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5 Ways to Let Go and Embrace an Uncertain Future

Open Road

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” ~John Allen Paulos

I used to love uncertainty. I wandered my way all around this country with little more than a suitcase and a journal. Committing to anything felt limiting, suffocating even.

One day I realized it wasn’t enlightenment that pushed me to embrace the unknown; it was a paralyzing fear of creating something certain. You can’t disappoint people when you don’t form relationships with them, and you can’t fail when you never start.

One day I decided to do the scariest things I could imagine: settle into one place, get a steady job, and start forming real relationships.

This lasted for a while until the economic meltdown rocked my world. Now I’m back in a place of uncertainty, like so many other people.

Almost everyone I know has had to make at least a few changes to their life because of the economy. People have lost their jobs, homes, and in some cases, their sense of identity.

It’s both terrifying and exciting to have a blank page in front of you. Sometimes we need reminders to see it as the latter.

Here’s how I’m learning to let go without losing what I felt I’ve gained these past few years:

1. Consider the idea of permanent uncertainty.

Certainty is actually an illusion. Think about it. Is there ever a time when you know for sure how things will unfold?

Even with the best preparation, you can’t control everything in the universe. Job security is subject to industry and company shifts. Relationships transform as people grow and change how they see the world and what they want out of it.

There are never any guarantees, even when you think you have it all figured out. When you don’t know what the future will hold, you’re actually dealing with life as it always is: yours to live and create moment by moment, day by day.

2. Stop waiting for something external.

In a post on Raptitude, David wrote about the theatrical convention known as Deus ex machina, or “God in a Machine.”

As David explains, it’s “a reference to the ancient playwright Euripedes’ dubious habit of using a pulley system to lower an actor dressed up as God onto the stage, to solve the problems of the characters and wrap up the story.”

We often wait for our own Deus ex machina in life—a big break or a soul mate who makes us feel complete. This allows us to believe there is something good down the line instead of actively creating that something.

The only sense of certainty we can experience in life is the result of our own efforts. That’s actually an empowering thought if you think about it.

3. See the benefits of releasing attachment.

If you’ve formed an attachment to something, odds are you’ve decided it’s a necessary component to your desired life—the home where you feel safe, or the relationship that gives you love and support. Now look at it from a different perspective. When you are attached to less, you open yourself up to more than you can imagine.

For example, I had to give up my apartment. I could have held onto the past, wishing I didn’t have to leave, or feel excitement about the potential for something even better. Corny, but true: a flower can’t grow if it clings to its roots.

4. Reconnect with the constants in your life.

Even though there are no guarantees, you likely have a few constants that won’t change in the near future: your health, your mental capacity, your family and friends.

At the end of the day, nothing matters without these things. You can have the best house in the world, but it becomes a prison if you’re alone. Your job may offer a million perks, but you won’t enjoy them if you’re not strong in mind and body.

Focus on those gifts, because that’s what they are. Even thinking about my gratitude gives me a profound sense of strength and humility. Two things I need right now.

5. Accept constant imperfection.

I think a lot of people have this illusion that someday everything will be okay. One day they’ll have the home, the relationship, the career, the status, and from then on it will be smooth sailing. I know if I’ve indulged this fantasy.

This causes us to metaphorically hold our breath, waiting for that moment when we’re finally able to be happy.

If we can accept, however, that things will never be perfect—that we’ll gain, and lose, and grow, and regress, and smile, and cry, and learn, and forget—we’ll be better able to embrace the present moment. We are all ever-changing works in progress, and so are the lives we lead.

No matter how much you’ve learned or how strong you’ve become, on any given day you could allow your emotions to get the better of you. Applying knowledge never gets easy; it always takes strength, humility, and mindfulness to be truly present and to forge ahead despite your fear.

I’m working on that today. Can you relate?

Photo here.

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About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. To strengthen your relationships, get her new book, Tiny Buddha's 365 Tiny Love Challenges. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • this is so uplifting.. the confused would feel appeased…

    The ViXeN's LaiR

  • melissakirk

    I was just musing on uncertainty today, and the paradox of trying to be OK living with it when we really are wired, as humans, to seek out safety and security (even false security.) It's so interesting to me that Buddhism, which is really all about living with uncertainty, is so counter-intuitive to the way humans have developed psychologically. Not to say we shouldn't embrace what Buddhism teaches us, I just think it's interesting and there's probably some deep psychological reason why it calls to so many of us as a spiritual path….

    But uncertainty, for me, and probably for most of us, is the absolute hardest thing to deal with, I just want to yell at the Universe: “Why can't I just have one thing I can count on?” But in reality, as a teacher said recently in a talk: “Anything can happen at anytime.” It's just the truth. but it's SO hard to accept.

    Maybe the lesson in the fact that it doesn't come naturally to us as humans is to forgive ourselves when we are afraid of uncertainty, while still striving to be able to live with it.

    Thank so much for your post!

    -M

    My blog is Mellifluence

  • drb74

    I can completely relate! Things get setup, life tears them down. You feel anchored in a place, and events transport you to a different country, only to return after unexpected other events. You believe yourself to be someone, only to discover that that someone is limiting, and you have to invent all new 'I am' definitions, only to change those too.

    We are water. We evaporate, we freeze, we fall, we cool, we crash in waves, we ebb and flow, we soothe, swim and foam. A part of us looks the same to a mind that wants to condense and categorize, but in the end, we are constantly recreated anew.

  • drb74

    I can completely relate! Things get setup, life tears them down. You feel anchored in a place, and events transport you to a different country, only to return after unexpected other events. You believe yourself to be someone, only to discover that that someone is limiting, and you have to invent all new 'I am' definitions, only to change those too.

    We are water. We evaporate, we freeze, we fall, we cool, we crash in waves, we ebb and flow, we soothe, swim and foam. A part of us looks the same to a mind that wants to condense and categorize, but in the end, we are constantly recreated anew.

  • ruthhadikin

    I love this article Lori.. so very true, and very apt for many of us right now. Thank you for posting it.

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  • Your posts a great reminder of ways to make our lives easier instead of fighting the realities of our culture and society. Slowing down and finding strength in ourselves instead of certainty is what really matters.

  • So true! As we get wiser we realize that those 'stable' points of reference of our reality such as our attachments to possessions, relationships or self-identity are not permanent or certain.

    This is where to learn to let go and not take things for granted. Life somehow clicks right and feels more precious when we embrace the fact that it is in constant dynamic equilibrium with no certainties.

  • Beautifull written! You are so right; if we don't resist, we are constantly reborn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Beautifully written! You are so right; if we don't resist, we are constantly reborn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Your observation on forgiveness really resonates with me. I think we judge our own instincts a lot and exacerbate our uneasiness. It's hard enough to accept uncertainty; why compound that with feeling bad for wanting security?

    I'm learning to accept life will always be a balancing act; a lesson in checking in and making incremental changes. On some level I know how to be and deal; but that doesn't mean it will always be easy. Some days accepting the unknown will come without struggle; other days it will require conscious effort to quiet my mind.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking comment!

  • You're most welcome!

  • That's my greatest hope for my writing. I'd like to think it makes a difference–so thank you!

  • “Life somehow clicks right and feels more precious when we embrace the fact that it is in constant dynamic equilibrium with no certainties.” <~ Absolutely agreed. It can be so difficult to go with the flow, but I think it's the only way to live mindfully and peacefully. People often think peace means having answers; I think it's learning to accept we sometimes (oftentimes) can't have them.

  • drb74

    Thank you for taking the time to reflect on what I wrote Lori! 🙂

  • Stacey

    Love it. Sometimes we need “proof” or a result to recognize a blessing. We often are waiting for that “thing” to happen. We went to church New Years Eve, and I believe it's in Luke where the man was waiting for the sign that Jesus had healed his illness. He waited for the ailment to be removed. And when it happend, he finally said that he's been healed, because his sign of seeing his illness disappear was proof. Jesus said, he actually healed him a long time before the ailments and sores disappeared. I like the message your friend sent to you, because it reminds me of that story of not recognizing, or realizing the blessings you already have, because of waiting for the “signs”, the “money”, the “new car”, a “parnter”, a “new child”, etc to give you the feeling of finally being blessed, or getting your wishes answered, or desires met. Often times our proof of blessings is far different than the results we desire to prove the blessings. Anyway, thanks for sharing. Love you dearly.

  • So true! As we get wiser we realize that those 'stable' points of reference of our reality such as our attachments to possessions, relationships or self-identity are not permanent or certain.

    This is where to learn to let go and not take things for granted. Life somehow clicks right and feels more precious when we embrace the fact that it is in constant dynamic equilibrium with no certainties.

  • Beautifull written! You are so right; if we don't resist, we are constantly reborn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Beautifully written! You are so right; if we don't resist, we are constantly reborn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Your observation on forgiveness really resonates with me. I think we judge our own instincts a lot and exacerbate our uneasiness. It's hard enough to accept uncertainty; why compound that with feeling bad for wanting security?

    I'm learning to accept life will always be a balancing act; a lesson in checking in and making incremental changes. On some level I know how to be and deal; but that doesn't mean it will always be easy. Some days accepting the unknown will come without struggle; other days it will require conscious effort to quiet my mind.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking comment!

  • You're most welcome!

  • That's my greatest hope for my writing. I'd like to think it makes a difference–so thank you!

  • “Life somehow clicks right and feels more precious when we embrace the fact that it is in constant dynamic equilibrium with no certainties.” <~ Absolutely agreed. It can be so difficult to go with the flow, but I think it's the only way to live mindfully and peacefully. People often think peace means having answers; I think it's learning to accept we sometimes (oftentimes) can't have them.

  • drb74

    Thank you for taking the time to reflect on what I wrote Lori! 🙂

  • Stacey

    Love it. Sometimes we need “proof” or a result to recognize a blessing. We often are waiting for that “thing” to happen. We went to church New Years Eve, and I believe it's in Luke where the man was waiting for the sign that Jesus had healed his illness. He waited for the ailment to be removed. And when it happend, he finally said that he's been healed, because his sign of seeing his illness disappear was proof. Jesus said, he actually healed him a long time before the ailments and sores disappeared. I like the message your friend sent to you, because it reminds me of that story of not recognizing, or realizing the blessings you already have, because of waiting for the “signs”, the “money”, the “new car”, a “parnter”, a “new child”, etc to give you the feeling of finally being blessed, or getting your wishes answered, or desires met. Often times our proof of blessings is far different than the results we desire to prove the blessings. Anyway, thanks for sharing. Love you dearly.

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  • Stephanie

    Absolutely breathtaking. I think this article provides a true template for Buddhism in action. Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability. This article made me feel SAFE as I worked mentally to stop seeking safety in certainty.

  • Thanks Stephanie. I’m glad you found this post helpful!

  • Akathisia

    Neuroscients will say humans are pattern oriented beings, that is they look to their environment for order and consistency and dwell in that  by repeating behaviors and imitating others.  If humans  don’t follow these patterns or if these structures become dislocated they become anxious, and will seek out a remedy, which is why the buddha’s message is so important. To engage in creative pursuits, to make patterns where none have existed, is surely what makes humans, human beings.    

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  • Joyce

    “Corny but true: a flower can’t grow if it clings to its roots.” IT nearly always happens  that when you seperate the flower from its roots (cut it), it will die.

  • Tory

    Just stumbled on your site and am SO glad that I did. I’m going through a moment of MEGA-uncertainty and have been allowing my anxiety/fear spirals to get the better of me. This post is so, so, so helpful. It reminds me of a quote: “The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when? Your life will always be filled with challenges.” Thank you for the reminder. 

  • DMS

    Even 2 years later, your comments resonate. How have you grown in your understanding of self? What have you learned about your five points? Have you developed them further over these years?

  • Danystatic

    I love this article, ctrl + d

  • Jessica Boiss

    Love this!

  • What’s the worst that could happen?

    I could lose my job, my home, my wife, my status.

    In the end I would still have my mind and two hands. As long as I have those I know I’ll be OK. Sunsets and sunrises are free. Swimming in the ocean is free. Writing is free.Friendship is free.

    As long as I have those I need nothing else to be happy.

  • Suranga

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