Having just started a new semester at college after a lengthy hiatus, I’ve been thinking a lot about uncertainty. Returning to school was a big decision that I did not make lightly. There have been other times in my life where I’ve been so unsure, teetering on the edge of a life changing decision. Do I stay in this relationship, focus all my energy on healing it, or do I walk away and start anew? Do I go back to school and finish my degree, or focus on building my career? These are just a couple of the big decisions I’ve had to make in recent years. There are other issues I’ve had to navigate my way through that have had less black and white solutions, such as how I should go about increasing my energy and improving my mood, and figuring out a diet and fitness routine that is sustainable for me in my life. I think we’ve all had moments where we’ve been faced with something that’s made us lay awake thinking, “I just don’t know what to do.”
For all my intuition, all the wisdom I’ve gained and problem solving processes I learned while studying to be a life coach, I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m often terrified of making the wrong choice, especially when other people’s feeling also lay in the balance. During these times, I find myself wishing that time would stay still, just for a moment, so I could find my footing. I’ve learned that life has a way of ushering us forward, oftentimes making the decision for us if we linger too long.
I’ve often looked at other people who always seem to know just what to do. I wish I had their sureness, that confidence. But honestly, I have no way of knowing what is going on in their lives or what is driving them to make the decisions they are making. Comparison always focuses attention away from yourself, away from the present moment, and robs you of your power. It’s an ego trick that is generally counterproductive, because instead of focusing on solutions, all you can see is how seemingly better or worse you are than someone else.
In moments like these, acceptance can be a powerful thing. Just acknowledging the fact that you don’t know what to do can be relieving. It may seem counterintuitive, but try just saying the words, whatever they may be. “I don’t know what career path to choose”, “I don’t know whether I should stay in this relationship or walk away,” “ I know what I want, but I don’t know how to get there.” Do any of these statements make you any less loveable, and less valuable of a person? Or do they simply indicate the need for clarity, that there is a little more work that needs to be done? Is this a permanent state or a temporary feeling?
Focus on the aspects of your life that you do have clarity on. I know that I want to feel loved, cherished, appreciated and respected by my life partner, whoever that person may turn out to be. So instead of worrying about who that person may be, I can go inward and focus on commanding love, respect and appreciation from myself all those around me. I know that I want to wake up each day feeling a sense of purpose and joy about what lies before me; so I can focus on doing small things purposely and finding joy in the present moment rather than stressing about creating a totally different life. I know that I want peace and peaceful excitement rather than chaos and drama in my life, so I can focus on creating peaceful experiences for myself rather than trying to fight chaotic situations.
Think of all the times you’ve had to make a hard decision. Honour the wisdom and courage within you, and affirm that you have ability to make a sound decision. Out of the most uncertain, foggiest, chaotic times, you give rise to a desire for clarity. If you stay focused on the clarity that is coming, and refuse to view the fog as a permanent fixture in your life, then at some point it must give way.
Quiet your mind. Be it through meditation, a yoga class, a run, a walk in the park, a quiet cup of coffee by yourself- whatever helps you cut through the chatter and help you hear your own inner voice. When I’m struggling with making a decision, I usually find myself running to my friends and mentors with my problem in an effort to find validation, get some advice, and just to have someone trustworthy to be a sounding board. There is nothing wrong with talking about your problems, in fact, it’s a vital step in any decision making process. However, I find that no matter how much wisdom others can impart to me, I need time to myself to be still and integrate everything so I can allow my higher power to weigh in.
Visualize the best and worst possible outcomes. It can help to weigh the possible consequences of whatever choice we are about to make. Be thorough. For example:
What’s the worst thing that could happen if I go back to school? I could fail and end up in more debt with no degree. And then what? Then I will have to work a job that doesn’t bring me joy. And then what? I will be miserable and unable to live up to my tire potential. And then what? I will be depressed and others would look down upon me. And then what? I could be doomed to a life of poverty and loneliness. And then what? I would feel unloved, unacceptable, worthless.
Worst case scenarios can uncover our deepest fears. At the heart of most of these scenarios lies fear of rejection, guilt, and shame. As humans, we all have a core need to feel loved and accepted by our tribe. When we feel, even on a subconscious level, that something might threaten that love and acceptance, we panic.
Ask yourself if you can really screw things up that bad. Sometimes our ego tricks us into thinking we are more in control than we actually are. While every choice comes with a consequences, life can take our biggest mistakes and turn them around. Take a breath.
When you think of the best case scenarios, let your imagine run wild. Really play here. See what your success would look like. Feel the excitement at achieving your goal. Visualize what it would be like to touch that degree, to get off the plane in that place you’ve always wanted to travel to. Call it the law of attraction, or just putting it out into the universe; when you get really clear about what you absolutely do want, you’re setting a benchmark for success. Simply having an end goal in mind can provide a lot of clarity about the steps needed in order to get there.
There comes a time when you just have to jump. You just have to pick a direction and just go. You may not be able to see past the fog. You may feel like you’re freefalling, because you jumped off a cliff and can’t see the bridge just a few feet ahead. Have faith that that bridge is there.
There will be times in everyone’s life where we fail miserably. Take these as opportunities to practise self compassion and self love. Sure, it’s easy to love ourselves when everything is going well. My most authentic love for myself has arisen in moments when I’ve messed up, and messed up bad. It’s those moments where I’ve had to make a conscious choice to love myself enough to forgive myself, and stop beating myself up. To have faith that I can put the pieces back together and start anew. Be kind to yourself!