It’s only recently that I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a certain beauty about not knowing…
- Who we might meet next
- Where we should live when we retire, or sooner
- What our next career might look like, if at all
- When we will laugh so hard we might pee our pants
- Where that next destination is that you might fall in love with
- What that new hobby is you want to try
I realize that falling into love with this unknowingness releases what we often feel so incredibly anxious about. And that is, “what will happen next?” How will it all turn out? Will I be successful? Rich? Happy?
Holy shit, right?
The answers to these questions, which, let’s face it, not one single person on this planet can really answer, are the huge mystery that is life, and what often keeps us up at night and twist gnarly knots in our stomachs.
Not that long ago I declared something: I don’t know shit.
I can’t tell you how liberating that is, but that was only a small part of the letting go process. What that did was free me up from being someone who held myself up to impossible standards of thinking I was some kind of wise prophet walking this earth. On the contrary. I am someone who is just trying to figure this shit out like the rest of you. Once I think I have the answer to something, usually the Universe sends me some kind of message to kick my ass. The big U likes to keep me on my toes!
But what I hadn’t fully realized, and I feel is only in the beginning stages of this new journey, is knowing and accepting uncertainty. In just about every area of my life.
Many of you know that I’m constantly thinking about where my forever home will be. What I’m anxious about is I can’t figure it out. What I should be thinking is, “why do I have to know right now?” Now I can open myself up to exploration. I can view each place I might visit just for what it is, not as the answers to all my problems.
I think one problem we have with uncertainty is getting swept up in a phenomenon known as the sunk cost bias.
Let’s use an example many of you are familiar with in this blog world: becoming an entrepreneur.
Let’s say Jane took the leap from her soul-sucking 9-5 to work on her online business. I mean hey, Laurie, Mary, Susie, and John all seem to be killing it, so she can too! For a year Jane pours her heart and soul into her business, sacrificing her relationships and her health in the meantime.
At the end of the first year Jane is disappointed that she isn’t making what her friends are making (even though she has no real proof that they are doing as well as their Instagram makes it look like they are doing). She has gained 20 pounds, has re-occuring migraines, works 100 hours per week with no breaks, and she thinks, “was full time work so bad?”
But, Jane gets caught up in the sunk cost bias. She thinks that she has to keep going because she told her old boss to bugger off and she will never again work for the man. She also spent hours and hours on her website, and building clients and probably e-books and online courses as well. Never mind the fact that it all costs more than she is currently earning. And what will everyone think of her now that her identity is wrapped up in being a #girlboss #entrepreneur #inserttypicalhashtaghere
I use this as an example because I feel like I read or hear a version of that scenario a lot these days. But there are many others.
I realize I’m just as guilty. I’ve become too rigid in my routine, that it’s not so much fear as it is a sense of comfort and familiarity that I’ve gotten used to.
Why go through the agony (as I perceive it to be) of online dating when I know I’ll be a happy camper watching Netflix on Friday and Saturday night?
I know! Because no one can give me a guarantee that going through all that will produce “the one” for me. I might (gasp) date my whole life and never meet Mr. Right. So I think: “well at least I never have to go through that pain of someone thinking I was an ugly weirdo!” True. But I might never experience the joy of finding someone to spend the rest of my life with either.
Letting go of uncertainty, i.e., detaching your ego from a result, is like flying on a trapeze without a net. If it goes well, it goes really well. But if not, splat.
The good news is that in 99% of the cases where you try something new, you won’t die if you “fail.” But people often think failure can feel like death. We often want a guarantee that something will work out before we try it. That mentality keeps us warm and cozy, but let’s face it, boring.
I was just talking to a couple friends about traveling the other day. We talked about our worst travel experiences. It seems in every case, the worst experiences turned out to be the funniest (now) and taught us a lot about ourselves. Imagine if we never went on those trips and never had one interesting story to tell the world about ourselves? Sad, huh? (BTW, here’s my worst)
I started this year saying I wanted to be more like a tree. Something that can sway in the fiercest of wind. What I feel like I have done instead is become a brick building…one that perhaps could crumble in an earthquake.
Now I have to make a promise to myself and have you hold me accountable. Although letting go of uncertainty is not quantifiable, “doing” new things is, which is at least part of the process.
Here we go…
Do you have a fear of uncertainty, or do you embrace change and go with the flow?