Building Those Uncertainty Muscles
The first way, and I think this is a great way to start, is embrace uncertainty. Yep, I know. No rocket science here. By embracing uncertainty-knowing it is going to happen and accepting that- we prime the pump necessary to fuel our decision making muscles. The way to help children begin the journey is just simply talking to them about it. Perhaps giving them the scenario of a fire drill at daycare or school, and how this is an example of uncertainty. We don’t have to be afraid of it, because it’s actually for our good that this is happening, even though it may seem a little scary at first.
The next step is traveling. When we are exploring new areas, we are embracing uncertainty and it is a great way to show kids (and ourselves) that uncertainty can be fun! Traveling to foreign countries, experiencing different cultures, etc is a heightened form of uncertainty, and can again, be exciting! Another creative way to exercise your uncertainty muscles is to actually name the uncertainty and have a conversation with it. Ask it what is its purpose? What does it mean to have this challenge in your life? When you “humanize” the uncertainty, it makes it much less daunting, and playing a game with it helps even more! Allowing children or even ourselves to take classes to learn new skills or maybe a foreign language is another great way to talk about and work those uncertainty muscles.
As kids grow into their teen years, they are surrounded by lots of uncertainty with regard to puberty, coming into their own authentic selves, friends, peer pressure, grades, college, social situations, possibly work, etc. Frequently checking in with them, asking how they are dealing with each area of adolescence and guiding them is another great way to be involved in their uncertainty muscle building. It also helps foster an open relationship where they value your contribution in their lives. So often I see teens trying to hide things from their parents because they feel trapped or as though their parents don’t trust them to make good choices. This doesn’t have to be the case. Our kids actually WANT our input when they feel valued, listened to, and respected.
Volunteering is another great way to build those uncertainty muscles. Whether it is working with the homeless, senior citizens, veterans, children, patients in a hospital or nursing center, or whatever you decide, can be a great way to step outside of a comfort zone and also learn something about the world and the other occupants on this Earth. Compassion and empathy are also collateral lessons learned through volunteering, as well.
Coping with uncertainty can take on many faces, as well. Some are positive, helpful, and uplifting while others are negative, hurtful, and detrimental. Coping with meditation, exercise, prayer, music, a positive hobby, etc are positive mechanisms and can aid in stress relief. For my entire life, I have always recited the prayer, “Hail Mary” every time I go over a bridge, and I continue to recite it from one end to the other. It is my coping mechanism to get me through the uncertainty of the bridge. There are also more negative coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, excessive eating, depression, anxiety, cutting, or a myriad of other harmful practices.
There are even circumstances in our lives that start out looking like certainty–we KNOW (or at least we THINK we know) what is going to happen, and BOOM, something happens that takes us right out of that certainty into a realm of uncertainty in the blink of an eye. This could look like a job transfer or promotion that you think is going to go X way because that is exactly as it has been laid out in front of you, then a few days, weeks, months pass by and BOOM, it happens…the transfer doesn’t go exactly as you think it was supposed to (or how they said it was going to go) and your entire world seems to be tossed upside down. How do you cope? What do you do to try to bring things back into a certain path? Do you need to get things back “under control” as quickly as possible? Or could you be comfortable is just riding things out for a while, and seeing where this new turn takes you?
For many people, this would be a pretty significant test of their uncertainty muscles, and it may prove to be too much sending the person into a spiral of depression, anger, blame, denial, etc but it is my goal that after reading this blog as well as the first part Uncertainty Part One that you would acknowledge the uncertainty, assess the risks, accept the uncertainty, and be open to the lessons and seek the joy that the change will bring.
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