Search for the phrase ‘these uncertain times’ on Google Ngram Viewer (a tool which records the usage of words in over 5 million books) and you’ll see that it’s been used consistently ever since 1729, suggesting that we humans have long been disposed to feel unsure of our future. Indeed, over 40% of VisualDNA’s quiz-takers report feeling uncertain about which way to turn and are worrying about where their future might take them.
We could write a whole book of advice about how to make the right choices when you’re at a crossroads, but for now we’d like to stay at grassroots level and tackle people’s attitudes to the said crossroads when they get there. In a perfectionistic society obsessed with high achievers and ‘go-getters’, uncertainty has become a dirty word. Many of us feel that being in an uncertain state is unacceptable – an intolerance which leads people to make hasty, unwise decisions. That’s why it’s important to overcome our need for certainty and embrace the idea of ‘perhaps’, giving ourselves time to breathe at the crossroads and consider our options fully. As journalist Suzanne Moore wrote, ‘Perhaps, right now, is the best word. I’m sure of that. Perhaps.’ A little uncertainty isn’t necessarily a bad thing…
To most people, uncertainty means insecurity and fear. But it can actually be an extremely positive state to be in, giving rise to opportunity in a way that certainty cannot. Ever heard a freelancer say they love the thrill of not knowing what their next work project will be? Or a traveller say they love not knowing where they’ll lay their head that night? These people cultivate a healthy attitude to the state of uncertainty because they recognise the positives which can be drawn from being adrift. In her book, The Power of Slow, American author Christine Louise Hohlbaum explains that uncertainty is possibility, and that crossroads provide fertile soil for opportunity to flourish.
As you stand at the crossroads, looking out over your future and wondering which path to take, it’s important to remember what therapist and author Russ Harris calls ‘The Serenity Challenge’: develop the courage to solve those problems that can be solved, the serenity to accept those problems that can’t be solved, and the wisdom to know the difference. Why is this wisdom relevant when you’re standing at the crossroads? Because it’s tempting to wade into a new life stage with the feeling that you’re at the mercy of a choppy sea which will dictate your course, tossing you this way and that. But you’re more in control than you think, and you will always have choices about the direction your life takes. So before you begin to make choices about which way to turn, be courageous and really own those choices, and take responsibility for whatever repercussions they might bring.
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