“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” ~Osho
Once, during an AmeriCorps leadership retreat, I was asked to create a motto for my life, a mission statement for my future. I was handed a blank piece of paper and I was terrified.
At the time, my life was filled with uncertainty. My year of national community service was coming to an end. I didn’t know what my next job would be, let alone what my life’s mission statement should be.
As I sat, panic stricken, staring into my uncertain future and an empty page, I began to think of all the futures I could have.
It began negatively, but slowly my dreamer mentality kicked in. I imagined hundreds of possible futures for myself, as an artist, a writer, a teacher, a missionary, a mother, and a million other things.
That was the point when I realized that my uncertainty was my greatest asset. I had infinite paths available to me, not just one. So I wrote the following on that scary blank piece of paper: I vow to live a life of infinite possibility.
That sounds like a fairly lofty goal, but what it means for my everyday life is that I refuse to allow fear, failure, or insecurities to limit my future.
That doesn’t mean I don’t feel all of those things all the time. It just means that when I look at a possible future for myself, I don’t automatically turn one down because I am afraid I won’t succeed.
It’s a hard thing to embrace uncertainty. Sometimes all we can see is the cloud of doubt and question marks. But when the future isn’t set, when we aren’t destined to become just one thing, we can become anything.
In my life this means that when I face starting over, whether that is looking for a new job, a new apartment, or a new town, I try to ignore the limits that fear and stress want to put on my life.
In the years since I stared down that blank piece of paper, I have learned a few tricks to see the possible on the other side of a blank page.
I try to use my imagination and visualization as much as possible.
Our creative thinking is often the only thing that can help us see through that pesky cloud of question marks. Whether it is creating a story about my awesome future as a best-selling author, or just imagining what I might look like with a new haircut, imagination and visualization help us see beyond what is to what could be.
I also find it helpful not to rule any future out initially.
I don’t think I will ever go to medical school and become a doctor, but I don’t want to limit myself too soon. If I tell myself that certain futures are off limits, I don’t ease uncertainty, I simply limit my possibilities.
I still have trouble at times spinning the uncertainty of life into possibility. No matter how many stories I tell children about my amazing life as a superhero, I haven’t actually managed to become one…yet. I still feel the panic rise when uncertainty starts to loom.
Recently, as I tried to imagine my life beyond my current graduate program, I hit a wall of questions. More accurately, when presented with a cloud of questions, I created a wall of doubt. I questioned my skill set and I doubted the existence of any future prospects.
I stopped seeing the possibilities and only saw catastrophe. I would never find a “real” career; I would never be successful. I felt myself descending into a spiral of negativity. I could only imagine one terrible possible outcome—complete failure.
In the end, none of my hard-learned lessons about possibility could help me. The weight of the uncertain future was too much; it pulled me down. It took the words of a dear friend to pull me out of the limited and terrible future I created for myself.
As I was lamenting my terrible uncertainty, and the horrible future that would befall me since I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, my wise friend said, “I am so jealous, you can go anywhere.” Just like that it clicked. My friend was jealous of the uncertain future that lay ahead of me.
Suddenly, I remembered the mission statement I wrote on that paper so long ago. I vow to live a life of infinite possibility. Not an easy life, not a certain life, but a life of possibility.
Many of my possibilities come from being mobile, but most lives of infinite possibility are lived much closer to home.
My friend, who has a mortgage and a baby, finds her possibilities in online courses that give her new skills and inspirations. We all have a whole host of possibilities available to us, if we can think creatively and positively.
Still, these infinite possibilities can become their own source of worry and struggle. Ultimately, I had to pick a path for my life post-graduate school. No matter how many choices we are offered, we all have to pick one direction and just start going.
As I attempted to whittle down the choices that had made my friend so jealous, I found it was helpful to look at areas of past success.
I often seek the counsel of those nearest and dearest to me, but when I tried to talk to others about all of these overwhelming choices, everyone became overwhelmed. So instead of discussing the multitude of options, we discussed me. I shared my passions; they shared what they saw as my strengths. A pattern began to emerge.
I began to see places where my strengths, my passions, and my possibilities overlapped. Then I was able to narrow down my list enough to make a decision.
I decided to apply to yet another graduate school, but this time one that would allow me to live near my family instead of thousands of miles away. I had taken the unknown, turned it into infinite possibilities, and then chosen the possibility that fit me best.
Maybe for you, possibility lies in the set of paints that you forgot you loved.
Maybe finding possibilities means letting go of the pressure to find the right possibility, and enjoying whichever one comes your way for now.
Maybe you embrace possibility by writing your own life motto and seeing where it takes you.
Happy man jumping image via Shutterstock
About Autumn Elizabeth
Autumn Elizabeth is a writer, scholar and traveler. Her writing has appeared in When Women Waken, The Rumpus, the Journal of Bisexuality and more. She is a Northern California native and currently resides in Paris. She also runs a website dedicated to global spiritual journeys called Searching Sophia’s Pockets.