Beyond Uncertainty Lies a World of Possibilities

Written by on May 4, 2020 in Adaptability, Emotional Mastery

Beyond Uncertainty Lies a World of Possibility

It’s not difficult to find stories about people who have overcome a crisis and gone through a positive transformation.

More than a few will tell you that they are better off for the experience.

While the types of events and individual backgrounds vary widely, a key trait these resilient survivors have in common is their ability to see beyond the uncertainty of their circumstances to embrace possibility.

Just for a moment, consider the common thread in the 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 a threat response, which leads to resistance and anxiety, while possibility thinking fosters a challenge response that sparks an adrenalin rush and a sense of anticipation.

Thought provoking, but let’s test the challenge perspective by using the COVID-19 pandemic as our working example.

By any stretch of the imagination, this is a journey rife with uncertainty.

How Do You Tolerate Uncertainty Now?

It’s normal to be at least a little uncomfortable with ambiguity, and common to be more tolerant of uncertainty in one area of your life than in another.

For example, I am far more comfortable with risk in my personal life than work where I tend to be a little controlling.

Okay, maybe a lot controlling.

The important thing to know is that the lower your tolerance for uncertainty the greater your chances are of developing one or more of the following self-defeating habits.

  • Constant need for reassurance and validation.
  • Aversion to delegating or trusting others.
  • Seeking perfection as a form of certainty.
  • Procrastination and struggling to make-decisions.
  • Avoiding change or new experiences.

These behaviors may provide a temporary sense of control, but each time you avoid facing your insecurity with the unknown it will become that much more threatening the next time.

And there will always be a next time, that’s just life.

Moreover, avoidance can prevent you from finding better solutions simply because your automatic response is to default to the familiar and do what you’ve always done, the way you’ve always done it.

The problem is that for many what they’ve always done is not an option thanks to COVID-19, social distancing, supply shortages, and the closing of large portions of America.

Creativity has become the new normal in everyday life.

Can’t get what you need to do things the old way? Find something else that will do it for you differently or be prepared to do without.

Of course, creativity requires flexibility and the willingness to experiment and that’s where shifting your mindset from threat to challenge and possibility thinking can help you to thrive during hard times.

Attitude makes the difference between ordeal and adventure.

~Author Unknown

The Role of Mindset

Your mindset represents your core attitudes and can (for better or worse), have a huge impact on your choices, behavior, and the way you see the world around you.

If you believe you have the ability to take steps that will make a positive impact on your life, then you have a growth-oriented mindset and are more inclined to see uncertainty as a challenge.

Someone with a growth mindset tends to have these traits.

  • Focuses on solutions.
  • Strives for improvement.
  • Takes responsibility.
  • Willing to experiment and consider all possibilities.
  • Sees discomfort is part of the journey.
  • Curious and highly resourceful.

A person with a rigid or fixed mindset is more inclined to respond to uncertainty as a threat and exhibit these traits.

  • Focuses on risks and potential failure.
  • Suffers increased anxiety and stress.
  • Blames others for problems and mistakes.
  • Focuses on scarcity and loss prevention.
  • Sees discomfort as suffering.
  • Fears any challenge to their abilities.

Your willingness to view whatever problems you may be facing as a challenge rather than a threat will have a direct impact on how much effort you put into finding creative solutions, as well as your ability to weather setbacks along the way.

If this sounds like playing some sort of mind game, that’s essentially what it is, at least in the beginning.

Maybe you’re not good at mind games, or you are coming up short in the motivation department right now. Yep, welcome to the club.

But like pursuing any goal or meaningful change, once you experience a win, no matter how small, it gives you a jolt of energy and encouragement.

Keep at it and you begin to build momentum and understand, maybe for the first time, what it feels like to be the driver in your life journey.

Good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who believe in themselves, but it’s those who get off their “buts” and do the work that achieves results.

Switching from a Threat to Challenge Response

Changing your mindset, as with any behavioral change, takes time, commitment, and practice. Lots of practice.

The following are 3 simple ways you can begin to create a shift in your response toward uncertainty from a threat to a challenge.

Reframe the Question

When you are facing a problem instead of asking yourself, “Can I do this?” ask “How can I do this?”

Using the word “can” sets boundaries. Using “how” opens doors to creativity.

Even if you try and miss the goal, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do, all you know for sure is that the steps you took didn’t result in the desired outcome.

Instead of a failure, try to think in terms of experiments.

When an experiment falls short of expectation it isn’t a failure. There are lessons to be learned, adjustments to be made and a new path to explore that may even lead to an outcome far better than the one you imagined.

So, take a step back and analyze what worked and what didn’t as you ask yourself “how” can I do better next time?

Ask for What You Need

Those with a growth mindset treat discomfort as part of the journey, but many people view having to ask for help more than uncomfortable, it is a threat to their sense of worth.

Maybe you grew up in a family that believed in the value of self-reliance and asking for help was discouraged, or you worry about appearing selfish.

And, of course, there is the all too common fear of being rejected.

I know a woman who was on her way to giving herself a stroke because she was so worried about having to close her small business as a result of the state’s COVID-19 lockdown mandate.

Her husband begged her for weeks to call her lender for help but she kept putting it off. When she finally broke down and called, they gave her a 3-month break on making payments.

She never would have known this was a possibility if she hadn’t asked.

It takes practice to learn how to effectively ask for what you want, but the better you become at communicating your needs, the more likely you are to have them met.

Don’t Mistake Motion for Action

There is a common thread between worry, planning, and preparation, they give you a false sense of purpose.

There is a difference between motion and action.

Creating a budget and planning how to cover your living expenses with less money is motion.

Paying your bills, managing your expenses, and making the most of your resources is taking action.

Obsessively following the news and social media, stressing over why the media covered this but not that, and why (oh why) people are ignoring the guidelines set out to try to get a handle on COVID-19 is (unhealthy) motion.

Focusing on the things that you have control over, doing what you need to do to take care of yourself, your home and family, practicing social distancing, and wearing a mask when you go out is taking action.

Motion keeps you stuck and feeds a threat mindset, taking action opens the door to a world of possibilities.

All of us experience hard times, it’s what we do under pressure that reveals who/what we are.

~Author Unknown

Closing Thoughts

Learning to think of uncertainty as an opportunity rather than a threat requires that you trust yourself to be able to handle whatever comes your way.

For some that will represent a bridge too far to cross.

But I’m going to ask you to trust me when I say that you really do not know just how much you are capable of doing, becoming, or having in your lifetime.

What if you are capable of way more than you can even imagine?

Most people are, but they never find out because they never challenge themselves.

Embracing possibility thinking isn’t just about getting better at solving problems, it’s the willingness to stretch yourself in new ways, and create a path to a better life than you may have ever dreamed possible.

Related articles:
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. 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 Start Here.

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