How to Live with Uncertainty

  • How to Live with Uncertainty
    Photo: Leann Mueller
  • I'm currently trying to make some changes in my career—and travel a lot less—so I can spend more time with my family and explore new creative endeavors. I have no idea how this will work—and I hate that! Which means I'm now compulsively polling my friends: What do you think? Is this crazy? But there's a fine line between asking for suggestions and desperately grasping for answers nobody else can offer.

    Uncertainty makes us feel vulnerable, so we try to escape it any way we can. Sometimes we even settle for misinformation or bad news over not knowing. Have you ever ended up in an Internet rabbit hole of terror while waiting for test results?

    Yet it really is possible to thrive amid uncertainty. It's not about getting advice you can trust; it's about faith and self-trust—believing that whatever happens, you'll find a way through it. Without uncertainty, we'd never start a business or risk loving someone new. There are no guarantees when we step into the unknown. But these periods of discomfort can give rise to life's most important adventures.

    The Dare

    Pay attention to what makes you feel better (and worse).
    The unknown can bring out the worst in us. When I'm deep in uncertainty about work, I can get impatient and snappy with the people who mean the most to me—and that feels terrible. I've learned that sleep, exercise and eating healthy make me more patient and calm.

    Create an emotional clearing.
    Fear tends to drown out our intuition, so it's essential to carve out moments of quiet—time for meditation, prayer or just a long walk—to reconnect with our gut. I'm still learning to meditate (and it's not going well), but you can bet that when I have a big talk coming up, I'm out walking near my house, rain or shine, listening for the sound of my inner voice.

    Get support.
    Instead of begging everyone in your address book for answers, ask one or two loved ones to remind you that it's normal to feel vulnerable when you're in a period of change. As my husband often tells me, "It's supposed to suck right now. Go walk!" Uncertainty is a necessary part of getting where we want to go.

    Brené Brown, PhD, the author of Daring Greatly, researches vulnerability, shame and courage at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

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