastically. Then again, a huge shift was the only way I ever would have made it out of the false stability I created for myself. I need to embrace that life sometimes yells, “Plot twist!” and that can bring lots of positive if it can be embraced.
    Jeri recently posted…#EditTip: Narrative Distance and Filter WordsMy Profile

  32. Rachel Lavern
    Twitter:
    says:

    I personally like the randomness of life (most of the time). None of us knows what the future will bring. We can make plans; however, they are not based upon real knowledge. Rather than trying to predict we can learn to embrace uncertainty and be open to change.
    Rachel Lavern recently posted…Why You Need a Highly Effective Marketing CalendarMy Profile

    • Well said Rachel, and I agree. I have always been a planner and goal setting, but rather than anything carved in stone I look at my goals as a directional map to help me stay on course to create the live I want to live. As I mentioned in the article, I’m a big fan of detours and experiments. 🙂

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