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Tiny Wisdom: What Else Could It Be?

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

Sometimes it’s tempting to jump to conclusions that support our worst fears.

Maybe you didn’t hear back from an interviewer yet, so you assume you did something to mess it up.

Or your friend hasn’t responded to an email, so you assume there’s something on her mind that she’s not telling you.

I’ve done this many times before, in large part because I often forget that not everything is about me—that sometimes people are slow to respond because of things going on in their own world.

Still, despite knowing this intellectually, sometimes I fully believe my worst-case-scenario story, until, that is, I remind myself of all the other perfectly logical potential explanations.

Case in point: Last year, a ‘tween author reached out to me about ghost writing for her site and books. Since I’ve written for girls for the last four years, and I knew this would be a nice supplement to my income, I was thrilled for the opportunity.

It was almost two weeks before she replied to my response. After the first week, I began to scrutinize my email to her, as if she may have lost interest because I used an emoticon or didn’t ask the right questions.

Then I asked myself: What else could it be?

The possibilities were limitless. She could have had an overflowing inbox. She could have been behind with writing for her books. She could have needed time to put together an official offer. She could have fallen off a cliff.

Luckily the last one wasn’t true. The bottom line was that I couldn’t possibly know why she hadn’t responded yet. I could know, however, that it didn’t necessarily mean I messed something up.

Turns out it didn’t. I’ve been writing for her for almost a year now.

I suspect we start grasping at negative explanations when we can’t explain something because uncertainty can be uncomfortable. It almost feels better to think something’s wrong than to accept we don’t know what happened—and we simply need to wait and find out.

Ultimately, we find the most peace when we can embrace not knowing.

Still feeling uneasy? Sit back and ask yourself: What else could it be? Then take a deep breath and relax. You’ll find out soon enough.

Photo by ojbyrne

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. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Great perspective. I too struggle with this a lot and I always try to find fault without myself or with something I have said or done. 
    I have just released my first product and sales have not been as expected. I have been lying awake every single night thinking what I did wrong until I decided to simply ask my readers. When I knew their reasons (none of them had anything to do with my guide), I instantly felt better. 
    You are right, it does feel better to think something negative instead of embracing the uncertainty. I guess it is part of human nature. 

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!  This is certainly my lesson this week: “Ultimately, we find the most peace when we can embrace not knowing”…a combination of patience and let it be..and continuing to create as I ‘wait’…

  • When my mind goes to the worst case scenario thinking I like to remind myself of this:

    A positive outcome is just as likely as a negative one.

    Very, very few times have my worst case scenarios come true, and when they did I found having stressed myself out did not help the situation any.

    If I feel truly fearful and helpless, I can choose to focus on tangible evidence that’s right in front of me such as tasting the food I’m eating, enjoying the song I’m listening to, listening closely to the person I’m talking to, or mindfully enjoying my day.

    Chrysta

  • Anonymous

    I liked this blog entry and can really relate to it. I have begun to stop automatically blaming myself or assuming the worst. But it’s the “not knowing” that I find hard, or, more specifically, accepting that, in some cases, I will never know the reason.

  • Linnaeab

    Hi Lori,

    It seems from your post that you are discussing the human condition of making up stories about some event or lack of event that a person wishes would happen .. and then believing that story. Sometimes the story reads like a soap opera or pulp novel (or reality TV?). But it is only a story (not the truth) and makes us quite unhappy as we ruminate.

    Byron Katie has a way of turning thoughts around, and dropping the story that we make up in our heads to explain what we believe is going on. It is called “The Work”. There are  4 questions to ask ourselves when we believe someone should or shouldn’t do something.

    I find it very useful anytime I set up a story in my mind. There is so much more freedom when I don’t even make up these stories, and just accept what is happening as it is.

    The 4 questions are:
    1. Is it true?
    2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
    3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
    4. Who would you be without that thought?

    Byron Katie has written 3-4 books. Each one of them teaches this method. She also does workshops, and has free events. She has a website http://www.TheWork.com

    enjoy,
    linnaea

  • Hi Lori,

    I cannot stop saying this to Lori that , some days your blogs just reaches me at the right moment , in sync with the circumstances and world i face. All looked UNCERTAIN , and this blog gave me the best Insight anyone could ever give. 
    “Tiny Buddha” master 🙂

  • Embracing uncertainty is not always easy but it always lead to growth!

  • I’ve always been fascinated with how natural it is to assume something we don’t want as opposed to something we do.  Since neither assumption is actually tru at that point we might as well assume what we want…me included!

  • Z. Oviedo

    Great post! Perfect timing too! I’ve been read a lot of stuff lately & this subject has resonated with me over the past couple of days. Sometimes we let our minds take us to the worst places & I’ve caught myself doing that a bit lately. It’s like the Universe brings me exactly what I need, at exactly the right moment. Great reminder! Thank you! 🙂

    Here’s a little something I’d like to share from my daily motivational:
    “…If you must jump to an assumption and leap to a conclusion – why not assume the best and conclude that everything will work out okay?  This will keep you from projecting your unhealed past or triggered emotions onto the person or situation.” Good stuff.

  • Couldn’t read this at such a better time. This is an issue I’ve had for years now, and it’s only gotten to the worst where my worst fears eat me up, then it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — whether or not it’s true.

    I’m definitely glad I read this post right here. I’ve been forcing myself to just step back quite a bit, and look at more logical conclusions as to why so-and-so has not responded back to me right away. I easily get irritated overall when people don’t get back to me right away, even a message that does not require an instant reply… so it’s something I have to work on before I lose friends over being so hard on people for not talking to me when I want them to.

  • Yes. I suspect it’s connected to our survival instincts–trying to anticipate negative events so they can’t hurt us. I frequently have to remind myself to not suspect the worst, as it sometimes feels instinctive!

  • I love what you wrote about positive and negative outcomes. It’s so true! Sometimes I stop and remind myself how frequently things have worked out in my favor. If I were to base my conclusions on past experiences, I might actually think a positive outcome is more likely than a negative one!

  • That’s so great to hear! I love knowing my posts help. Thank you for taking the time to write. =)

  • Absolutely! I find the more comfortable I am with saying “I don’t know,” the more I learn, about myself and the world.

  • Yes, so true! I used to think it was best to assume the worst so I’d be pleasantly surprised if it didn’t happen, but that caused me a lot of stress. Even if I sometimes need to remind myself to think more positively, I’ve seen major improvements in my state of mind for making that effort.

  • I know what you mean Jen. I have one friend who consistently fails to return my calls and emails, and for a while I was taking it personally. Then I realized–she is someone who has a very busy life and a million friends. It’s not just me; it’s her! And she’s not a bad person for it. She just does things differently than I do. I decided a while back that being friends with her means accepting the friendship for what it is, without resentment. It made me feel a lot more peaceful about it, because I stopped making her wrong in my head (and stopped making me wrong with guesswork).

  • You’re most welcome! =)

  • Thanks linnaea. I’ve read a ton about Byron Katie from readers–her name comes up a lot!–but I’ve yet to really delve into her site. Those are definitely some powerful questions.

  • I know what you mean Betty. I think it’s human instinct to want to understand, and when we can’t, we grasp at possibilities.

  • You’re most welcome. Thanks for sharing that part of your daily motivational! Love it. 🙂

  • Andrea

    Oh boy….could not be a timelier message for me.

  • tinybuddha_fan

    Really great post! I definitly need to take this advice more often. In the past I’ve ruined opportunities for myself by not being more patient and turning off that part of my brain that tends to worry so much. Sometimes it’s hard to not assume it’s about me, when sometimes things really have nothing to do with me. Thanks for the reminder.

  • You’re most welcome!

  • Gaylern55

    Once again your timing of this article was perfect. I felt like it was addressed to me!  I had just recently interviewed with a company and afterward I sent the company recruiter an e-mail. She did not respond at all that day or evening, which was unusual, so I had convinced myself that the company was not interested. Not really liking the job description, I withdrew my application. Then she e-mailed me and told me I had done great on the interview!

    Now a former co-worker did not answer my phone calls x2 and did not return my messages. I was sure I had done something to make her angry, but could not think of what it was.Today
    she called to tell she had lost her phoneand haad just gotten a new one. All of that wasted
    energy drained from me due to negative possibilities I had imagined!!

    Thanks so much for your work. You touch many more lives than you know.
    Gayle RN 
    ,

  • tinybuddha

    You’re most welcome Gayle! I’ve had my fair share of these moments, and many times I’ve needed to remind myself not to think the worst. More often than not, it’s not what I originally feared!