How to Embrace Uncertainty and Cultivate Inner Peace

This is a guest post from Carolyn Rubenstein of A Beautiful Ripple Effect.

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. –André Gide

In life, we face uncertainty all the time, from our morning traffic commute, uncertain if we will make it to the meeting on time, to the greater uncertainties that accompany important life events. Uncertainty commonly is associated with doubt, a lack of confidence, risk, and the unknown.

For most individuals, the unknown is extremely uncomfortable. We crave structure and knowledge, a sense of control within our personal universe. When that control begins to dissolve, we face the challenge of letting go of the need to know in order to find peace within the process.

Accept the uncertainty of the circumstance. Recognize that you can’t change the past or predict the future.  While such acceptance is difficult, it is essential in order to move forward. Remember that whatever you resist persists. And resistance typically is experienced as intense pain and struggle. Try utilizing this mantra, “I have no idea what is going to happen – and that’s okay.”

Manifest awareness. While you are most likely ready to retreat to your comfort zone of blissful ignorance, you want to bring awareness to what you are experiencing. You have no control when you suppress the discomfort. How can you change what you are not aware of? You can’t. Awareness provides liberating moments of stillness, which connect you to your powerful inner self. And in these moments, you feel lighter as a sense of relief washes over you.

Establish your locus of control. If you cannot control the circumstances, it’s easy to feel as if everything is unraveling on its own, leaving you as merely a witness of your own life. But you are far more powerful than you realize. Your greatest area of control is your thoughts. Circumstances can trigger thoughts (often irrational, self-limiting thoughts) and thoughts in turn determine how we feel. As such, we have the power to change how we feel by challenging our thoughts.

Challenge Painful Thoughts. Bring awareness into the moment and observe your thoughts without judgment. Then, write down thoughts or beliefs on a piece of paper. The simple act of separating yourself from your thoughts is empowering. It allows you to recognize that 1) you are not your thoughts and 2) you have the power to change your thoughts. Focus on one thought at a time. You want to challenge any thought that causes you to feel something negative. Brooke Castillo, author of  Self Coaching 101, created a simple four-step technique to quickly challenge a thought. Below each step is an example from my personal practice of this technique.

1) Write down the painful thought.

  • I should be doing more.

2) Write down the feeling the thought causes you to feel.

  • I feel overwhelmed, ashamed, and guilty.

3) Write down a slightly better feeling thought that you know is true.

  • I can take one small step. That’s all I need to do now.

4) Write down the feeling the new thought causes you to feel.

  • I feel relieved, empowered, and optimistic.

Connect Compassionately with Yourself. Amidst uncertainty, we often resist acceptance of the situation by placing blame upon ourselves. Quickly, we become powerless victims who deserve the worst possible outcome our imaginations can create. Rather than feed our judgmental self-talk, it is important to focus on what underlies such judgments – our unmet needs. When we shift our focus from blame and self-punishment to compassion and self-love, we are able to take actions that support our well-being and personal growth.

The most powerful way to begin connecting more compassionately with yourself is through your use of language.

Simply notice what you are telling yourself. Are you communicating with compassion? Replace words that generate feelings of guilt or shame (e.g., should, have to) with words that express freedom and choice  (e.g., can, choose to).

Regardless of what life may throw your way, you always have a choice. And that choice boils down to whether or not you let something beyond your control define how you think, what you feel, and what you do. Yes, easier said than done, but impossible? No. While it may be more difficult to challenge your mindset, akin to swimming upstream, it’s important to recognize that what may seem easier (i.e., letting the current direct you) actually is not the direction you want to go.

Be gentle with yourself, but by all means, be you. To gain hope and reconnect with your core of peace, you must emerge from the shadows, one tiny step at a time.

Carolyn Rubenstein has spent most of her life working with kids with cancer. She started Carolyn's Compassionate Children, a non-profit that provides scholarship and support to childhood cancer survivors. She is an author, media spokesperson, and founder of the blog A Beautiful Ripple Effect.


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Comments

  1. Carolyn, I love the concept of compassionate self-talk. I find it takes one a very long way in a good direction.
    .-= LPC´s last blog ..Email Invitations Take The Next Step Toward Good Manners =-.

  2. Carolyn,

    This is a very powerful message crafted so beautifully. You combine all the elements that I can think of when it comes to not knowing and finding peace.

    I would only add when it comes to self defeating thoughts, is to dig deeper sometimes and see what the deep rooted belief is. Then tackle the belief. I love The Work by Byron Katie which takes a similar approach to self coaching 101.

    Thank you for the insight. And thank you Barrie for having Carolyn.
    .-= Manal´s last blog ..5 Easy Steps to Understand and Deal With Temptation =-.

    • Carolyn says:

      Wow, thank you so much, Manal. I have spent the last year or so dealing with great uncertainty within my life and found these tools to be essential to staying somewhat sane throughout it all :). And I have to agree with your recommendation of The Work by Byron Katie. I actually utilize that approach myself (love the “turnaround” component), but find that Self Coaching 101 is sometimes a great quick fix! For those who don’t know about The Work, you can learn all about it on the website (full of free resources, video demonstrations, downloads, and more): http://thework.com
      .-= Carolyn´s last blog ..Learning As You Go and The Itty Bitty Check-In List =-.

  3. Lovely post, Carolyn. And it fits in so beautifully with the spirit of Barrie’s blog. Your compassion shines through and your advice is honest and thoughtful. I love how you sum up, “Be gentle with yourself, but by all means, be you.” Perfection.
    .-= katie´s last blog ..How to Sustain Change- Week 7 of the 7-Week Life Cleanse =-.

  4. You’re the second person to mention “remember that whatever you resist persists” in my life today. 🙂

    I’m happy to see a blogger not only address the “why” but also the “how” as you did with your four-step technique to challenge thoughts.
    .-= Jon Bennett´s last blog ..Hello world- =-.

    • Carolyn says:

      Thank you so much, Jon! Very interesting synchronicity … reminds me to take a look at what I may be resisting at the moment :). I am a big “how” person, sometimes to a fault! I love the “why,” but then find myself asking: now what??! How do I turn that knowledge into action?
      .-= Carolyn´s last blog ..Learning As You Go and The Itty Bitty Check-In List =-.

  5. Hi there, as you said in challenging painful thoughts. I find writing the pain down on peper works instantly. It just seems to click from feeling crap into feeling lighter and freer. Works for me anyway. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  7. I love this post and especially the suggestions about how to shift one’s feeling state one thought at a time. And letting go of self-judgment. Really useful. Thanks!
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..Pamela Slim Asks- “Who Do You Think You Are” =-.

  8. This is a great post! The techniques that you describe are so valuable and I cannot wait to put them into action.

  9. Joyce at What Would You Do In Heaven? says:

    Things don’t always turn out as planned.That’s a bad thing it seems,yet that’s a good thing,when things turn out far better than we thought! May we be able to face uncertainty, not with fear, but with anticipation and hope. 😉
    .-= Joyce at What Would You Do In Heaven?´s last blog ..What’s So Cute About a Baby =-.

    • Carolyn says:

      What a great way to approach the uncertainties we face. I am saying yes to: anticipation and hope! Thank you, Joyce!

  10. Carolyn,

    Good to see you here, thanks to Barrie for hosting you on this inspiring blog. I enjoyed your ideas on uncertainty. Reminds me of, “when a door closes, a window opens somewhere, but it’s hell in the hallways.” What do we do in that hallway? You have some great suggestions. Patience is essential, too. Patience with self, and patience with the process. Confusion can be long-lasting! Applying kindness, compassion, and patience to our inner state leads to more successful, or at least more peaceful, outcomes. Thanks so much for the post, it was really beautiful.

    Best,
    Linda

    • Carolyn says:

      Linda,

      Thank you so much! Great inquiry: what do we do in the hallways of our life? And as you emphasize: patience. patience. patience.

      Another resource to check out for those moments when you just need to rest into the hallway, the experience, freedom from the thoughts of what led to the hallway and where the hallway leads to (our imagination loves to run wild!): http://intentionalresting.com

      Wishing you a beautiful weekend filled with patience!
      Carolyn
      .-= Carolyn´s last blog ..What are you craving =-.

  11. This is a beautiful post with so much to take away. I reread this line a few times because it really is true, “What you resist, persists.” Something to most certainly keep in mind. Thank you.
    .-= Simply Luxurious´s last blog ..Cups of Tea 7-11 – 7-17 =-.

  12. I would add, believe in God’s grace.

    I’m in a situation now where I really need this advice, and I know it’s not about my faith or self-belief or sometimes even my own self-talk because our own feelings can be a rollercoaster at a time when we need it to be rock solid.

    In fact, during a truly difficult time, it may seem like we’re just putting on a show for people (and even ourselves) so we can stay sane when inside we are in total shambles. That does not make for good the best kind of ‘manifesting’ at all.

    Instead, we must turn to the true rock solid source and believe that God is good. All the time. It’s not just a saying, so that even if we slip and make mistakes right now, it’s okay. He’s got our back.

    Blessings, all.
    .-= Trish Cardona´s last blog ..Style File- Beat the Blues with Colour! =-.

  13. Thanks so much for the post.
    Hit the nail square on.
    “I have no idea what is going to happen – and that’s okay.”
    I’ll be repeating this quite a bit.