Here's the thing: I really don't like uncertainty. Even though I know, deep down in my heart, that nothing is 100% certain, I prefer feeling as if I know what's going to happen next so I can plan and prepare. (That's the Type A in me, I suppose!) But the thing is, life isn't like that. It's not always clear what's going to happen next and, for someone like me, that can be really scary. And lately, after facing some major life changes, I've found myself facing the unknown a lot. Both in my personal and professional life, there a lot of situations that don't have clear definitions and that's both terrifying and exciting.
The thing about the unknown is anything can happen, which means anything can happen. If you like to know what the outcome will be, as I do, this is often more terrifying than exciting. I've been trying to embrace the exciting aspects of the unknown scenarios in my life, but it's been a struggle. I find my mind wandering more and more toward negative, all-or-nothing thinking (as in, all the things that could potentially go wrong...). Clearly not a positively present way to be.
So when I came across the word "perhappiness" (via this) last week, it stopped me in my tracks. I'd never heard the word before but it perfectly embodied what I've been experiencing: the potential for all sorts of happiness to come my way coupled with the uncertainty of whether or not situations would result in happiness. The state of perhappiness is a wonderful — and scary — place to be. There's so much possibility coupled with so much uncertainty. The duality of perhappiness makes it the kind of situation that can quickly become negative or positive, depending on how you choose to see it.
Though it's tempting to veer into negative territory (all the things that could go wrong!), the great thing about the unknown is that it's unknown, which means you can think about it however you want to think about it. Even though I can't control the outcome of the various perhappiness situations in my life, I can control how I choose to perceive them, and I'm doing what I can do push my mind away from the negative and toward the positive. Here are some of the best ways I can think of to embrace the unknown . . .
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS MOMENT.
When I find my mind filling up with anxious thoughts, I remind myself to stay in the moment. It can be really hard to do sometimes (the mind can be a powerful thing!), but when I direct my attention to what's happening in the present, it becomes much easier to go with the flow and allow perhappiness to run the course it's meant to run. When I'm having a particularly tough time staying in the moment, I focus on my five senses and pay attention to what I can see, touch, taste, hear, and feel. Doing this takes me out of my mind and brings me back into the now.
AVOID "WHAT-IF" RUMINATIONS.
One of the most difficult aspects of perhappiness is not knowing the outcome, which can result in a lot of time spent wondering, "What if..." Being the kind of person who likes to plan ahead and feel prepared, my mind frequently wanders into "what if" territory. By trying to imagine what could happen, I feel (incorrectly) that I have some sort of control over an uncertain situation. However, ruminating on what could happen only creates more stress and anxiety. And, as I've learned from experience, most of these imagined scenarios never happen (or, if they do, they don't ever play out the way my mind thinks they will), making thinking about them a waste of time and energy.
DON'T PROJECT THE PAST ON THE NOW.
In order to assert some control over uncertain situations, I'll often try to relate the present situation to a similar situation I've experienced in the past in order to have a better guess at how it will play out. This, however, is not a good idea. For one, it keeps my attention riveted toward the past (which makes it hard to stay present!). And, for another, it denies the reality of the current situation and it's potential to play out in an entirely new way. While some situations in life are similar (and we do benefit from the wisdom that can come with experience), projecting the past on perhappiness won't make it easier to cope with.
CHOOSE CURIOSITY OVER FEAR.
As exciting as perhappiness can be, for those who like to be prepared, it's actually pretty scary not to know what's coming next. Lately I've been facing a lot of fear and in order to combat it, I've been doing my best to choose curiosity over fear. Instead of stressing about what could be, I try to accept what's happen right now and open my mind to being curious about it. While being curious and open-minded, I find that my fear lessens because I'm viewing the situation from a different (and more positive) point of view. In addition, I try to be not only curious about the situation itself, but also about how it makes me feel.
EMBRACE THE FUN OF NOT KNOWING.
Just like choosing curiosity, embracing the fun of the unknown is a great way to tackle the fear that comes with perhappiness. Even those who like to have a plan in place (like me!) can recognize the excitement and fun elements of not knowing exactly what's coming next. Instead of focusing on how the unknown is a scary thing, I have been spending more and more time focusing on how the unknown as the potential for all sorts of greatness (and happiness!).
USE IT TO FIND WHAT YOU WANT.
One of the most wonderful things about perhappiness is that it provides an opportunity to really think about what you want (in the situation and in life in general). When you're in a place of limbo — between what is and what could be — you're in a great place to really think about what you want the outcome to be and why you want that to be the outcome. When you think about the best case scenario and how it impacts the various aspects of your life, you have a chance to really get in touch with what matters most to you. No matter how the situation ends up playing out, you'll always have the wisdom gained from contemplating what you want.
Another great way cope with perhappiness is to reconnect with yourself and gain a better understanding of who you are. You can discover more about yourself and what matters to you by downloading a copy of Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.